Q&A with James Arnold-Roberts, Director Genius Networks (Comms Business, June 2013)
1. How important is it for resellers to be able to provide a migration path to super-fast access - a customer’s initial requirement for, say VOIP may not justify an expensive investment initially so is this about paving the way to sell more to that customer, for example cloud-based services?
I think it’s horses for courses – there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution. Before giving any recommendations, you’ve got to get under the customer’s skin, talk to the IT director and dig out the answers to some basic questions. Do they really need super-fast Internet access and does it align with their business and IT strategy? Will it improve productivity, efficiency or customer service? Is there a solid business case for it?
There’ll be some whose IT plans are coherent and well sorted, others whose approach is totally reactive and geared to trouble-shooting, and a whole lot of businesses in between who operate on a mix of strategy and short-term demands. But the likelihood is that very few of them will have firm plans to migrate to high speed. Most of the time, there’s a pretty good argument for migration, providing either immediate return or as an investment for the future. Other times though, it just doesn’t make any sense.
For some customers it’s going to be an absolute must. Verticals like media, design and healthcare where large data files are constantly being moved around can work smarter and faster with higher bandwidth. Multi-site corporates or operations with large amounts of remote or home workers also benefit from high speed access – particularly when it comes to using bandwidth-hungry video or conferencing applications. In fact, any business running or planning to run cloud-based services and applications really needs fast and reliable connectivity. The same goes for those who depend on sophisticated CRM or help desk applications to deliver high levels of customer service.
But throwing bandwidth at a connectivity issue isn’t always the best solution – or the most efficient. A company’s Internet load can change dramatically during the day and adding extra capacity just because things slow down at lunchtime when everyone’s on YouTube or online shopping, doesn’t really justify the cost of a high speed connection. It may seem like an easy and relatively inexpensive fix, but what value will it actually add for the business? These days there are plenty of other ways to manage Internet load using tools that can be configured to control and prioritise different kinds of traffic going to different destinations at different times of day. Many networks, like those based on MPLS technology, have packet engineering capabilities built-in, which makes it much easier to optimise the system and drive up performance.
There’s also the issue of latency to consider. For voice and other sensitive network traffic, latency can be a bigger problem than bandwidth, particularly for international comms. Controlling latency comes down to the way the network is engineered. With Genius for example, we use international hubs to reduce delay and boost performance. So for businesses where latency is a big issue, it’s going to be about choosing the right network provider in the first place, rather than simply making the decision to switch to a high speed connection.
2. What factors should a reseller consider when debating whether to go the wholesale route or to buy from an aggregator – are single host links too risky and what about the cost associated with traffic management and engineering?
Generally speaking, when you buy from a wholesaler or carrier, you’ll get exactly what it says on the box, off-the-shelf and ready to go. In some circumstances and for some geographic locations, it might be the best solution. But if your client is a multi-site or multi-national business, going the wholesale route without the necessary network engineering skills can lead to greater risk, higher costs and a massively underperforming system.
That’s where network aggregators, particularly those with network integration expertise, can help. Companies like Genius have the partner relationships and technical capabilities to create best of breed, bespoke and seamlessly integrated networking solutions using services from multiple carriers. Aggregators / integrators can build-in extra resilience where it’s needed and use smart routing technologies to ensure best price. Services are normally fully managed and with Genius, there’s a single end-to-end SLA.
The main problem with working with a single carrier is that they’ll obviously push their own limited set of services. Working with an aggregator / integrator you get the benefits of a multi-provider solution designed to best meet the end user’s specific needs. At the same time, by choosing the right channel partner, resellers can cement existing client relationships and more easily identify additional revenue opportunities.
3. Will 4G services eat in to the fixed line access market for data connectivity?
I don’t see 4G as a replacement for fixed line, but it has great value as complementary connectivity, useful for fallback solutions and business continuity planning as well as providing an option for remote or home working. The main issues with 4G are always going to be coverage and reliability and with some parts of the UK still struggling with 3G and GPRS availability, 4G has a long, long way to go before it can claim to be a serious contender for first choice business connectivity.
Having said that, if you’re located in the right area and there’s a stable connection it has the potential to deliver high bandwidth and capacity without all the setup costs. On top of this, if a business is located in an area where fixed line service is poor, 4G could provide part of an alternative high speed connectivity solution.
As we continue to move towards an ideal where users are able to connect to the best available network at anytime, wherever they are, 4G will of course have a critical part to play – but for the time being, fixed line has to be king.
4. How can network providers and reseller suppliers differentiate their connectivity offerings apart from price?
Make no mistake, as we emerge from the latest recession, price is still a key factor. What every IT manager wants from their network today is more bang for their buck. More quality, more reliability, more capacity, more control and more scalability. Comms technology is moving on at a pace and the big criticism has always been that the networks required to deliver innovative cloud and hosted services have been under-provisioned and poorly configured. This has resulted in confidence issues and a reluctance for businesses to be progressive about their technology choices.
But things are changing fast. By taking a holistic view of network provisioning, data centre resources and hosted application requirements to create fully integrated solutions, providers like Genius are building the systems businesses need to get the most out of the latest network-delivered services. Working with intelligent technologies and alongside all parties in the network supply chain means that every component of a solution can be optimised – from developing a resilient core infrastructure to making seamless interconnects with all the world’s major carriers. Get it right and the results are affordable, uninterrupted global voice and data services that are fully supported end-to-end to ensure guaranteed quality of service. That’s where we’re winning business.