What’s the difference between residential and business internet?

Choosing the right internet plan for your home can be tricky, and there’s a lot of things to consider: How many Mbps do you need? How many devices are you connecting? Is cost your biggest factor? Add in a home office or a small business you run from home, and it gets even more confusing.

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, there were 30.2 million small businesses (defined as fewer than 500 employees) in 2018 (the most recent available data). Of those small businesses, nearly 20 million of them had fewer than 20 employees.

If you’re a small business owner or need to work from home out of an office, here’s what you need to know about internet for your home office or small business.

What are your internet options?

If you have a home office or small business that you run from home, you’ll have the option to choose between residential or business internet.

What is business internet?

Business internet refers to a specific internet connection dedicated to conducting business. It typically comes with faster download and upload speeds, more features, a robust customer service department and guaranteed service. All of these extra features, though, come with a higher price tag.

What is residential internet?

Residential internet is just that, the internet you use at home. Residential internet typically comes with lower starting speeds as well as asymentical download and upload speeds (meaning your download speed is much greater than your upload speed). Depending on where you live, you could get a cheap home internet connection for as little as $20/mo.

Do you need a residential or business internet connection?

Whether or not you need a residential or business internet connection depends on the needs of your home office or small business. 

If you’re conducting the majority of your business from home, you may want to consider a business internet connection. However, if a lot of what you’re doing at home is clerical work or a few video conference calls, a high-speed residential connection may be enough.

Here’s what you need to know before you consider switching to a business internet connection:

Pros and cons of business internet

Pros

  • Faster starting speeds – Speeds range from 25 Mbps to 10 Gbps, whereas residential options typically range from 1 Mbps to 1 Gbps
  • Symmetrical connection – More options for matching upload and download speeds provide a better connection for video conferencing, sharing documents, etc.
  • Dedicated line – Dedicated lines mean you’re not sharing your connection with neighbors or experiencing slowed speeds during peak times
  • Static IP address – Business internet typically offers the option to have a static IP address (vs. a dynamic one that changes periodically) providing a more secure, reliable connection
  • Service level agreements (SLAs) – SLAs are a service contract between you and your internet provider outlining performance standards, as well as how you’ll be compensated if the service level is not met
  • Dedicated customer service – Many providers offer 24/7 support for business internet customers

Cons

  • Higher starting costs – Depending on your needs, business internet could cost anywhere from $60/mo. for 25 Mbps to $500/mo. or more for multiple gigs of internet

Decide how much you really need

Before you consider making the switch, you need to determine how much speed you really need for your home office or small business. Run a speed test to determine what you’re currently getting and make a list of all of your online activities.

If the majority of what you’re doing involves checking email, browsing the web, maintaining a website and conducting some video conferences, a high-speed residential internet connection may be enough. 

Where available, a fiber-optic internet connection may be your best bet. Fiber-optic internet typically comes with higher starting speeds of 100 Mbps up to 1,000 Mbps, is less likely to be disrupted during peak times and comes with symmetrical (or close to symmetrical) upload and download speeds.

If you want to see what high-speed internet options are available in your area, click “Shop internet plans” below. Follow our Resource Center for tips and tricks to maximize your speed and get the most of your connection.