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What is an ISP?

What is an ISP - Internet Service Provider?

An ISP, or Internet Service Provider, is a company that offers internet access to individuals and businesses for a monthly or yearly fees. In addition to internet connection, ISPs may also provide related services like web site hosting and development, email hosting, domain name registration etc.

Different ISPs, and sometimes even the same one, offer different types of internet connections – dialup, cable and DSL broadband. Hardware such as dialup modem or a wireless modem and router are usually provided by the company.

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When you register with an ISP for its services, an account is created and you are provided with the login details – username and password. You connect to the internet via your account and this way the company keeps a watch on your online activities.

All providers have strict terms of use and ensure you read these carefully before you sign up though, I believe, the casual web surfer would probably never be in breach of the contract. Any ISP, worth its salt, will also give you an email address, typically, based on your username – you can choose to use this email account or ignore it completely (not recommended).

ISPs can be both regional, confined to a geographic area, or national, servicing the entire country and they are connected with each other through Network Access Points (NAPs). ISPs are also referred to as Internet Access Providers.

Types of internet access

Most ISPs offer several types of internet access which essentially differ in connection speeds – the time taken for download and upload. Many also offer different plans or “packages” that vary in the download limit, number of email accounts on offer etc.

Dialup internet access is probably the slowest connection and requires you to connect to the internet via your phone line by dialling a number specified by the ISP. This means, dialup connections are not “always on”, unless you want to raise a huge phone bill, you would sever the connection when you finish work online.

Cable internet access can be obtained from the local cable TV operator. However, ask them for a demo first or check with your neighbours on the quality of service.

Internet access via DSL broadband is indeed very fast and ISPs can offer different download speeds – quicker the speed, higher will be the price. If you are planning for a DSL internet connection, ask the ISP if they would also install a wireless modem and router at your location. A wireless internet connection gives you freedom and flexibility – you need not be confined to one place (the work table, for instance) and can access the internet from any spot (even the bathroom) as long as your computer can catch the wireless signal. However, ensure that the provider secures the wireless connection with a password.

In many countries, especially those in which internet is still a kind of luxury, the ISPs may put a limit on the amount of data exchanged over a connection. For example, one may be allowed only a few GB (gigabytes) of download and upload each month. This is usually sufficient for routine users but if you plan to download movies and music or other large files, you have to keep a check on the amount of the data transfer.

How to choose an ISP?

Here is some advice in helping you choose an ISP.

  • Monthly or yearly charge: Yes, we all need to keep a close watch on our wallets but this does not mean you pick a lousy ISP just because itís cheap. The price would also vary across different plans – ensure you get the best deal.
  • Type of internet access: A dialup connection would be more than enough if you plan to access the internet for only a few hours each week. Want to download movies, music etc.? Get a broadband connection.
  • Regional or national ISP: Are you a frequent traveller? If so, talk to a national ISP and see if they have a plan that lets you use the same connection (via a USB modem) from different places.
  • Extra services from the ISP: Multiple email accounts and extra web storage space is probably going to cost you more… but does you ISP provide these extra services?
    By the way, I suggest you create free accounts on the many popular web based email service providers than paying extra to the ISP.

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