Conducting business internationally is no longer a case of opening up a local office and installing a telephone line. It is a major corporate IT mission, one dependent on effective data communication and the infrastructure it relies on. Connectivity is vital for every company, but many global operators overlook the mid-sized business. After all, big often attracts big, but there is a way to solve these challenges. If you cannot afford a large international provider, you have to start to think smarter.
When it concerns connectivity, medium-sized and smaller companies have many of the same requirements as large corporates, just on a lesser scale. They seek low latency and want the right volume of bandwidth at the most competitive price. Achieving these objectives globally will require customisation. After all, establishing effective connectivity between major global business centres is completely different to emerging economies and areas where connectivity is lacking.
Think Smarter, Not Bigger
To ensure connectivity to these regions, businesses are often drawn to large household telecom suppliers. These companies are chiefly focused on large enterprises and established multinationals as clients. Their sales and service systems are used to large corporate environments, which can mean their quality of service is less than satisfactory for companies used to smaller providers.
Furthermore, there is often little flexibility in service delivery. Infrastructure and solutions are highly standardised and contract terms are fixed for longer periods. Another disadvantage is that some major providers actually lag behind in technological innovation.
They – and their customers – are constrained to long investment and depreciation cycles and as anyone in IT knows, the solution of today is already outdated tomorrow. Pricing, technical and service innovation follow the same concept, which means if a business chooses ‘large’ they can find themselves tied to a contract for a long period of time.
Global Expansion Through Connectivity
What solutions are available to a mid-sized business? Building a network yourself is undeniably not an option. Sourcing and deploying an international corporate network is expensive and extremely complex. Vendor fragmentation also threatens to drain IT budgetary resources because the provider landscape is practically a jungle. There is so much service level agreement (SLA) variation, as well as the technical variety, that businesses must look to a specialist network provider to assist with the process.
Seek advice from an independent carrier neutral provider with experience in sourcing and building global networks. Begin by asking for an analysis of the regions you want to expand into. This should include:
- Assessment of existing regulations and cross-border governance
- Aligning your business strategy with current operations, network and technology
- Application considerations – what will staff in your new office need?
- Financial considerations – local taxes, costs, maintenance and other expenses
A good example is the need for financial services and data governance. Banks have to meet strict legislation around the storage and processing of data. This has consequences for the location of data centres and therefore the connectivity to those sites.
A company that mainly runs office applications on its network has different connectivity requirements than an engineering consultancy looking to exchange massive AutoCAD files all over the world. A high-frequency trader needs lightning-fast speed and latency, and a media provider requires bandwidth – massive amounts of bandwidth. Synchronising a business-critical application has different connectivity and redundancy requirements compared to the backup of office files.
Only when the above have been mapped can the network design begin. This involves choosing a local access provider that is aware of local and international issues. ‘One size fits all’ is the wrong approach. It often leads to reduced capacity and costs can be extremely prohibitive. Flexibility is perhaps the most important consideration.
Ensure your provider’s service policy involves ongoing market analysis, monitoring and management. This is particularly important for cross border connectivity as market changes occur even faster internationally. Stay flexible; thet will lead to success.
Trends in Cross-border Connectivity
Trend 1: To The Internet
Traditionally it was customary to build your own networks for security reasons and then utilise telecom infrastructures of key providers. Recently an increasing number of companies have switched to the public internet for general data communication, while business-critical data traffic is delivered via a specialist private network. This is a cost-effective alternative.
To migrate to a connectivity model like this you need to answer questions like: what data and applications are suitable for the internet? What is an effective mix of Internet and private connectivity? Even the region or time of day affects your deployment decisions, especially as the Internet does not have the same degree of reliability everywhere in the world.
Trend 2: Data Centre Consolidation
IT consolidation is a major trend for data centres at the moment. Organisations are increasingly consolidating their servers and data centres, but this can have legal implications as to where the data is stored. This has major consequences for connectivity. Latency must be considered when choosing where data is located as it makes a difference as to whether the data centre is located close to the user base or on the other side of the world for cost reasons.
The second aspect of data centre consolidation is that the data centre acts as a connectivity hub where all internal and external communications meet. This can simplify management and security considerably and suddenly makes on-demand connectivity achievable.
Trend 3: Cloud First
Europe is still in the first stages of IT virtualisation while the US have made greater progress. Using cloud services is no longer a matter of discussion in the US. It is happening now and on a mass scale.
Like the other trends this affects connectivity. Cloud providers guarantee connectivity up to the point of the enterprise’s own network, but if you lack an effective internal network companies can suffer substantial losses when their cloud applications do not perform.
Traffic prioritisation must be undertaken by the enterprise and not left to the cloud provider.