Paul Diamond, Entanet’s Chief Operating Officer, explains that business-grade connectivity isn’t a one-size fits all proposition, but rather should be determined by the needs of the customer.
The comms market has been on something of a never-ending technological whirlwind as newer, faster, better technologies continually emerge that enable easier, quicker, simpler access to data – a whirlwind which has contributed to a product-led approach to buying (or perhaps selling?), where the latest and greatest is thought to be the ‘best’ solution for business customers. However, this approach fails to ask if the ‘latest and greatest’ is appropriate for a specific customer and doesn’t acknowledge one of the basic principles of business – ‘know your customer’.
Putting aside the notion of what’s ‘best’ and instead looking at what is most appropriate, it becomes clear that the answer is not in the technology but in the customer’s need. Or more specifically in a balancing of what the customer intends to use their IP connection for, how reliant they’ll be on it, their budget and how much peace of mind is needed in terms of business continuity.
Let’s compare the requirements of two business customers:
Customer A is an investment bank with over 1000 employees worldwide. It has a need to connect headquarters with regional offices and remote workers; core operations are supported by hosted applications and business continuity would be materially impacted if their connectivity were to fail. Customer B on the other hand is a local art gallery with 3 employees. It requires connectivity to administer its website, process orders and manage day-to-day tasks including email. It would also like to offer free Wi-Fi for customer use.
Obviously customer B’s business is as important to the owner as that of customer A but it demonstrates the point nicely: what is considered ‘business grade’ for customer A is likely very different to what would be considered ‘business grade’ for customer B. From customer A’s perspective, an appropriate and critical business-grade solution would be one that has 100% uptime reliability and has backup connectivity as well as short fix times to minimise the impact on business continuity. It would also rely on having a comprehensive Service Level Agreement in place and constant network monitoring and support. For customer B however, the loss of their simple Internet connection could be little more than an inconvenience rather than a major disaster if they can access their website from home and retrieve email on their smartphone.
Clearly where a business is more reliant on the availability of IP services, the scale of what should be considered ‘business grade’ moves to the upper end. Here, it becomes not just about single connections, but rather a whole infrastructure and is where IP VPNs come into their own. Enabling offices of all sizes and in disparate locations to connect to a private infrastructure (with or without an Internet breakout), they allow workers to access and share core applications, information resources and internal data.
Entanet frequently assists partners to scope, propose and sell IP VPN solutions that consist of multiple and carrier diverse connectivity – from basic broadband to 10Gbps Ethernet circuits – to ensure high speed information access, the highest levels of security and, critically, business continuity in the event of a technical glitch.
The upper end of the connectivity scale presents more opportunities for offering business customers additional peace of mind through SLAs. But here the subtext is key. If a customer wants connectivity with a robust SLA, what they’re actually looking for is diverse and backup connectivity to ensure continuity of business; after all, if a service provider cannot adhere to the terms of their SLA it does little more than to say how much compensation the customer can expect, which – in our experience – is unlikely to cover the potential loss of earnings that would arise from a failure.
Ultimately customers come in all different shapes and sizes, as do the belts and braces required to give them a robust and reliable solution. There is no such thing as an off-the-shelf option that customers can be slotted into. Instead, resellers need to take the time to understand what the customer wants or needs in order to design a solution that’s appropriate. Here too it’s important to remember to keep it simple. Overcomplicated solutions, or providing too many options, switches customers off and undermines the expertise presented by the reseller. Of course this presents its own challenges – the ability to keep things simple comes from an in-depth understanding of the technology, its benefits, boundaries, limitations and how it can be used singularly or with complementary technologies. In our experience resellers don’t always feel comfortable with their level of knowledge and therefore the relationship they have with their supplier needs to be one in which they are fully supported. But that’s a conversation for another time.
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