A key pain point for small and medium businesses (SMBs) in 2016 continued to be an influx of cheap and ill-supported fibre and internet solutions, which fall far short of the SMB’s needs.
SMB decision-makers have been overwhelmed by cheap consumer connectivity and attempt to use these to drive down the cost of connectivity in their organisations.
And, says Turrito Networks MD Brian Timperley, this trend will continue into 2017, underscored — ironically enough — by a dazzling array of choice, combined with the trend of technologically-knowledgeable users who apply consumer-level thinking to their businesses.
“A consumer’s requirement for fibre is very different from that of a business. While many SMB owners think that consumer-grade fibre will deliver the same requirements for their business, the lack of sound advice to the contrary from their service provider often leaves them with slow connectivity and downtime,” adds Timperley.
“Bandwidth has never been cheaper than it is now, and yet we’ve never had more discussions around price. The challenge is that there are no consumer-level or “cheap” broadband products in South Africa that match the performance of business-grade Internet products.”
He is emphatic that — unlike the consumer arena — “the Internet” for SMBs is about far more than just browsing: “Businesses require far more than consumers and a big part of how we approach solutions for businesses of this size, is by understanding what they use their connectivity for.
For SMBs, the internet isn’t about consumer activities like Internet surfing and accessing social media sites. It’s about a whole range of critical services including voice over IP, cloud, video, backups and accessing Office 365, Sage, Pastel, Microsoft Azure, hosting, and cloud-based PABX.”
All of these consume vastly different amounts of data compared with consumer use, and in very different ways.
“The analogy we use is that of a professional deep sea diver who goes into a dive shop and asks for the cheapest oxygen tanks available – that’s not the kind of equipment you want, when your life depends on it… a parallel to buying connectivity based on price alone,” Timperley explained.
“Despite knowing how important connectivity is, SMBs are asking their service providers for the cheapest solution, without clarity on the impact that ill-matched solutions may have on productivity, uptime and efficiency. SMBs were prepared to accept high prices in the days when that was the norm, and in turn demanded a high level of service from their providers.
“We are urging business owners and decision-makers, to start demanding better value from their service providers and reap the benefits of a best fit connectivity solution for their organisations.”
Turrito Networks commercial director, Louis Jardim says that when it comes to selecting your partner and the connectivity solution for your business, it is important to understand the terminology, and challenge your provider to deliver best value.
He recommends being clear on the difference between a service level definition (SLD) and a service level agreement (SLA), contention ratios – how many other businesses and users will be sharing the same bandwidth, what the minimum upload and download speeds are that you can expect, and whether these can be consistently maintained, whether there is a 24/7 support desk, and what the mean time to respond and mean time to repair is.
He argues that before SMBs sign on the dotted line with service providers, that they understand what downtime is worth to them and the impact slow connectivity will have on their businesses.
For Timperley, the relationship between client and provider comes down to trust.
“As a neutral provider, we know precisely what the differences in pricing and services are from over 32 of the largest providers in SA. We have no incentive to sell any one of those network providers over the other. We have relationships with all of them and can deliver the same services they’re offering – but we know what works and what doesn’t.
This neutrality means we’ll ensure that our customers get the best bang for their buck, exactly in line with what their requirements are.”