Q9 chief: Let’s get physical

Toronto — Osama Arafat, the CEO of Q9 Networks, a provider of managed Internet infrastructure, wants his company to be a Canadian leader in the market segment they play in, with a heavy emphasis on the Canadian part.

He believes by increasing the company’s product suite include its managed services

offering and by being innovative that Q9 customers will get the services they require.

As for the Canadian part, Arafat wants to extend the company’s reach geographically. Today, Q9 has eight centres located in Toronto and Calgary.

According to Arafat, Montreal is the next logical place for Q9 to expand. He is also open to the right acquisitions. Computer Dealer News sat down with Arafat in his downtown office to ask him about these plans and how the channel will play a role.

CDN: When do you anticipate heading to Montreal?

Osama Arafat: We do not have a timeframe. We are investigating it.

CDN: What would your new additions to the products suite be?

O.A.: If you look at our announcements we have introduced our Q9 Express offering that allows you to target medium and small businesses. We have introduced disaster recovery services through Global Load Balancing products and this allows customers to have two geographic sites, Toronto and Calgary, through that service it automatically protects you without any intervention on the part of the customer. We have added remote link and VPN services. We will continue to add to our managed services suite and it has been driven by our customers.

CDN: Why did you take Q9 public?

O.A.: We believe that public financing gives us the resources to execute on our three strategies: increase the product suite in managed services, expand throughout Canada and be a leading provider of managed Internet infrastructure.

CDN: How will business partners and resellers play a role in your future plans?

O.A.: We have a very successful referral program that we put in place back in 2001. This program basically encourages our partners such as Navantis, Envision IT and Nine Dots to give business to Q9 and in return we pay them up to five per cent of the value of the contract as a referral fee to those partners. But, more important than the money, these partners depend on us to provide reliable services for every customer they’ve referred. It makes them look good as well because they can provide advice on a project from end to end. From early investigative part all the way to the production and having the 100 per cent reliability.

CDN: How much of a part of your business is partners?

O.A.: I do not have that data broken out but it is growing and that growth is significant. We want to continue to build on the relationships we have with partners.

CDN: Of the businesses out there that rely on around-the-clock Internet, how many of those companies fall short of having their Internet operations up and running 24/7?

O.A.: It is getting to be almost all of them. People sometimes think Internet operations are similar to selling widgets online. Yes, if you think of it this narrowly, of course only a small percentage. But, as we went through this IPO process our lawyers and the lawyers for the underwriters and so on exclusively used e-mail. We did not fax a single document. Everything was distributed in PDF through e-mail. Traditionally, you would not think a law firm would be dependent on the Internet. Ask the question. Does a law firm have to be up 24/7? The answer is absolutely yes. If the law firm’s e-mail system is disrupted for any reason it would spell huge losses. That is but one example. If you look at other companies such as Indigo Books and Music, even their bricks and mortar stores rely on the Internet to process transactions and check inventory and keep those systems in sync. Even when you walk into a bricks and mortar place do not be fooled because the underlining infrastructure could be an Internet-based infrastructure.

CDN: How does physical security come into play?

O.A.: We solve these problems by providing all the infrastructure required to make a seven by 24 operation a reality. First you have physical needs such as power, fire suppression, security — things along those lines. You need a proper backup generator and power. You need sufficient fuel onsite in case you have an extended blackout such as the one we had in August of 2003. You need to have these systems monitored and maintained on a regular basis. You need proper air conditioning systems in place and they have to have a back up as well because having power without air conditioning is no good. Your server will become an oven basically and you will have to shut it down. You need to have the proper fire controls, such as smoke detection systems and gas-based fire protection systems. A lot of people spend time and money on network security and give up on physical security. There were a couple of high-profile cases where a disk drive was physically stolen. So you need physical security in place so you do not face embarrassing situations such as this. Then you need reliability as far as Internet connectivity, network security and firewalls that are maintained and monitored 7/24.

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Paolo Del Nibletto
Paolo Del Nibletto
Editor of Computer Dealer News, covering Canada's IT channel community.

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