Business internet can be installed in most home-based offices in the United States. The question is: do you really need it?
There are good arguments for doing so, but they only apply to certain types of home-based businesses. In this article, we’ll walk through features, prices, and examples to help you understand the pros and cons of upgrading to business internet at home.
This guide will cover:
- What is business internet?
- The advantages and disadvantages of business internet.
- Who should consider it.
- How to get it installed.
What Is Business Internet?
Business internet uses the same lines and infrastructure as residential plans, but with differences in service provision; business internet plans provide a higher level of service and treat the connection like your income depends on it (rather than just like your Netflix depends on it).
Business internet offers a higher level of service than residential on everything from internet speed, to personalized service from the operator, to guaranteed uptime standards on the internet connection.
Many business services can now be accessed by home users. In fact, the recent developments with Covid-19 forcing people to work from home should mean that this will become increasingly common as more companies move to remote workforces.
What Is Home Internet?
Home or “residential” internet is internet service for non-professional home use. These packages may not offer quite the same level of service as the business package, but they’re almost always much cheaper. Residential internet is easy to get bundled with other services such as telephone and cable TV.
There are a lot of people who work from home and run businesses from home that use “home internet” services. In fact, this is the most common choice for “work from home” workers and small home businesses.
Most home workers don’t need advanced features like additional ports, increased upload speeds, or static IPs to do their job. It’s common for this type of home worker to simply use a mobile hotspot as backup if their connection goes down — since this is enough for basic functions like accessing Google Docs, joining conference calls, and etc.
You should make a decision as to whether home or business internet is right for you based on your needs for internet and not because of the label that an ISP slaps on an internet service.
What Advantages Does Business Internet Have Over Home Internet?
With that in mind, here are the specific advantages of business internet for home office use:
Service Level Agreement (SLA)
For most home-based businesses, high uptime guarantee is the biggest advantage of using business internet. Service level agreements (SLAs) are a basic standard with business-grade connections, meaning that you’ll see less packet loss and service outages will be fixed extremely quickly compared to residential service.
With home internet service, most ISPs include only vague promises in the contract as to how quickly they will fix issues with your connection. This can mean days or sometimes even weeks of hanging around waiting for the ISP to take action — all while you continue to foot the bill.
This is frustrating when you want to watch Netflix — but it’s not the end of the world. For business users, however, downtime is obviously unacceptable.
If you’ve got to have a Skype meeting with your boss at 7 a.m. and your internet is still off after waiting around for 3 days to have it fixed – you’ve got a serious problem. At the very least, you risk looking unprepared when you try to run video chat on a shaky mobile hotspot.
A service level agreement doesn’t guarantee when they will fix your problem but it does guarantee when they will start to try and fix your problem, that they will keep you updated as their work and/or investigations progress and most importantly, that you will have somebody to talk to without spending an hour on hold each time when you want to find out what’s going on.
This is worth its weight in gold when you run a business or have a job that demands connectivity – sure, you can go out and use the connection in a coffee shop or a co-working space in an emergency but those connections are less secure and some employers forbid their use.
Business internet plans commonly provide increased bandwidth, particularly for uploads. Business customers have much higher value to ISPs, so if they have artificial speed limits in an area for residences, they likely offer a bit more flexibility on upload/download bandwidth for businesses.
Business plans usually have stronger guarantees around the bandwidth you can expect day in day ou. There will almost certainly be a clause in your service contract that either remedies this situation when you report it or which offers a fixed rebate for the service failure.
Most home users will find that if they have a slower than advertised connection, they too can get a discount or a rebate but only after hours on the phone arguing with their ISP to make it so. However, this is very difficult to prove. There’s a lot to be said, in a busy world, for paying for a little convenience in your life.
Unlimited data usage
Business plans almost never have data caps, and commonly capped providers like Comcast are happy to offer unlimited service to small business users. (Some may argue that the caps are there to encourage residential office workers to switch over in the first place.)
Static IP Address
Home internet connections are provided on the basis of “dynamic IP addresses”. That means the ISP has a bunch of IP addresses that they can use and each time you log on, they assign a new IP address to your connection.
This saves them money as it means that they don’t have to buy an IP address for every consumer, they can rotate them in and out as needed. Home users don’t tend to care about this because it doesn’t make a difference to the way that they use their internet connection. Aside from occasionally causing a router to need a reset, it has no impact on home users.
Business users, on the other hand, have plenty of reasons to care – if they are using their home computer as a web server or file server, or to forward specific ports to other devices, then a dynamic IP address won’t do. Each time the IP address changed, you’d have to change the settings on all your devices too.
A static IP address, on the other hand, is like having a personalized mailbox on the internet. It’s your address and you don’t need to share it with anyone else. It won’t change under any circumstances. To get a static IP address you will almost certainly have to switch to a business internet service – ISPs don’t offer this feature to home users.
It’s worth noting that ISPs usually charge an additional fee over and above the monthly rental fee in order to provide you with a static IP address. On the plus side though, you can generally get several if you need them for technical purposes.
Business internet is Easier To Claim As A Business Expense
Residential internet can only be claimed as a business expense up to the estimate of portion used for your home-based business. (Obviously this is easy to fudge and unlikely to be investigated, but it’s recommended to always be conservative when dealing with the IRS.)
However, it’s much easier to claim the whole internet bill when it’s clearly marked on the invoice as a business line. This is a bad reason to install business internet (it might not even reduce your tax in some states), but a nice bonus if you need to do so for other business-grade features.
Disadvantages of Business Internet for Home Offices
OK, so now that we’ve seen what joys business internet can bring to the home user, it’s time to take a look at the woes it brings too. In this case, it proves that every silver lining has a cloud:
Higher Monthly Costs
This is the biggest downside of using business internet at home: it is more expensive than home internet connections. Small business plans are only around 50% higher in most cases, but this adds up over time and they can get much higher if you need advanced services.
If terms like “packet loss” and “guaranteed uptime” don’t mean anything to you, chances are you’ll be better served by simply using a cheaper, perfectly serviceable residential internet plan in your home office.
In many cases, the best way to ensure “permanent uptime” is to have a cellular data plan that you can tether to your computer if your ordinary home internet isn’t working. This is likely to be cheaper than paying for business internet and as you probably already pay for a cellular plan – it’s much cheaper.
At the end of the day, this is the method some small business internet plans use to guarantee redundancy of the connection regardless.
Longer Service Contracts
Business internet usually requires a contract of 1–3 years, which can be a major deterrent if you rent the home you work out of.
Residential connections usually don’t require contracts as of 2020, outside of rural or low-competition areas. When they do, it’s rare for it to last more than a year. So, we don’t recommend a long-contract business plan for most home offices.
Service contracts are a very good reason for home users to be cautious about signing up for business internet plans. These contracts are almost impossible to break, and they can mean you end up paying way over the odds for your internet, even if you lose your job or your business ceases trading.
Limited Bundle Options
Our last issue with business internet at home is that you’re not going to get all the consumer bundle options for TV, phone service, and security.
While most new customers in 2020 are rejecting traditional cable bundles, this has been great for the minority of customers who still want traditional cable, as it has driven the prices way down. In California, Spectrum will practically add TV to your residential plan for free out of desperation for new customers.
How Do I Get Business Internet At Home?
Some small business plans are sold with no requirement that you demonstrate any proof of your business status.
Others will require more paperwork before signing you up.
There are two common sets of problems that you may face when calling to establish small business internet service:
- The provider has to physically upgrade the line outside your house in order to provider business-grade service.
- The provider requires information about your business before confirming the service.
Meet The Requirements Set By The Provider
In some cases, the internet provider may require a copy of a business registration document, a copy of your Federal TAX ID number or EIN, or even a business license.
However, in most cases, they’ll simply be happy to sign you up and start service as soon as possible. Home offices are becoming more and more prevalent, so we expect this will be come a smoother process as cable companies clue into the business opportunity of the work-from-home market.
If You Have Problems – Skip The Call Center
Our biggest tip though is that if you hit any roadblocks at all when trying to get business internet installed – skip the call center. Find a local representative office and go deal with a real person.
This is particularly the case if you are unsure what provider you want to use, in which case a “business broadband broker” is going to be able to guide you towards the right service and will compare the alternatives for you.
That said, brokers usually will only work with businesses that are looking for more enterprise-grade services or large bundles of phone lines, since they are paid on commission.
Should I Get Business Internet At Home?
So, should you get business internet at home or would you be better off staying with your home internet package?
When Saying “Yes” Is Easy
There are circumstances in which it’s simple and in your interest to say “yes” to business internet at home:
- When your employer is paying for it – free internet is free internet, right?
- When your work is absolutely dependent on the internet and it can’t be done from another location for whatever reason – when you need the service level agreement, you need it.
- When it’s your only way of getting round a data cap that’s costing you a fortune – if you need to move more than 1 TB of data per month, week, or day… you’re going to run into issues with a residential ISP. Business service is cheaper than paying the overage fees in this case (or being shut off entirely).
Conclusion: Business Internet Is Only Suited for the Minority of Home Office Situations
In all other circumstances, you should, at least, pause for thought. While there are some nice perks of business internet at home, if you don’t need the service level agreement, then you are essentially going to end up paying out much money than you need to.
If your employer’s not picking up that bill for you, then there’s no good reason to opt for anything other than home internet. Your internet provider cannot monitor the contents of what you send over the internet and home internet is just fine for the vast majority of work conducted at home.