The Friday Interview: Tim Murphy, Strencom

16 Mar 2007

This week’s interviewee is Tim Murphy (pictured), managing director of Cork data services firm Strencom.

What encouraged you to set up as a regional internet service provider (ISP) in Cork in 2000?

I used to work for Esat in Cork in the late Nineties and there were several other providers but no point of presence (POP), which meant that to send an email or surf the net all the traffic was going back up to Dublin.

By the time I left Esat there were only two or three providers left and still no POP so there was an obvious gap in the market.

You’ve evolved from being an ISP to being a data centre provider also. How did this come about?

We started up offering leased lines to businesses in Cork but now we’ve expanded to serving companies not only across Ireland but in the UK as well, with companies like Gamestop, for example.

What businesses are looking for are one-stop managed services. We also provide services to local ISPs who want to offer internet to residential customers and we’d be invisible in the background.

We estimate we have about 3pc to 4pc of the actual broadband market in Ireland.

As a managed services provider, is it enough just to provide hosting?

The key is to specialise and focus on individual business needs.

For example, one of our customers would have over 200 retail sites around Ireland and we implemented their electronic point of sale (EPOS) system, which connected back to a data centre. Typical customers would include Right Price Tiles and Gamestop.

Is Eircom’s decision to invest €60m in its next-generation network good news for ISPs?

Long term it is a good idea; it will be great to have higher bandwidth and offer 25Mbps services.

However, the issues it needs to address first are the capacity issues affecting exchanges, and I don’t just mean the 20pc of exchanges in rural areas not served with broadband, but large exchanges in Ireland’s cities and towns where we can’t connect customers.

We estimate that 30pc of our customers are failing tests for broadband connections because of capacity.

Was the leap from being a small regional ISP to an Ireland and UK data player a difficult one?

We grew with our customers, really. As they started to expand with new offices in Dublin, Poland and the UK we evolved too.

There really isn’t anywhere in the world that you can’t connect with today with data networks. We have deals with data centres around the world and recently established a POP at Telehouse in the UK and connect through Tiscali.

What is the greatest trend affecting your business today?

Apart from businesses looking at areas like disaster recovery and backup, we are finding that companies are focusing on connecting with the dispersed workforce.

Employers are still struggling with the fear of losing control but at the same time everyone wants to get their work-life balance just right.

Employees, while they are happy in their job, are prioritising their family and no longer wish to spend two to three hours a day in their car. This presents a challenge to employers who don’t wish to lose valuable workers.

In this light, home working is increasingly being seen as a viable option and in lots of cases boosts productivity.

By John Kennedy