Buying a VSAT system involves considering a complex assortment of technologies, services, and equipment, which may be beyond the comprehension of the average buyer. This is further complicated by the lack of openly available information from some providers, information that enables buyers to make informed purchase decisions. As an example, two different VSAT providers may provide the same amount of bandwidth, equipment, and services in the same country, but they will charge very different amounts. Customers who plan to buy VSAT are making an investment, and they need to be informed enough about VSAT systems and the parameters needed to evaluate and minimize risks.
This is very important for purchasers who are buying VSAT for a company, as they have to answer for poor services resulting from the purchase. So the questions they should ask are: “What does an expert do when he wants to buy a VSAT system and what are the main evaluation criteria he uses?”; “How do they select VSAT equipment and service options and arrive at the final choice?”; “What factors should be considered in buying VSAT equipment and services and what should be avoided?”.
This article simplifies the decision making process for buying VSAT, and reduces risk by providing insight and information on the critical factors to consider. Below are the six steps you should follow to get the best balance between cost and performance.
- Analyze your Needs
Consider carefully what you want to use a VSAT internet connection for, and state clearly what you want. You need to know the basic requirements such as the number of users, time of day profile, the type of usage, and the importance of the connection.
a) You need to know the number of simultaneous users and the intensity of use.
b) You need to know the time of day profile: Does your heaviest use coincide with peak times for other users?
c) You need to know the types of use for the VSAT link whether it is solely for or a mix of: internet browsing, email (does it have large attachments), instant messaging, VoIP, videoconferencing, etc. It matters whether you want the service for video conferencing or just for plain browsing and emails.
d) You need to know the importance of the connection: it matters if you need the connection for a casual service, for a mission critical task of an oil company, or as the only communication line in a mine.
- Understand the Services
Be demanding: Ask for options, explanations, demos, any information that you need. There should be no lack of knowledge on what exactly is being bought. The provider must provide the information you need and must be ready to show you what their service is made of. So, if there are areas in which you are unsure of, ask for options. For example, if you are not sure if you should use Shared Service (contended bandwidth) or Dedicated Service (assured bandwidth), ask the provider to provide both options for your set of requirements. The provider needs your business, so be demanding and ask for all the information that you need. A provider who is not supporting you in this stage will never support you once you purchased their services. Asking for a demo is perfectly fine, but you need to be prepared to shoulder some of the cost of installation if it is in a remote area.
- Know your Provider
Ask for references: If the provider service is good, people should testify. You need to be mindful of a provider’s capabilities, its background in offering VSAT services, and the quality of its teleport/hub. You should know your provider’s ability to serve various needs, especially focusing on their technical process and manpower capabilities. They should have the expertise to install and maintain equipment and to provide ongoing support. Every business says I am the best there is, but this should never be taken at face value. You should check with the provider’s previous customers to recognize the provider’s level of service. If a VSAT provider does not provide you with references, don’t sign with them. Communications is not something you would want to risk on. Take your steps wisely and make sure you ask for a list of past customers.
- Reasonable Price
The price must be reasonable: Don’t get fooled by extremely low prices or by providers who charge you excessively with the excuse that they are selling you a Mercedes. In the real world, every commodity has its own price regardless of the vendor. The VSAT market is very inconsistent and you need to shop around to find the best price. But there are really simple ways of checking what you are getting:
a) Compare the overall cost as opposed to individual costs.
b) Compare apples with apples: Be sure you are not comparing a watered down shared signal with a pure dedicated bandwidth allocated to you.
c) Check the satellite and make sure it is a credible and relatively new satellite as opposed to a dying one.
d) Make sure the hub/teleport is in a European country or a metropolitan location with a good backhaul to international fiber backbone.
e) Check the link budget and make sure you have a good signal at your location.
f) Check the technology and capability of the modem. Some modems are outdated with low efficiency, and can’t handle the throughput you can get with some new models for the same bandwidth.
- Ensure Performance Levels
Test the service before accepting it: Condition your purchase to a demo. If a demo is too costly, you should condition your contract to the promised performance. This will ensure that the service will not fall below the performance threshold. Learn how to test your link and do it when the technician has installed the link to confirm that you are getting the correct service performance for which you are paying for.
- Critical Customer Support
Last but not least, thoroughly check the support and aftersales structure of the company you are signing with. With the advance in technology, satellites are now very reliable, and the reason for prolonged downtimes lies in bad customer support. Many ISPs are merely one or two-man shows without a real support structure. Ask for 365*24*7 support, as this is one of the most important aspect and critical to the reliability of your link. Also make sure you are able to receive graphs of your usage periodically. Don’t get stranded without support since if the link is down, there is no one out there to help you.
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