From Carrier to Partner: Technology Advancements Changing the Role of the Business Solutions Provider

By Glenn Calafati, Vice President, Commercial Products RCN Business / Grande Communications Business / Wave Business

Glenn Calafati, Vice President, Commercial Products RCN Business / Grande Communications Business / Wave Business

When I first started in this business, network providers were viewed as necessary evils. Exciting to those of us on the inside because we had a vision for what we were building, but viewed by outsiders as little more than an extension of a monopolized telephone carrier for data. Residential customers simply wanted their movies and music; SMBs and enterprises needed to deliver large amounts of information point-to-point across long distances (usually during off-peak hours to minimize expenses). No news was good news; we rarely heard from subscribers unless the pipeline stopped flowing.

With today’s digital landscape transformed into an always-on, applications-based e-commerce mega-engine, the role of the successful internet service provider has evolved into a true business partner. Networks are no longer a nice-to-have but a must-have. More than just a collection of data lines, routers and servers, they are now an integral part of the quality of service delivered to the customer. E-commerce engines rely on it, internal operational processes depend on it.

Businesses recognize that the quality of the network experience is key to application users; no one has the patience for spinning hourglasses anymore. If it takes more than a few seconds to load a page, the user has clicked off to another site to find their answer or place their order. And while many service providers continue to rightfully focus on improving speed and increasing bandwidth, it’s analytics and quality assurance that will differentiate network services going forward. That’s because the function of the ISP has shifted. In addition to supplying a solid foundation in the form of a data pipe, business solution providers support fast bidirectional communications and ensure millions of successful e-commerce transactions every day. That means the network provider should understand network security, data encryption, storage and database applications, as well as network design to speed access to content providers. All of this makes the service provider as valuable as any supply chain partner, and perhaps even more so when you consider that the network has become the primary interface to both the customer base and payment delivery systems.

Today’s business solution providers offer a wide range of services that can help businesses build the right domain for their application environment, implement security and malware detection, and optimize network performance. For CIO’s, ISP are more than just a link to the old “information superhighway.” For example, cloud and edge computing have permanently altered the hierarchy of the original internet, pushing into service provider territory to localize content. Getting to source content or application hosts quicker yields a better end user experience with faster response and less security loopholes. Many businesses are unaware of the added value services ISPs can deliver such as domain bypass technologies where they can directly connect (Privately Peer) with a cloud service provider, data center, or exchanges to enhance performance while reducing exposure to security risks.

Today’s telecoms are more than the pipeline to the cloud. Include them in the conversation when implementing or migrating to new applications. Leverage their experience in helping to understand where the network can take the business and employ the latest tools and apps to shape an environment that’s best for the enterprise. Ask your service provider about the best ways to connect with the cloud, access data centers and edge clouds. Their expertise in linking applications and networks can improve the end-user experience, whether that’s to internal corporate employees using applications to increase productivity, or an e-commerce marketplace to promote the sale of goods and services to an external audience. They deal with these issues every day.

The bottom line is that not all networks are created equal. Delivering a better user experience is more than viewing performance through the traditional two-dimensional lens of speed and bandwidth. It’s about understanding all places your network plugs into, the other networks your network interconnects with, and the best ways to link to the right resources for localized content access to maximize performance without sacrificing speed or security.

When I look back and think about the processes, technologies and priorities we had just a few years ago, I’m not even sure I’d recognize my old office…it’s been a pretty amazing journey. The world has changed, the internet has changed, the tools used to access and deliver content have changed. And we’ve changed with it. The game is now about delivering the best user experience. If you’re not sure how to make that happen, just ask. Chances are your ISP has been there and done that, and can do it for your business, too.

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