Understanding bills for internet services - particularly if you are a business
2020 12 22
Beware! This is one of those topics that can appear to be quite simple to start with, but actually turns out to be really quite complicated.
Internet Service Providers (ISPs)
When you start out using the internet, generally it's just browsing using Safari, Microsoft Edge, Firefox, etc to find information and buy things. To do this at a domestic or low-level commercial level, you sign up for a 'bundle' with an Internet Service Provider or ISP to give you a connection to the internet at a particular speed via a fibre optic cable connection, your landline or mobile data services.
This can result in either one or two bills as shown by the coloured boxes above: one for access to the internet at a particular speed and one for the fibre/landline/mobile connection. It's only going to be one bill if these two services are bundled together.
However, it's possible to have a router that is capable of connecting to more than one internet access provider. In this instance, you might have a fibre optic connection as your primary data connection and mobile data as an alternative for those occasions when the fibre broadband stops working for whatever reason (a digger in the street upsetting things for example). Clearly you will have a bill for each access service you use.
Hosting a business website
When you start up a business, one of the first things you do is to have a website. To do this, you have to have a number of other services in addition to the internet access provider and landline/fibre/mobile broadband services, as shown below:
Domain name services
First off, you will need to register one or more domain names and these are bought through a registrar like 123-reg, GoDaddy or Joker.
Second, as there needs to be a mechanism by which people can find your website's unique number (trying to keep it technically simple here) on the internet for which you will need a name server. This is frequently provided by the domain name registrar, but doesn't have to be. So you only get one bill if the registrar provides the name service or an extra one if you elect (as we do) to have another provider for this.
A website hosting service provides a place for your website files so that they can be viewed at any time of day or night by visitors. Once again this can be bundled with your internet access contract or registrar's offering - or not. You may choose to go with a specialist web host for performance, the range of services offered or other technical reasons.
These days it's pretty much obligatory to have a secure certificate for your website (at the very least you lose search engine brownie points if you don't have one). You can get a free one from Let's Encrypt if you are prepared to update it every 90 days or you can pay for a certificate with a one, two or three year renewal cycle.
Your website may have one or more forms that need to send notification emails that are used to notify a visitor of registration confirmation, orders, etc. This may be provided by your website host or a third-party service. Sending these kind of transactional emails is actually quite difficult with the main problem being that it's awfully easy for them to end up in the recipient's spam bin. Sometimes it's better to pay for a service that specialises in getting emails through.
Email service with your domain name
Another choice is to have an email service for your own domain to give your business credibility rather than rely on a free Gmail or Hotmail account - so called 'anonymous' email addresses. For example, we use pay-for Microsoft 365 accounts linked to our domain name.
If your business benefits from newsletters, then you may want to use a service like Mailchimp. Sending newsletters is hard because too many email 'clients' (the software used to send, receive and display emails) are really old and clunky, so website designers have to revert to 20th century style coding. But it does mean another bill.
I've identified up to nine (or was it ten?) bills that you can receive for your internet services. But it gets worse: you may duplicate some of these services. Typically mutliple domain registrars (as mentioned), multiple internet access providers, and so forth.
Finally whatever your setup, it's important to keep on top of all your bills otherwise you could find that your website or email just disappear one day, possibly irretrievably.
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