Answer by Andy Zavoina
Follow prudent vendor management practices and request annual (or more often) financials and review your ISP as though they were a borrower, to the degree you may do this. (Personal credit reports on the owners, as an example, would not be allowed.)
In a related note, you should ensure that you own your Internet domain name and that someone at the bank is the point of contact. If it is owned by the ISP or they are the POC, when they shut their doors getting your site over to a new ISP is not a priority for them, as it will be for you. You'll find it much easier to move your site, Web address and e-mail accounts to a new ISP when you do not have to prove first that you are the rightful owners.
Answer by L. Michael Guard
While size is no guarantee of quality service or survivability, I think you should determine which ISPs in your area are the largest & fastest growing. The ISP business is very competitive. It is difficult for the small ISPs to compete with the larger ones until they reach a significant size. The ISP must attain a large base of customers in order to achieve profitability.
At this time the Baby Bells are all in the ISP business, as well as most cable companies. We have had very good service from three different ISPs in our area, COX Cable, Southwestern Bell, and a locally owned ISP which was ultimately acquired by a national provider. Each of them consistently provided quality services. This is a volatile business and there's no way to predict with certainty who will survive. I really would recommend a bank stay away from small and new ISPs, because I believe they would entail the greatest risk. A well-established ISP with a history of consistently good customer service is likely to either stay in business or be an attractive acquisition target. In either event, your service would continue.
Check references. Look at online message boards. Find out what current customers think. Investigate the ISPs financial viability.
You may also want to monitor the performance of the ISP. There are tools online that can help you do this. One example is DSL Reports. It provides user reviews of ISPs in six areas:
- Pre Sales information
- Install Coordination
- Connection reliability
- Tech Support
- Value for money
If you're trying to decide whether to go with DSL, ISDN, or cable connectivity, the online special edition from Northern Lights on Next Generation Networking can give you a quick heads-up.
First published on BankersOnline.com 3/19/01