From the March 2003 issue of Entrepreneur

While you may have disaster-proofed your network and Internet connection during the 18 months since 9/11, are you equally sure about the stoutness of your Internet service provider? Chances are, disaster recovery wasn't high on your list when you first created your business's Web site. But it makes sense these days to know how vulnerable your ISP is to various attack or disaster scenarios.

You can do several things to evaluate your current ISP's reliability and, if necessary, select another. Start by taking all the fault-tolerance principles your IT managers or consultants apply in-house and ensure that the same or better steps are taken by your ISP. If your Internet connection goes down, your customers and partners will consider it a reflection on your professionalism, so make sure your service provider demands the same standards of excellence you do.

Indeed, sharp ISPs have extensive procedures for dealing with all types of equipment failures and bottlenecks. They have climate-controlled hosting facilities with fire and flood recovery procedures, data redundancy in geographically diverse locations, extra capacity for unusual traffic loads, and procedures to deflect hacker attacks. Ask your ISP for at least a skeletal view of its emergency procedures. No ISP can claim to plan for all emergencies, but it should be able to demonstrate a precise procedure for addressing the unforeseeable in writing.

The best ISPs should also produce procedures for problem-escalation in the event of a novel crisis. It's a good idea to keep that material on hand. If an emergency arises, your technicians can work with the ISP more effectively and bring higher-level resources to bear on a problem more quickly.

Your IT professional should be able to evaluate your provider's effectiveness at problem management, problem-solving, and fault-tolerance by examining procedure documentation. If there were just one thing to insist on from your ISP, it would be redundancy in every conceivable area, including utility power, cabling, servers, switches, Internet access and building locations.

Finally, shop around. Remember that search engine? It's the quickest way to compare the practices of your ISP with others. Besides providing the data for your own evaluation criteria, the Net is probably the best place to find the best ISP for your budget.


John Yacono is director for CRN Labs, the technology testing facility for CRN, a weekly newspaper read by more than 117,000 IT solution providers and consultants.