The figure illustrates common connection options for small office and home office users, which include:
- Cable - Typically offered by cable television service providers, the Internet data signal is carried on the same coaxial cable that delivers cable television. It provides a high bandwidth, always on, connection to the Internet. A special cable modem separates the Internet data signal from the other signals carried on the cable and provides an Ethernet connection to a host computer or LAN.
- DSL - Provides a high bandwidth, always on, connection to the Internet. It requires a special high-speed modem that separates the DSL signal from the telephone signal and provides an Ethernet connection to a host computer or LAN. DSL runs over a telephone line, with the line split into three channels. One channel is used for voice telephone calls. This channel allows an individual to receive phone calls without disconnecting from the Internet. A second channel is a faster download channel, used to receive information from the Internet. The third channel is used for sending or uploading information. This channel is usually slightly slower than the download channel. The quality and speed of the DSL connection depends mainly on the quality of the phone line and the distance from your phone company's central office. The farther you are from the central office, the slower the connection.
- Cellular - Cellular Internet access uses a cell phone network to connect. Wherever you can get a cellular signal, you can get cellular Internet access. Performance will be limited by the capabilities of the phone and the cell tower to which it is connected. The availability of cellular Internet access is a real benefit in those areas that would otherwise have no Internet connectivity at all, or for those constantly on the go.
- Satellite - Satellite service is a good option for homes or offices that do not have access to DSL or cable. Satellite dishes require a clear line of sight to the satellite and so might be difficult in heavily wooded areas or places with other overhead obstructions. Speeds will vary depending on the contract, though they are generally good. Equipment and installation costs can be high (although check the provider for special deals), with a moderate monthly fee thereafter. The availability of satellite Internet access is a real benefit in those areas that would otherwise have no Internet connectivity at all.
- Dial-up Telephone - An inexpensive option that uses any phone line and a modem. To connect to the ISP, a user calls the ISP access phone number. The low bandwidth provided by a dial-up modem connection is usually not sufficient for large data transfer, although it is useful for mobile access while traveling. A modem dial-up connection should only be considered when higher speed connection options are not available.
Many homes and small offices are more commonly being connected directly with fibre optic cables. This enables an Internet service provider to provide higher bandwidth speeds and support more services such as Internet, phone, and TV.
The choice of connection varies depending on geographical location and service provider availability.
What are your options for connecting to the Internet?