The network effect

17 Jan 2006

Services and solutions specialists such as Datapac represent a one-stop shop for small firms scratching their heads over what to do about network infrastructure and security. Not only is it a challenging market to serve it’s one that changes more quickly than the Chelsea first team, with the onus on suppliers not only to deliver state-of-the-art solutions but also to move with the times. In 2006 this will mean sharpening up their internet protocol (IP) offerings.

“There is no doubt that the next big wave will be around IP telephony and the benefits that it can deliver,” says Edel Creely, general manager at Datapac (pictured). “Businesses want their IT company to address these issues because the underlying infrastructure is going to be an IP network.”

Acknowledging the sea change Datapac will start by rolling out a product offering based around 3Com’s telephony solution, a system that the firm is currently implementing across its own business.

When it turns its attention to prospective customers Creely is confident that small firms will want to upgrade their networks. “The idea that your work telephone extension can be used from home over broadband is just one of a compelling number of reasons to look into it,” she says.

“Some might have a business need to help manage their communications network better, others may be expanding and outgrowing their existing system; others might be moving location,” she says. “I expect a lot of it will be the straight replacement of old PABX systems.”

From the Datapac perspective having an a foothold in IP telephony is important because the firm sells itself as a one-stop shop, offering end-to-end solutions covering the entire infrastructure. “We provide business solutions for small companies that don’t want to deal with multiple partners.”

As further evidence of how seriously the firm is taking the emerging IP market it is bringing in a business developer manager with a background in IP telephony to drive the new generation of communications solutions into its small firm customer base.

Similar to many vendors Datapac is acknowledging the importance of convergence and the rise of the ICT acronym that Creely believes increasingly more firms are starting to understand. Rather than look at communications and IT in isolation, they regard them as building blocks in the same infrastructure.

This is a change in mindset that really began with the rise of email and internet access, according to Creely, and the launch of a key product that tapped into the new environment. “Microsoft Small Business Server 2003 is the simplest solution for SMEs,” says Creely. “It addresses issues of connectivity and remote access as well as security. All those worries are resolved in one solution.”

Pitched as the product that brings networking features used by large companies to small firms, while doing away with the complexity associated with server technology, Creely argues that it also answers customer concerns over Microsoft vulnerabilities. “That perception has been overcome at this stage,” she says. “People feel the security issues are being addressed. I think there is now a general understanding that by going with latest versions of software you are investing in something that is intrinsically less vulnerable.”

Creely suggests that Small Business Server 2003 has changed the way firms look at IT internally, going as far as to describe it as a de-facto standard. Of all its elements, she argues that secure remote access is probably is strongest selling point. “You can be anywhere and go on the on the internet and get your email. That’s hugely compelling,” says Creely. “In the old days they would have had to dial into the network and leave themselves open to all the security issues that went with that.”

By Ian Campbell