An Internet Service Provider (ISP) is an organization which provides internet services to users. These organizations can be commercial, non-profit, private, or even community-owned. One of the key services they provide is the ability for their users to access the Internet. Laptops, computers, mobile devices, and any smart device that is capable of connecting to the Internet will require an ISP to connect to the Internet. To accomplish this, the ISP will provide the user with their own IP Address, which may be static or dynamic, to use as identification while surfing the internet. The user would then browse a website from their web browser by typing in its website name; let's say, iplocation.net. This website name (domain name) would be translated into its own IP Address which uniquely identifies the website via DNS. This IP Address is then sent to the user's local router which is then forwarded to the user's ISP and then from there; to iplocation's ISP via ISP Switching centers like Metropolitan Area Exchange (MAE). Other services an ISP may provide include Internet transit, web hosting, Usenet service, and co-location services. Internet transit is a service provided to allow a smaller ISP to connect to the Internet and have their network traffic "transit" over a network. Web Hosting is provided to users who require a means to keep their website active and available but lack the equipment to do it themselves. Usenet was one of the first means of communication on the Internet that was designed back in the 70s and is no longer used. Finally, co-location is the service of providing server space and equipment for rental to hosting customers.
Types of Internet Service Providers
There has been different kinds of ISPs over the years as there have been constant improvements for better, faster, and more reliable Internet. These include Dial-Up, DSL, Cable, Satellite, and Wireless ISPs and they can fall under the one or more of the categories of Access, Hosting, Transit, or Virtual ISPs.
The Dial-Up service is provided by an ISP through using a modem to perform telephone dialing. This method allows the user to connect to a remote server while the communication is carried out over the telephone line. Being one of the very first means of connecting to the Internet, Dial-Up is the slowest connection out of the aforementioned methods. Furthermore; one of the biggest flaws with Dial-up was that while the connection was active, the phone-line was occupied. This meant that the connection would be broken if the phone was used by someone in the house to make an outgoing call or if the phone-line received an incoming call, making for a very unreliable and unsatisfactory user experience. Overall, as there have been improvements for better, faster, and more reliable internet, the number of Dial-Up ISPs have decreased.
The DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) service is normally provided by a phone company and uses a DSL router to handle the connection to the Internet. This method uses the extra signals that are not used by phone signals in order to provide Internet services and is much more reliable and faster than the Dial-Up connection as a result. DSL ISPs are very common in today's world have taken the spot of the then-popular Dial-Up ISPs as the mainstay for affordable standard Internet services.
Cable ISPs use a cable network to provide Internet services to their customers. The cable is run into a cable router in order to connect the users to the Internet. It is primarily served by cable companies who may also provide cable services for television and bundle the two together. Cable ISPs often provide even faster internet speeds than DSL ISPs and more reliable service as the cable network is predominantly built with fibre optics; an extremely fast, durable, and efficient means of communicating. As such, they have become as common as DSL ISPs and some phone companies which were solely DSL ISPs have started offering cable services as well because of it.
Some ISPs provide the internet services through the satellite. These ISPs are not as common as others as they usually operate in remote areas with difficult terrain where the more popular set-ups like DSL and cable services cannot operate. The speed of their service is about the same as DSL although the service often comes with caps on how much data a user can use on a monthly basis.
Wireless ISPs are very common as the service only requires devices like wireless sticks and dongles in order to connect to the Internet. Many DSL and Cable ISPs actually provide these services and devices because of how much less cumbersome equipment involved is and its feature of mobility. It should be noted however that wireless connections can face issues of slower speeds and connection interruptions as the distance between the device and the ISP can be an obstacle.
Access ISPs uses a number of internet connection options in order to provide the services to the users. The connection options include all of the aforementioned technologies: Dial-up, DSL, Cable, Fibre Optics, Satellite and other similar technologies. Hosting ISPs provide services like web hosting, email, virtual machines, cloud service, co-location services. Transit ISPs provide the required bandwidth in order to provide a connection between Hosting and Access ISPs. And finally, Virtual ISPs are vendors that get internet services from the other ISPs and resell them to the users.
When choosing an ISP, one should do the due diligence and gather as much information about their local ISPs. This is important because as mentioned before, some ISPs can be categorized into one or more of the aforementioned categories as they offer a multitude of services and packages while evolving to keep competitive in the world of technology. As such, one should pay close attention to the services they provide, the price of each service, the bandwidth speed advertised, and the download and upload speeds as well.