Considerations When Changing an ISP

As your business grows, you may find that there comes a time where you need to upgrade to a faster and more reliable Internet Service Provider (ISP). While the DSL line that you started out with worked fine when there were less than five employees, the bandwidth you receive from your ISP is no longer sufficient. Having a slow internet connection can really affect your productivity. Problems such as slow email, web browsing, and incomplete cloud backups are often caused by having insufficient bandwidth.

When selecting a new ISP, there are many factors to consider. Try to avoid being fooled by slick marketing and salespeople. The amount of bandwidth and the type of connection you select are very important factors. This is why we never recommend slow DSL connections, especially when there is no guarantee of specific upload or download speeds. Have your IT consultant review all proposals from ISP's. If possible, obtain multiple quotes from multiple vendors. You should also consider utilizing a master agent or broker type service. They generally know where to find the best deals, and often they are paid by the ISP's, not your business. Always familiarize yourself with the terms of your current ISP service agreement. Many ISP's will charge a cancellation fee if you cancel the service early.

Once you have decided which ISP your business will switch to, there are many things to consider when planning a seamless transition. You should always gather the relevant information ahead of time, and not wait until the day of the cutover to find the information you need.

Here is a list of considerations when planning your ISP cutover.

  • Always schedule ISP changes a couple of weeks ahead of time to give users and clients ample notice. Remind your users the day before, and a few hours before making your changes.
  • Have account information for your ISP, hosting company, DNS provider, and domain registrar ahead of time. ISP changes will often require changes to DNS records for email and remote access servers.
  • If your new ISP requires you to have a new router installed, consider having the ISP provide and manage the router. This will prevent finger pointing in the future, should there ever be a problem with the new ISP.
  • Know the user names and password for your routers and firewalls. Your firewall will need to be reconfigured if you have a new IP address. You may also need to change the speed settings of your external firewall interface.
  • Consider upgrading your firewall at the same time as you switch to another ISP. Chances are that you have outgrown your firewall at the same time as you have outgrown your old ISP.
  • If you do not need to upgrade to a new firewall, check if there are any software or firmware updates for the firewall you plan to keep.
  • Understand the changes that the ISP installer is making. Make sure that they don't disconnect your existing ISP, phone, or fax lines, unless you have already planned accordingly. Many DSL installations utilize your fax line. If your DSL is getting disconnected, you will need to know how this affects your fax capabilities.
  • Document the configuration of your firewall prior to making any changes.
  • If you are changing DNS providers, document your DNS records (zone file) prior to making changes.
  • If a new router or firewall is installed, make sure that the DHCP settings are consistent with your existing network configuration. You should never have your router or firewall providing DHCP if you have Windows servers on your network.
  • Know whether or not you are moving to a static or dynamic IP address. Having a static IP address may be required if you have an internal email or remote access server.
  • Test your new connection with a single notebook computer prior to connecting a firewall. Make sure that you are receiving the expected upload and download speeds.
  • Let the connection run for a couple of days before making the switch.
  • Think about any site to site VPN connections between your office. If you change ISP's or IP addresses, your VPN connections will be affected.
  • If you use a 3rd party spam filtering service like Reflexion or Postini, you may limit the downtime for your email server. These services do not require that you change DNS records. They will also hold on to your incoming email while you cutover.
  • If possible, do not cancel your current ISP until your new ISP is in place and active. If feasible for your budget, consider using two ISP's and a firewall that allows for automatic failover and load balancing. It is always a good idea to have a Backup Internet Connection.
  • Understand any changes that need to be made to your Citrix server if it uses a private IP address instead of a routable public IP address.
  • Communicate often with the management of your business to set expectations. When done properly, there should be no downtime, as long as you plan your ISP change carefully.
  • If you are using a 3rd party monitoring service or managed service provider, let them know when you are making these changes. It will prevent unnecessary alerts and phone calls if your servers go offline.
  • Make sure that your monitoring service adds your new IP addresses to the items that they monitor for you.
  • Have your ISP configure Reverse DNS for your new IP address. A lack of reverse DNS may cause some spam filters to reject messages from your internal email server.
  • Update your network documentation when the ISP cutover project is complete.

As you can see, there are many things to think about when moving to a new ISP. One way to ensure that your ISP cutover is seamless to your users, is to contract Hilltop Consultants to manage the project. We have performed hundreds of cutovers and new installations over the years. We have the expertise and experience to get the job done on time with the least impact on your users and management.