Lack of Bottle?

Sasha Williamson, CEO of IT managed services firm Luminet, says that some might think a quick broadband uplift is a simple way of making money out of customers who don’t know any better and asks ‘do you know any better than to sell a bigger connection every time you see a network bottleneck?’

2Mbps used to be very fast and very expensive, but all that changed when broadband rolled out to every local exchange. Today the market has moved on to become fixated by superfast, ultrafast and even Gigabit broadband, with the upgrade path to these speeds enabling customers to be confident of keeping ahead of their rising bandwidth needs and avoiding the disastrous slowdown effect of network congestion.

But is fatter pipes really the answer to broadband gripes?

A typical UK business rarely uses all of its broadband capacity. Despite this, most will be experiencing the symptoms of congestion: jittery video calls, poor mobile access to critical apps, disgruntled customers struggling to get a rapid response, and worse – why is that?

Well it isn’t necessarily because the broadband service isn’t fast enough. Some businesses manage to maintain an excellent user experience at 50% utilisation of headline speed, or higher.

There is a fundamental difference between broadband speed (and the notion that the bigger the better) and quality of service. Quality of service is the value that broadband needs to deliver to the business, and it’s driven by visibility and control over application usage.

Customers turn to IT and comms partners to give them trusted advice, and this is a great opportunity to deliver tangible value that can nurture a lucrative long-term relationship. The problem businesses face is having finite resources to continue increasing costs for faster and slicker broadband services. Even with support like the Government Connected Voucher Scheme (now extended to March 2016, covering up to £3,000 broadband costs for qualifying businesses with less than 249 employees) on offer, businesses want to optimise efficiencies and reduce monthly OPEX costs by being smarter with their broadband usage.

Hence grasping that challenge, and helping customers take advantage of their broadband connection/s in a more holistic way, creates a far more consultative and ‘sticky’ engagement. It’s a case of helping businesses get much more from their existing broadband, rather than helping yourself to the margins on an unnecessary upgrade.

This is achieved by taking a look under the bonnet to see what’s really going on. When you do, you and your customers will be amazed to discover what you’ve helped them shine a light on for the first time.

If the business could see what was happening on their network, they would find spare capacity, as well as major spikes when a specific user hogs the network to download a Breaking Bad boxset during their lunch break. All very interesting, but a ‘visibility’ solution is next to useless without a ‘control’ capability enabling the business to act. With that in place, it’s up to them how draconian or laissez-faire they want to be; I for one would advocate very careful consideration before blocking any application. Take Facebook for example – a massive time-waster in many eyes, but in fact also a critical communications and content platform that millions of business people rely on to manage customers and boost sales!

To safeguard the business benefit of all app usage (as well as mitigating the prospect of an employee mutiny) customers can ‘throttle’ access to certain applications so that their slice of the available broadband pie is controlled, even down to specific types of user, or times of day that avoid peak usage periods or backup synchs. With visibility of traffic analytics, businesses can not only adjust and block these ‘bad’ applications, but also prioritise all-important mission-critical applications. This ensures on-demand delivery of the broadband performance they expect, when and where it’s needed most. Those bandwidth hogs that do consume too much business broadband – and threaten mission-critical applications from serving the business need – can be slow-roasted or quick-fried as policy dictates.

Do it right and you can deliver enhanced user-centric Quality of Experience, with QoE service assurance across real-time and near real-time applications and networks, whilst optimising network capability to enhance business objectives.

With a little insight, and fair policies, businesses could happily manage with half the broadband they already have. Either you can open their eyes, or someone else will – and get all the credit.

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David Dungay

Editor - Comms Business Magazine