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TACTIC: If you get an Internet account, use a quality service, and consider a permanent email address.

There has been an explosion in companies that will provide you with Internet access. You can spend around $20 per month for unlimited access to the Internet and your own email account.

Here are some things to consider when considering an ISP:

  • Reputation of provider. How long has the company been in business? Are there written, independent reviews of the reliability and quality of the company's Internet connection and customer service? Check computer magazines for ratings and reviews of national Internet access providers.
  • Dialup access available. When you call to make your Internet connection, is that a local call? From what locations can you make a local call to your ISP's service?
  • What you need. The ISP industry has evolved a standard package of services that most people need (access to the Web and Internet email). There may be variations, but the standard package offered by a reputable ISP is what you will probably need as a beginner. Find out about spam and virus protection for your email and popup blocking software for use with your Web browser.

When you sign up with an ISP, the email address assigned to you will usually include the name of the ISP. For example, your email address might be yourname@earthlink.net or yourname@aol.com. You can give out this email address to your friends and contacts, but what if you switch your Internet service provider? Your email address will change. You will have to tell all your contacts. You may also have to reprint your business cards and re-enter your email address in many places.

You can give yourself a stable Internet identity by establishing a permanent email address. This may cost extra, but the permanence you gain may be worth it. Here are two ways you can do this:

  • A mail forwarding service. For example, http://www.pobox.com offers a service that will accept mail for you at a particular address, like yourname@pobox.com, and then forward this mail to your current ISP account. If you change your ISP, you can change where your mail is forwarded. You can give out your permanent email address. This is particularly useful when your current Internet account is tied to your school or job. Other companies that provide this service are http://www.iName.com, http://www.netaddress.com/, and http://www.netforward.com. Some of these forwarding services are free--check the Web sites for current offerings.
  • Your own domain name. You can be master of your own domain and "own" the suffix of your email address. For example, I own the domain december.com, so my email address is, and will always will be, john@december.com. This gives me a permanent email address and a more professional online identity. Owning your own domain, of course, costs you money. You'll need to pay an annual fee to the institution that registers Internet domains. Talk with your Internet access provider about how you can do this--your ISP will often fill out the forms necessary for you to get your own domain name. Ask your ISP how much it will cost to forward mail sent to your domain name to your ISP account.

TACTIC: If you want your own Web site for business purposes, get your own domain name.

You may get some Web space as part of your Internet access. This is fine for your informal or hobby use, but for your business, you need more stability and a professional identity. It is better to give out your own domain name than a partition of your ISP's site.

Ask your Internet Service Provider if they can set you up with your own domain name and provide Web space on their server.

As part of the Web space package, you will usually have access to electronic mail forwarding. This gives both a permanent email address in addition to a permanent Web address.

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