Companies are discovering that high-performance connectivity is more than just plumbing; it also provides a competitive advantage. Connectivity is no longer just a business expense. It’s now vital to being competitive in today’s ever-changing world. Several trends are contributing to the demand for high-performance networks, including bandwidth-intensive applications, business disaster recovery and virtualized resources.

“Increasingly, organizations see employing high-performance network connectivity solutions as not just a way to cut expenses or reduce total cost of ownership, but also as a critical enabler of competitive advantage in the global economy,” says Mike Maloney, regional vice president, Comcast Business Services.

Smart Business spoke with Maloney about how connectivity solutions are affecting business performance.

Why is the right type of connectivity so important in today’s economy?

Demand for high-speed, high-performance connectivity solutions is increasing, fueled by growth in mobility that requires more bandwidth-intensive, always-on applications, and emerging technologies such as virtualization and cloud services. Remote workers expect the same functionality and performance on their mobile devices that they do on their desktop systems. These trends are driving new demand for scalable, reliable and secure network connectivity solutions. To meet this demand, IT professionals are showing a clear preference for Ethernet/fiber network solutions over T1, T3, frame relay and other networking technologies.

Business and IT professionals increasingly view high-performance connectivity as a strategic or transformational asset for their business — a significant change over two years ago. Part of the reason for this shift in perception is that organizations are developing a better understanding of the business and technology benefits of high-performance computing. Beyond just lowering connectivity costs — which remains an important consideration — high-performance networking can improve productivity, increase efficiency and enable new applications that improve customer service and help grow the business.

Surveys show Ethernet/fiber as the top-performing connectivity technology across all evaluation criteria, including reliability, ease of use/support, scalability and security.

Lowering total cost of ownership remains an important piece of network connectivity investment, but IT professionals are finding an even more powerful story: how high-performance Ethernet solutions can improve workforce productivity and connections to customers, suppliers and remote sites. Building a strong business case for high-performance network connectivity can help CIOs in their ongoing quest to reposition IT as a strategic enabler of sustainable business growth.

How are economic conditions affecting these vital upgrades?

Technology budgets have been tight over the past few years. Network connectivity investments, however, appear to be somewhat insulated from recent economic pressures. About 25 percent of businesses have increased investments in connectivity solutions during this time. The larger the company, the more likely it is to be spending on connectivity. Investments in Ethernet/fiber solutions are expected to increase in the near term. These investment dollars appear to be coming, at least partially, at the expense of T1 technology.

What is the best technology solution in today’s market?

As organizations embrace the potential strategic benefits of network connectivity, choosing the right high-speed solution becomes increasingly important. IT professionals use several criteria to evaluate connectivity technologies. Most professionals rate reliability, security, high availability and cost-effectiveness as critical or highly important evaluation criteria for network connectivity technologies.

Ethernet/fiber is establishing itself as a best-of-breed solution that meets all of these criteria — in some cases by a wide margin. Ethernet/fiber connectivity solutions are the most common technology choice for data centers today. An increase of Ethernet/fiber in the data center will come at the expense of T1, T3 and ATM/frame relay technologies, all of which are expected to decline in the next 24 months.

This is because Ethernet/fiber is the ideal solution to support data-rich and increasingly virtualized environments. It’s scalable, reliable and its secure architecture lends itself to the nuances of the current and future information technology environment.

How is the view of technology by senior managers changing?

Although cost management is still an important part of any IT department’s mindset, we’re also seeing signs that IT and business professionals are beginning to realize how technology can drive business performance. The majority of business leaders view network connectivity as either a strategic asset or a transformational asset. That wasn’t the case two years ago. With greater reliance on complex applications, the continued data explosion, and the growth of private and public clouds, organizations need to make smart investments in their infrastructure, including advanced network connectivity. Network connectivity has evolved from an operational necessity into something that actually enables business improvements.

Is there an example that illustrates how connectivity upgrades can save money?

At Eastern Bank, a Boston-based bank with 123 locations throughout New England, a switch from SONET to metro Ethernet network services in 2010 enabled it to shorten response times and deploy new applications that have improved customer service and enabled new-product roll¬outs across its contact center, ATMs and branches. The bank’s leadership estimates that the Ethernet network provides nine times the old network’s bandwidth at a lower price, saving the bank more than $75,000 annually.

Mike Maloney is regional vice president of Comcast Business Services. Reach him at Michael_Maloney@cable.comcast.com.

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Published in Philadelphia