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An ISP is a business that enables people to connect to the Internet. You can’t connect to the Internet directly, just like you cannot make a call just by having a phone, you need to subscribe to a service provider and you are charged for the service.
An ISP sells you a connection to the Internet and related services like surfing the web and using email.
To get connected to an ISP, you have to sign a subscription contract. Once you have signed up, the ISP will give you an access phone number, a username and a password. The access phone number is the number your computer will dial to connect to the ISP server and your user ID, like your login name, is a unique identifier. Every user on the system needs to use a different user ID to make sure that people can’t access each other’s accounts, and the password is a secret code known only to the user. Once you’ve logged in, the ISP will recognize you and give you access to the services you have paid for, like browsing the web and sending and receiving emails.
Email is an excellent way of communicating as it’s quicker, cheaper and more convenient than ordinary mail. Your service provider will offer you a range of services associated with email, for example, more than one email address, so that everyone in a household has their own private email account. Another service would be to send automated notifications that you’re away on vacation, or to keep your emails on an ISP’s server so that you’re not downloading emails to your computer but rather viewing email over the Internet. This web-based mail can be useful if you’re traveling and you want to access your email from another computer.
Email is very convenient but it can also come with problems, like people sending you things you don’t want, like adverts. Unwanted advertising through email is called spam and is the digital version of junk mail. Because spam is a nuisance and can also contain malware, a good spam filter is important. A reputable ISP will also offer virus scanning on all incoming emails. This gives valuable protection to your computer.
ISPs can also provide many other extra services to add value to your Internet experience. For example, your ISP can keep track of your telephone costs while you’re connected to the Internet. You can also share your personal photos and videos with others by storing them in an online photo album kept on your ISP server. This allows family and friends with access to the Internet to view your photo album from anywhere in the world.
If you like to blog, for example, most service providers will offer you personal web space for you to publish on. This means that you can send them your website and they will host it on their server. This is called hosting. Having your ISP host your website is also useful because the ISP server is permanently connected to the Internet and people can then visit your site 24 hours a day.
An ISP offers different kinds of services. To choose the right ISP, you should look for one that has a range of services that you need and a subscription fee within your budget. Just remember that the more services an ISP offers, the more they are likely to charge.