Most small-to-medium companies in New Zealand are yet to fully take advantage of the potential the internet offers – and if you fall into this category, you could be missing out.
That’s because the internet puts within reach of your company software and services that just five years ago were the exclusive preserve of big, rich companies. But there is a slight catch.
To take advantage of services like cloud computing, voice over IP and more, you need an internet connection capable of delivering reliable and predictable connectivity.
Cloud computing means you can access a fully-featured Customer Relationship Management system for only a few dollars a month. Think an accounting and payroll solution; video conferencing; enterprise-grade backup restore and data storage services that mean never again having to worry about a crashed hard drive and lost data.
Even fully-featured Enterprise Resource Planning solutions can be accessed from the cloud at a fraction of the cost once associated with advanced business software.
The drawback, if there is one, is that for these services to deliver on the promise, they have to work all the time. What is also essential is that the link should be suitably fast to ensure these services – which rely on information exchange to and from your computers – can operate without interruption, ‘jitter’ or delay.
Check your connection
Already, your business is likely to be very reliant on the internet. Chances are that it is as important as electricity is in getting the daily work done. But for many small-to-medium sized Kiwi companies, the internet service provider is not a specialist. Instead, you’re likely to be dependent on a company that spends most of its time meeting residential internet demand. Is that a problem?
It might not seem like it on the face of things - most residential services do provide a reasonably good service…for residential users. But if you want to maximize the value from your internet connection, a specialist service provider soon makes perfect sense. Let’s look at why.
A necessity for a better connection
Residential internet is delivered on the basis that it is not an essential service and in line with the principle of ‘best effort’. This is probably best understood in terms of your experience of your line speed.
While you may have signed up for a 15mbps (megabits per second) line, you will rarely if ever experience that speed – particularly when the data or applications you are accessing are hosted overseas.
Try it for yourself at www.speedtest.net. The ‘speed limit’ results from the contention ratio. The ‘pipe’ to your premises joins a bigger pipe, along with the connections of everyone else in your neighbourhood.
That bigger pipe has a limited size (bandwidth) – and when more people are accessing the limited bandwidth, the contention ratio shoots up and the speed of your connection shoots down. This is perfectly acceptable for the vast majority of residential internet users. But if it is your business we’re talking about, it isn’t satisfactory at all.
The problem is exacerbated when you start taking advantage of more advanced services. When your business is depending on VoIP, video and cloud applications, you not only need the connection to be ‘on’ all the time, you also need it to be fast all the time.
How a business service provider differs
An internet service provider that sells only to businesses understands the necessity for speed and reliability. It also understands the need for dedicated support; contention ratios can apply in contact centres, too, where one agent might have to support thousands of residential customers.
A business service provider will provide service level agreements (SLAs), bandwidth guarantees, none of the dreaded ‘cap’ which cuts your service at the most inconvenient of times, and the sort of attention that reflects its understanding of how critical the internet is to you.
In addition, you get full visibility of network performance and service history at a glance. You can even see voice calling costs almost as soon as you hang up the phone. Cost and the bottom line But what about cost? That’s a common question from business owners.
But cost needs to be balanced against value. You know that if your internet service isn’t performing, your staff aren’t either; and with a dedicated business internet service, some costs will come down, too. Voice, for example, especially based on Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), is cheaper and just as good, while you get access to a fully-featured PBX solution for a fraction of the price.
For any serious business, it’s always about the bottom line. The bottom line in this case is that internet services such as cloud applications and voice over IP provide the ability to enormously improve performance, convenience and efficiency, while also potentially taking out a lot of operational cost. Doing so, however, depends on a high-quality, fit-for-purpose internet connection – and those supplied by residential service providers are simply not designed for business use.
Drew Gilpin is the general manager of sales and marketing at Kordia.