Seeking Your Net Home

by World Wide Ed on Thursday, November 21, 1996

Needing a connection to the Internet desperately? Struggling to get past constant busy signals and limited access rights?

Yep, the dilemma of finding the right link, namely an Internet Service Provider, has been plaguing millions of people these days. And, with the millions of them popping up quicker than zits on a teenager’s face, it has become harder and harder to sel ect one that best fits your needs.

An Internet Service Provider (ISP) is, in basic terms, a connection to the Internet. From home, you dial up to an ISP through your modem, allowing you to get connected to the Internet and go on your happy browsing way.

Without this connection, you will not be able to link up to the web. Unless you have a direct connection like Integrated Services Digital Network, or such.

Probably the first thing anybody looks at is the rates of the ISP and how the user is billed – especially for those who are on a tight student budget. Most ISP’s offer a monthly fee hovering around $20, but then you have to worry about other hidden c osts and extras.

Mainland ISP’s, like America Online and Compuserve, are an option, but you have to think about long distance calling fees. Some of the smaller ones do not have access points (a local phone call away) here in Hawai`i. These are probably best suited for the traveling Internet surfer who can dial in to whichever access point is closest to where they are at the time.

Many ISP’s offer unlimited service, meaning you can dial up and stay online for as long as you want. There are no extra fees for the amount of time you spend online. This means you can now stay up past 2 A.M. looking for off-the-wall web sites witho ut worry.

If you are the type who doesn’t care about dissected animal images or lyrics to your favorite country western hits, then you might want to opt for the hourly rate billing. This is cheaper than unlimited monthly for those who only spend a few hours a month online.

A hot topic, closely related to rates, is space – that is, how much space you are provided on their server. Usually, you receive about one or two megabytes of free disk space for E-mail storage and get charged a little more for how much you use. Ask around to see how much is offered and how much is charged for extra space. Extra disk space should be pretty inexpensive.

This space will also help you when, and if, you decide to create your own home page. World Wide Web home pages, especially those that are highly graphic intensive, eat up storage space faster than a hungry pig with corn in front of its face.

And, if you decide to start up a business web presence, ask if you will be charged for a business account. Can you do business on the Internet with your ISP without extra charges?

Another main question to ask is about system reliability. Ask how often their system crashes or reboots for system checks. How great are your choices of actually getting connected to their modem pool? Ask what their user-to-modem ratio is and if th ey offer a first-ring guarantee.

Also, see how efficient their technical support is. Is there enough staff on-hand? Are they friendly? Are they helpful? And most of all, are they knowledgeable? If you have a problem dealing with connecting, you want a “techie” to know what the h eck you’re talking about, even if you don’t.

There is nothing more difficult than getting all of the configurations and settings down in order for you to actually start dialing and surfing. You would probably like to know how easy the setup procedure is. Do they have their own dial-up script o r menu procedure? Are they able to set you up in all platforms (Win95, Win 3.x, Macintosh, etc.)?

Yet another essential factor to think about is security and privacy. How secure is the server? Are there chances for “hackers” to get into the system and possibly mess with your account? Nothing is ever foolproof in this world, so be sure to ask.

Also check to see if the staff is trustworthy. Occasionally, there will be a nosy staff person who wants to read, say, the E-mail you just sent to you significant other about last night. With the authority and access rights that these people hold, they can enter into your account with no problem. Make sure that the staff is reliable and dependable.

And always keep in mind: you are going to get better and want bigger and better things. Can these ISP’s grow with you, and offer you everything you ever want? Are they willing to make improvements to such things as their modem pool (to quicken speeds) and other services to fit the needs of the times?

There is much more to finding the right ISP than meets the computer script. Do your homework and make the selection that you feel fit. You will thank yourself (and don’t forget me!) for it later. Happy surfing!

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