If your company’s computers are still using the last generation of network technology, it might be time to consider an upgrade — especially if you are planning to virtualize any of your processes or data.

“The previous standard for most companies has been traditional T1 lines, which were not cost effective and had limited bandwidth,” says Carlos F. Olortegui, manager of the Enterprise Metro Ethernet Division with Comcast Business Services. “Metro Ethernet technology is more cost effective, reliable, robust and scalable, and it allows you to adjust bandwidth measurements with ease.”

Smart Business spoke with Olortegui about how this technology could benefit businesses and what kind of return companies should expect on their investment.

Why is Metro E technology important and how can it impact a business?

Today, everyone from small, medium to enterprise-level and multi-national corporations can use Metro E technology to improve their telecommunications.

For instance, a franchise using point of sale (POS) transactions and replicating that data could use the Metro E technology to have the option to measure and adjust its bandwidth as necessary.

One major benefit of Metro E is that the connectivity from the customer to the service provider is simplified. It’s just router to router. The main focus of Metro E is the Ethernet connectivity. It’s called Metro E because you are literally plugging in an Ethernet connection. The handoff from service provider to the customer is just an Ethernet plug — pure simplicity.

In the past, companies needed a lot of capital expenses and operating expenses for databases, hardware, larger UNIX servers, even your exchange servers for e-mail. Today, everyone uses e-mail, so the need for archiving and data warehousing is huge.

What is virtualization and how can it benefit businesses?

Virtualization is the process of contracting an amount of space on a large server that is housed by a provider and storing your data there. If you virtualize, you do not have to purchase all the computer hardware and manpower to handle your data and processes. You don’t have the large operating expense and headcount necessary to maintain the high-cost hardware and ensure uptime.

There are two scenarios in which companies can benefit from virtualization. First is disaster recovery. Second is by making a virtual version of your databases or e-mail, which are utilized on a daily basis  — you have the ease of connectivity for the transport of all that information to a virtualization footprint via Metro Ethernet.

Here is where your ROI comes into play. You get a bigger bang for your business dollar and the products and services you sell, other than payroll and real estate, the IT budget is the largest budget for most enterprise customers. If you can drop those operating and capital expenses, your ROI and profitability increase.

How can Metro E technology improve the virtualization process?

You need connectivity to that virtualization footprint .That’s where Metro E comes into play, because of its service ability, and the ability to have bandwidth on demand. Companies can consult 30-, 60-, or 90-day bandwidth utilization reports. If you need more bandwidth, it’s just a turn of the dial.

Virtualization provides much more bandwidth than traditional T1 lines can. If you are virtualizing your back-office environment, it is critical that you have no downtime as these applications are considered ‘high availability.’ That is another advantage of Metro E — it is very stable.

How does the ability to adjust bandwidth impact businesses?

Let’s say you are a corporate entity that owns a chain of retail stores. You have peak seasons: different times of the year where you have huge mail distributions or promotions. Your business is very seasonal, so November and December are the peak sales months. There are a lot of promotions, and your website gets hit more at those times. With Metro E, you can adjust your bandwidth to be higher during those peak times, because you want to make sure people can access the website and that all their transactions are being replicated and archived correctly, hence making the customer experience a positive one.

When there is greater demand, the company simply notifies its provider, which increases the bandwidth. They can watch bandwidth utilization reports to see trends, so they can monitor their expenses. Business owners can see that they’re utilizing X amount at a certain time of the year and budget accordingly.

It also ties into virtualization, because one of the main components of virtualization is on-demand storage.

What kind of cost reduction or ROI can businesses expect from using this technology?

First, businesses can expect lower capital expenses from not having to purchase all that computer hardware or enterprise server hardware for their back office databases and e-mail. Second, less manpower is needed because you have that virtual environment, so you have the reduction of overhead payroll. Third is the stability of Ethernet technology. You don’t have to utilize T1 lines or ‘leased-lines,’ those clear-channel point-to-point lines, which are very high in cost because you have to have a certain type of hardware that resides at the customer’s site. With Metro E, you have a simplified device on the back end of the service provider, which is lower cost equipment because it is plug-and-play Ethernet. Together, those three components can reduce expenses 20 to 40 percent.

Carlos F. Olortegui is manager of the Enterprise Metro Ethernet Division with Comcast Business Services. Reach him at (305) 770-5941 or carlos_olortegui@cable.comcast.com.

Published in Florida

The importance of disaster recovery has not changed. However, the term itself and the impact a disaster can have on your business has changed dramatically, especially now that businesses rely so heavily on technology.

“Not too long ago, a disaster could simply be defined as inclement weather,” says Joe Hovancak, manager, Enterprise Ethernet Division, Comcast Business Class. “Today, the term takes on a whole new meaning.”

Smart Business spoke with Hovancak about the changing field of disaster recovery and how to be ready when disaster strikes.

How has disaster recovery changed and how can a business develop a recovery plan?

Today’s businesses are not limited to just natural disasters, such as floods, storms and fires. There are also man-made disasters like computer viruses, sabotage, negligence, software failure, power outages, gas or chemical leaks. Those factors all have to be encompassed in disaster recovery.

Conducting business today demands a much greater reliance on technology and communications solutions. Being without either of them is significant. That is why disaster recovery plans are now a fundamental part of business to protect a company’s sensitive information and production environments from catastrophic outages and ensure that your organization stays up and running, no matter the situation.

Businesses should start by identifying the business processes that are the most critical. Then, they must determine what the impact to the business would be if those processes were interrupted or failed. For example, how much would it cost your business if you experienced an outage? You have to consider lost revenue, time to recover, any impact to your reputation and your brand and, depending on your industry, even financial penalties for noncompliance with regulatory requirements such as HIPAA, PCI and SAS70 Type II.

Once you understand how a disaster can impact your business, then you can prioritize your business processes and begin to identify the means to maintain your uptime. So if you lose utility power, do you have a contingency plan in place to failover to a back-up power source? If you lose communications do you have an alternative communication provider contracted to re-route traffic? If you experience a denial-of-service attack, do you have a back-up and recovery solution in place to recover your data?

What steps should companies have as part of their disaster recovery plan?

Develop a business continuity plan to address events that cause disruption to your business. Review and revise the plan annually as changes to the business develop. Designate a company disaster recovery coordinator to develop and implement a corporate response and recovery plan along with a current contact list of all team members. Then, distribute that list to all employees. Outline how your critical resources, e.g. power, telecommunications and computer equipment, can be restored. Again, it’s crucial to identify your critical business services to include:

  • Communications — voice and data
  • Facility — power, cooling and security
  • Administrative, product and customer support

Ensure that you have a plan in place to keep those critical services functioning. Identify an alternate work location and administrative procedures, and media communications.

Some people create a recovery plan, but then never look at it again. You have to update, test and validate the plan regularly to make sure it works. If you have an alternate carrier to cover your communications, test the failover on an annual basis to confirm they can support current bandwidth requirements.

Make sure all departments are informed about the plan and receive necessary training.

Why is backing up communications important?

As leaders in the industry, Comcast’s Doak Field, senior director, Enterprise Fiber Services, and Steve Schmitz, vice president of Business Services, drive the message of delivering superior customer experience and assisting customers with growing their business. If your communications were interrupted or if your data were compromised, can you deliver superior customer service, achieve your growth  goals and recover critical files and applications? Not backing up your communications and data can adversely impact many parts of your business, from sales to customer confidence.

What can be done to prevent a complete shutdown of communications?

You have to develop, implement, update and test your disaster recovery plan on an annual basis to avoid the loss of communications. Understand your carrier network. When looking at a backup solution, make sure you invest in a true redundant network connection. For instance, your main network carrier utilizes a Tier 1 provider and your backup carrier is a company that may brand itself as a redundant carrier, but its network rides on the same Tier 1 backbone and it resells services. You may think you are on a redundant path, but if a disaster occurs and the Tier 1 provider is affected, both connections will go down.

Make sure your primary and failover connection is from a true redundant Tier 1 provider. Many companies still rely on legacy technology, but today everyone’s business is growing faster than the speed of T1s (1.544 Mbps). Today, private fiber optic networks are providing the reliability, security and faster speeds that companies are demanding.

When looking for a partner, make sure they provide high network availability, minimal latency and low packet loss, and that they have a self-healing, redundant core network architecture. Then, if there is a break somewhere there is a true redundant route to use. Also, look for manageable services that grow with your business and provide bandwidth in flexible increments from 10 Mbps up to 10 Gbps. And one of the most important elements is to ensure that your communications partner owns and operates their network from the first to the last mile. One great place to look for true network redundancy is Comcast Ethernet Business Services.

Joe Hovancak is a manager of the South Florida Enterprise Ethernet Division with Comcast Business Class. Reach him at (954) 514-8650 or Joseph_Hovancak@cable.comcast.com.

Published in Florida

For 30 years, Crawford Media Services, Inc. has offered premium post-production services and media management solutions to domestic and international clients. Turnkey solutions for television, film, interactive media and digital archival are only a few of the company’s specialties.

In January, the company moved to a new 80,000-square-foot facility with eight 3D-capable editing and graphic suites, a 40-seat Dolby-certified theater for screening, mixing and color correction, as well as several state-of-the-art editing and audio facilities. While the facility allowed the company to stay at the cutting edge of its field, it required more from its telecommunication provider.

“For our business to thrive in its new location, we needed a high-speed, high-capacity fiber optic connection that would allow us to work efficiently with large files and a provider that had the communications backbone to support the tremendous amount of data we process on a daily basis,” says Matthew Kraft, CIO of Crawford Media Services, Inc. “And we needed a diverse network for redundancy, because preventing downtime was one of our largest concerns. It was a tall order.”

Smart Business spoke with Kraft about how his company found a solution that worked.

What were the challenges that Crawford Media was facing?

The main challenge we were facing was that we needed a provider that could meet our increasing technology needs. We had recently separated from our parent company, and we were moving into a new building. Our business requires a large amount of bandwidth, and it depends on reliable high-speed Internet access, so having the right technology in place is crucial for the business’s success. So, we were looking for a service provider that was not only robust in terms of coverage, but was able to deliver us Ethernet private lines, which is a core of our business in the metropolitan Atlanta area, at a very cost-effective and consistent price point. The provider we were looking for would have to check not only those two boxes, but also would build in redundant and diverse paths into our environment to prevent downtime, because downtime is the enemy of our business.

How did Comcast Business Class help address those needs?

Comcast Business Class was ideal in that they delivered on all three of our business needs with their Ethernet Private Line solution, and that is why we selected them as a service provider. They built out our fiber infrastructure and gave us access to multiple high-speed, high-capacity 10 Gbps lines, and provided us with very strong coverage in the metropolitan Atlanta area for our Ethernet private line circuits.

The diversity of their network infrastructure also provided the redundancy we were looking for in a carrier.

How did those particular changes help make running your business better?

We were moving into a new facility, so it was crucial to the success of our present and future business that we build out a strong connectivity base to move files around. That’s important because the backend operation of our business is the ability to do that. That’s where Comcast Business Class’ Ethernet Private Line solution was key. We basically built a new facility and made Comcast Business Class the centerpiece of that from a fiber delivery perspective.

Why are strong coverage and limited downtime important factors to consider?

We have the need for strong coverage because we serve data center clients in the metropolitan Atlanta area. Because of security reasons, we have to have private Ethernet lines to them. Dedicated Internet Access (DIA) connections, even with Layer 2 VPN architecture, are usually insufficient. We have a need to move large files to our clients, and Comcast Business Class has very strong Ethernet coverage. That was another important deciding factor.

We operate a data center business in addition to a post production business. Downtime costs us money because it costs our clients money. There is a lot of competition in the post-production business, so if you have a reputation of being down often and not being able to deliver files and content and you have directors and producers sitting around waiting for files, then people are not going to want to work with you.

In all aspects of our business, downtime is death. That is why we selected a provider that could meet strong service guarantees and had the backbone to do so.

How did you determine the right solution?

I met with enterprise account executives at Comcast Business Class and other providers and told them what I needed: diverse paths that are independently operated from multiple head nodes, protected fiber build out, and X amount of initial capacity.

So we priced the solution out, factored the solution into what I needed and we built it out over the course of several months.

How long did the build-out process take, and what were the steps involved?

We started the conversation and discussions at a regional level, then those discussions moved up to the corporate level. It took about two or three months to finalize the agreement and it took about another 60 to 90 days to finalize the build out. So, all told, it was a six- or seven-month process.

Matthew Kraft is CIO of Crawford Media Services, Inc. Reach him at (678) 536-4874 or mkraft@mail.crawford.com.

Published in Atlanta
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