Internet Service Provider

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Definition

An internet service provider (abbreviated to ISP) is a type of business that delivers access to a range of internet-related services. These can include hosting, applications, online content, and access to the world wide web.

Once an ISP activates a given service, customers can make use of said online functions, therefore, having an ISP is an essential prerequisite for anyone who wants to access the internet whether it is for personal or for business purposes.

The roles of an internet service provider are not limited to providing online access, but also include maintaining key infrastructure to support digital communications and to ensure connectivity, like cabling, servers, and networks. Some ISPs may also offer additional services to the end-user, such as website hosting and design, internet security, e-commerce software, email accounts, and domain registration services.

Types of internet service providers

There are different types of ISPs based on the type of services they deliver and how they are organized. For example, ISP companies can be commercially run, managed by non-profit organizations, or privately owned. Another way of classifying them is on the basis of the technology they use to deliver their services:

  • Dial-up (using telephone infrastructure).
  • Cable or broadband.
  • Satellite technology.
  • Fiber optic.

As mentioned before, ISPs can also be classified by the type of service they offer.

Access providers

These are ISPs that offer access to the internet in the widest sense of the term. Their main function is to enable user connectivity to the world wide web through physical devices like routers or modems. They may also provide internet access after acquiring or renting it from another ISP. The services are usually sold in packages priced according to the bandwidth and/or data consumed.

Access providers are usually classified into tiers. Tier 1 ISPs are organizations that own and have access to an entire internet region, without needing to purchase access rights from other companies. There are only a few Tier 1 ISPs, including AT&T, Verizon, and a few others. On the other hand, Tier 2 ISPs can only deliver their services after purchasing internet access from Tier 1 businesses and/or through peering agreements, whereas a Tier 3 internet service provider usually does not own any network and only acts as a middleman between end customers and other ISPs.

Hosting providers

A hosting provider offers its users website hosting services. These are virtual spaces where websites are uploaded and held. Hosting space is measured in units like kilobytes, megabytes, and gigabytes, and is priced accordingly. These companies can also host email accounts and related services, such as email forwarding, email spam filters, auto-responders, the ability to organize mail in folders, etc.

Some hosting providers also offer online storage services. These can include:

  • Cloud hosting, which relies on multiple interconnected servers instead of a single one to host a website, email, or data.
  • Datacenter services, which provide the storage and management of IT operations ranging from managed hosting to data backup or cybersecurity.

Application Service providers

These businesses offer their clients access to digital services and software with a primarily practical application. Some offer services that cater to the general market (such as payment processing software, database reporting applications, or software packages offering word processors and spreadsheets), whereas others offer solutions to specific verticals or industries.

The range of services offered by ASPs has been gaining popularity among organizations and individual consumers. This is because they offer an alternative to traditional models whereby access to the software required purchasing and downloading these programs. Instead, ASPs offer applications that can be accessed remotely by the client.

Content providers

A content provider is an organization that produces and makes available digital content in a variety of formats. Internet content providers usually operate in one focus area, such as news or entertainment, although there are some that deliver educational content too. Their content can be delivered via third parties or using proprietary solutions.

The content produced may be available at no cost, or on a membership basis. Some of these businesses also rely on advertising to support their platforms, often using pay-per-click strategies.

Importance for search engine optimization

In some cases, ISP companies that offer hosting services block robots from crawling their clients’ websites. In doing so, they interfere with site indexing, which in turn has a negative effect on website ranking and SEO. This is usually done through the configuration of the .htaccess file with directives that block robots and crawlers. In other cases, they may not grant the user access to this file, so SEO performance may be limited.

Moreover, ISP business that offer shared web hosting may have slow performance issues due to having too many websites in a single server. Page speed is an important factor in getting a site to rank high, so again this may hinder search engine optimization efforts.

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