What is an Internet Service Provider (ISP)?
Every day, computer users log onto the Internet courtesy of an ISP. While all Internet users have at least one ISP, few know what the acronym actually stands for.
What is an ISP?
An ISP, which stands for Internet Service Provider, is the company that connects individual users and businesses to the Internet. Similar to how a phone company provides homes and businesses with telephone service, an ISP serves in that role for Internet connectivity. Regardless of what someone uses to connect to the Internet – PC, laptop, smartphone, tablet or gaming system – an ISP is what makes it happen.
In addition to their ability to connect users to the Internet, most ISPs also provide customers with several other services, including email service and cloud access. Originally, ISPs offered only dial-up service to home users. However, as technology has improved, they began offering both DSL and cable connections.
ISPs got their start in the late 1980s, when The World became one of the first companies to offer residential customers dial-up service. AOL, CompuServe and PSINet are among the other original ISPs. Comcast, Time Warner Cable, AT&T, Cox and Optimum are among the most popular ones today.
Choosing an ISP
With so many different ISPs to choose from, there are several factors computer users need to consider when selecting one. The first is how fast you want your connection speed to be. If you have a landline telephone and only need the Internet for checking email and other small tasks, a slower dial-up service will work. For those who have a landline telephone and want to simultaneously use Internet for checking email and reading articles, a DSL service, which connects to the Internet 50 times faster than a dial-up modem, is the better option. For those needing even faster speeds, a cable connection, which is twice as fast as DSL, is the best choice.
Other things to consider are the features the ISP offers, such as options for email service and up-to-date security software. It is also important to hear what others using the service think. Whether the comments come from friends and relatives or online message board and review services, successes or problems that others have had with the service are a key consideration. Finally, as with most things, cost is a factor. In addition to comparing the services that each ISP provides, look at how much they're charging. [Video: Best Internet Security Suites Software]