Here are six questions to ask when you're selecting an Internet service provider (ISP):
1. Does the ISP provide access to such basic services as e-mail, newsgroups, and file transfer protocol (FTP)? If you're going online solely to get customer feedback, e-mail alone may be enough. But if you want to ship reports to satellite offices, your provider will have to offer FTP.
2. How good is its technical support? Your business must have someone who understands your particular needs. If technical service can't help you, don't bother.
3. Does it offer the bandwidth, or speed of Internet access, that your business needs? If you have large groups of employees who'll be using the connection simultaneously, you'll need high bandwidth. And your ISP should itself have a high-speed--a T1 or T3, for example--connection to the Internet.
4. Is the price right? Most services charge monthly fees that range from $10 to $40. Expect to pay more if you need high bandwidth and more than just basic service.
5. How many POP--remote connection--sites does it have? If you or your employees do a lot of business travel, a nearby POP gives Internet access for the price of a local phone call.
6. Can it help you set up and maintain a Web site? Some ISPs will only "host," or store the site. If yours doesn't offer design expertise, ask for a referral.