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Paul Diamond, Chief Operating Officer

For too long, the comms industry has followed, perhaps blindly, a product-led sales strategy to satiate the desire of business and residential customers alike wanting immediate access to the latest and greatest technologies that promise easier, quicker and simpler access to data. But the easy sale doesn’t always make for an appropriate solution to the user’s needs, after all there is no such thing as an off-the-shelf-one-size-fits-all solution.

Instead, resellers have an opportunity to set themselves apart from the pack by putting the basic business principle of ‘know your customer’ to work and looking first at the customer’s need rather than a product set with a particular commission level. More specifically, this means determining what a user intends to use their IP connection for, how reliant they’ll be on it, what their available budget is and how much peace of mind is needed in terms of business continuity.

What is business-grade to one, isn’t to another

To demonstrate, let’s look at the differing needs of two businesses:

  • 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 Wifi for customer use.

Obviously customer B’s business is as important to the owner as that of customer A but what they each consider to be “business grade” is likely very different. 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, assuming they can access their website from home and retrieve emails using their smartphone.

Understanding the connectivity scale

This means that a business’s reliance on IP services is directly correlated to where they sit on the scale of “business grade connectivity”. Those more reliant sit at the upper end of what is considered “business grade” where it isn’t just about single connections, but rather a whole infrastructure. This 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.

We frequently assist 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. Many of our partners even utilise our IP VPN management tool Mirada to have direct control over monitoring their customer’s private network. This enables partners to be responsive to customer demands – those ‘how’s the network performing?’ questions – or be proactive in demonstrating that they’re actively managing the network by making suggestions on how to improve performance.

The upper end of the connectivity scale also 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. Successful resellers take the time to understand what the customer wants or needs in order to design a solution that’s appropriate. (If you’re not confident that you’re up to date with what’s available, download our comprehensive Guide to Connectivity – the link is provided below). 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.

Have your say!

Do you agree that business-grade connectivity is entirely dependent on the business for which the solution is proposed, or do you believe that there are finite boundaries for what can be defined as ‘business grade’. Whatever your opinion, let us know in the comments section below.

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