4 min read

Convergence technologies and services for the SMB

Whether they are large or small some companies just don't get it

We are in the process of renovating and building our new corporate facilities on a rural area northeast of the Toronto suburb of Newmarket. What a journey this has been!

We have been trying to create an advanced technology wired and wireless infrastructure throughout the 3.5 acres that would allow us to communicate to any one via any medium, wherever we or the other ends are, disregarding device. Seemed pretty easy, right? At least that is what the telecom/technology industry tells us is now possible.

What was our approach to this challenge?

We put together an eight page business requirements document outlining our future functions and business requirements for the various buildings and locations throughout the property. This document is the same type of detailed business specifications that we do for our own client infrastructure projects.

We forwarded this document to various voice, data and wiring vendors prior to meeting with them. We then spent many hours meeting face to face and on conference calls with multiple ‘world class’ vendors outlining our requirements (too many hours in our opinion). The goal was to allow them to then put forward their design and pricing alternatives. We also decided to give some smaller firms and independent folks a chance to propose their alternatives. Perhaps they were up to the challenge and could offer more creative, out of the box solutions?

What happened next?

After spending an almost three month span of time trying to get the variuos design and pricing elements, we realized that we still didn’t have complete or accurate information for the total technology requirements for the infrastructure part. As a result of the delays, our construction project had ground to a halt waiting for ‘the wiring to be done’.

We decided to analyze what the real issues were, as all good consultants do,and what were the real issues and challenges were.

We had a major ah-ha when we realized that we were trying to design, build and have vendors implement an ‘enterprise class’ infrastructure for an SMB sized business!

Our many technology requirements were quite sophisticated, but our net quantities for each area were actually quite small. Also, all of the firms or individuals we talked to were not comfortable taking the total design and implementation responsibility for all the areas of technology.

The technology areas we wanted to include in our annex and surrounding area infrastructure included:

Providing design and pricing for installing the LAN cabling and active network components

Providing pricing for re-locating or extending our PSTN circuits to the new demarc via underground conduit with necessary lightening protection

Providing design and pricing to extending our LAN from one building to another via underground fibre

Providing design and pricing to re-locate or extend our Consumer Digital Satellite services via digital co-ax wiring, and adding appropriate video switching gear to multiple TVs throughout the two different buildings so that each building could have a PVR and satellite service broadcast to multiple TVs

Installing the stereo audio wiring and associated switching gear on each floor of the building to allow stereo and/or computer generated music to be heard inside an/dor outside of building (internal or external speakers were not included at this time, just the wiring)

Providing specifications, products and pricing for IP-based video camera technology so that network based camera images could ‘pop up’ on any computer, located anywhere. The idea would be when someone drove up the laneway, knocked at any entrance door, or triggered other future IP toggle points, the image could appear ‘on the network’, or even on a pocket PC via the Internet.

Providing wireless access for LAN, voice, VoIP, satellite and security broadcast (yes, we know this was a tall order, but we thought we would see where the technology was at this time).

Although these various ‘applications’ appear to be similar since they are network based, one would think that one firm, or perhaps one experienced person could take ownership for our total requirements, and do it cost effectively based on our scale, but unfortunately this does not seem to be the case.

We have decided that the FOX consultant team will do the technology designs for the various network infrastructure parts ourselves. For areas we are not current on, we will leverage the massive amount of design that is now available on the Internet. There is most of the information available we need, compared to when a few of us were field engineers designing and installing these type of solutions for enterprises in the past.

Similar to our renovation project, we will act as the general contractor and bring the ‘specialists’ in for the areas that we are not familiar with or not capable of handling with assistance our own FOX GROUP resources. (Thank goodness we have some great consultants within our team who are also very techie oriented and enjoy doing this type of project once in awhile to keep their skills and knowledge current).

We will track our time, effort and lessons learned so that we can understand and share with readers in future articles what the real investment and benefits are.

What does this experience mean to SMBs and the industry?

We all read about the ICT sector trying to move into serving SMBs.

We also hear and read about SMBs complaining about not being able to get vendors to help them with next generation technology solutions.

We encourage the industry to let their people develop the skills and knowledge in many of the new or alternate technologies.

The trick or challenge is to figure out how to design and install solutions for an environment like ours once, then replicate it. The computing industry has been doing this type of custom staging/mass deployment for decades. Why not telecom?

These combined offers can be replicated and then sold in volume to the tech-savy SMBs like ourselves. Yes, there are many of us out there!

Summary

We look forward to having our infrastructure completed, so that we can finish our renovations.

Maybe we will have some of the senior leaders over to encourage them to evolve their organizations to be able to provide the services to the rest of the executive SoHOs, SMBs and mid-sized Canadian organizations that share our vision. We are out there!

As always, we welcome your thoughts and feedback on this topic.

I hope you have found our thoughts of value, educational, enlightening or at least humorous, and feel free me at Roberta J. Fox at Roberta.Fox@FOXGROUP.ca or 905.473.3369 x 1001 to discuss further.