Technophobes Guide

How Do I Get Started?


Connecting to the Internet is a simple process. The basic requirements are:

  • A computer
  • A modem
  • A phone line
  • An account with an Internet Service Provider (ISP)
  • Browser software – this may have come pre-loaded on your computer when you bought it. Alternatively, an ISP will provide the software.


If buying a new computer, shop around and take advice on the most suitable computer for your needs.


The modem links your computer to the phone network. Modems come in different speeds, measured in kilobits per second (kbps), or ‘K’. Most PCs are fitted with a 56k modem.


There are four basic types of Internet access to choose from, depending on your business requirements.

(NB: If you select one from the first three, your phone will be required to connect you to the Internet. If you anticipate accessing the Internet regularly, consider investing in a dedicated phone line for Internet usage).

1. Dial-up

This is suitable if you make only occasional use of e-mail or the Internet. You have to dial up every time you want to send or receive e-mails or go on-line.


  • It’s a pay-as-you-go service, so you only pay for what you use.
  • It’s more secure than ‘always-on’ packages.


  • Connection speed is slow
  • Download time is slow for files or large emails as it uses the standard 56k modem
  • You have to dial up every time you want to go on-line
  • Some ISPs end the connection after a period of inactivity, which means you have to keep on reconnecting

2. Surf time package (dial-up)

Many ISPs offer packages where, for a fixed fee every month, you get free Internet access. This is suitable if you anticipate using Internet for longer periods.


  • Cheaper than pay-as-you-go for heavier users of the Internet
  • The package can be tailored to your requirements (all-day or weekends and evenings only)
  • You can leave it on, so you don’t have to keep connecting
  • You can set up auto-responds on your email


  • Download times for larger files and e-mails are slow (this still uses the standard 56k modem)
  • Some ISPs have more users than they can cope with leading to difficulties in signing on at peak times and connections may be cut if there is a period of inactivity
  • You must consider a firewall if you leave the connection open all the time
  • Some packages are not designed to meet normal business needs – for example they may prohibit the sending of bulk e-mails
  • Check that this package is cheaper than basic dial-up access


ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network) will significantly increase the rate at which you can access the Internet and handles large files of information. However, it is worth considering ADSL (see below) if this is available in your area.


  • Permanent connection to Internet
  • Much faster than dial-up access and downloads bigger files more quickly
  • Currently more widely available than ADSL
  • Speeds of up to 128K are available


  • Additional software may be required for compatibility when exchanging files with other ISDN
  • It is old technology and expensive compared to ADSL
  • It cannot be upgraded to ADSL


If ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line) is available in your area and you are a heavy user of the Internet this is ideal. It offers a reliable, permanent, fast connection and can handle much more information, more quickly than other forms of web access. Web pages download almost instantly and sound and pictures are of almost broadcast quality.


  • Much faster than a conventional modem
  • You can use the phone at the same time as being connected to the net with no loss of connection or speed
  • A reliable and permanent way of connecting to the Internet
  • Rapidly transfers or downloads files
  • Can provide access for up to 20 machines without the need for a network manager


  • As it is permanently connected you must consider a firewall to prevent hacking (unauthorised access to your files)
  • It is not yet available in all areas

For the most up-to-date business advice see our article a buyer’s guide to business broadband (2013).


General use

Connection to the Internet is made via an ISP. There is a large number to choose from and prices and services vary. However, all should offer the same basic service:

  • 24 hour Internet access
  • Your own e-mail address
  • Space on their server to develop your own Web pages (web space, usually 10Mb+)
  • Basic Web browser and e-mail
  • Local phone charges (check this is the case if you live in a remote area)

ISPs either charge a set monthly fee or charge you for the time you are on-line, for example by adding an additional 1p per minute to your phone bill. It’s worth comparing the services of various ISPs to check you are getting value for money:

  • Can you connect to the Internet and remain on-line as often and for as long as you like as part of your monthly subscription?
  • Does an additional charge come into force after a set number of hours free access?
  • How many e-mail addresses are provided for your monthly subscription?
  • Does your ISP offer faster access via ISDN or ADSL?
  • Does your ISP offer after-sales support, advice and guidance?
  • Does your ISP offer any additional content or services, e.g. local weather or traffic reports, internal conferencing or access to databases of businesses information?
  • Is there a charge if you want to transfer your domain (URL address) at a later date?
  • Internet magazines available from newsagents list all the ISPs, their costs and the service they provide.

Business use

Many ISPs offer packages specifically for businesses wanting to get involved in e-commerce. It’s a good idea to shop around, compare rates and services: Some considerations:

  • Does the ISP cater for different sized businesses and would you be able to upgrade as your business grows ?
  • Does the ISP offer any additional facilities for businesses? Can you register a unique domain name for your business? How much commercial Web space is available? Is there a limit to the number of pages available for your Web site?
  • Can the ISP deal with high volumes of on-line traffic? Is technical support available 24 hours a day?
  • Is there phone, fax or e-mail support?
  • What level of security is provided?
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