Almost everything you need to give your business a world-class infrastructure is just a Web click away. A well-implemented, on-demand computing and communications outsourcing (or “Web sourcing”) strategy can set your firm up for success with big-business features at lower costs.
The place to start for many businesses is with core requirements such as phone and e-mail. Using a Voiceover Internet Protocol (VoIP) service to make phone calls over the Internet rather than through traditional phone lines dramatically cuts costs by eliminating long-distance charges, doing away with the need for an expensive on-premise phone system and adding useful new features. Similarly, full business-class Microsoft Exchange e-mail can be easily sourced from Internet providers, saving on the cost of servers and IT staff.
No business operates in a vacuum. Customers always have options. Technology can provide ways to offer services and products that your competitors simply cannot match. By employing new Web-based technologies, you can literally change the rules of the game. For example, Web-based electronic signatures allow you to send contracts for signature over the Web in seconds. Companies using the Web in this fashion report closing deals in minutes rather than days or weeks. It is well worth keeping a sharp eye out for new technologies like this that let you do more with less, or move faster than your competitors.
With the advents of social media platforms such as Facebook and MySpace, many businesses are finding that the Internet lets them collaborate and connect with customers in ways that simply were not possible a few years ago. The days of just throwing up a static webpage and hoping for page clicks are long gone. Savvy businesses use so-called Web 2.0 tools such as blogging and social networking to create word-of-mouth buzz and to communicate with their customers and partners, creating heightened customer loyalty.
While all of this innovation is exciting, none of it is possible without a key ingredient – a high-speed broadband connection to the Internet. For most businesses, the standard method of connecting to the Internet is via a wired T1 line that provides a 1.5 Mbps (megabits per second) connection to the Web. T1 lines are symmetrical, which means they provide the same speed for uploads and downloads. For comparison, most home connections are much slower for uploads, and can slow down during busy periods.
The challenge with T1 lines is that as the business grows and expands, or takes advantage of VoIP and other Web-based applications, 1.5 Mbps is no longer sufficient. Adding more T1 lines is an expensive proposition as the phone company often needs to run new cables. Installation of new lines can take weeks or months. While typically reliable, T1 lines are subject to outages when lines blow over or inadvertently get dug up. As businesses become more dependent on the Internet, outages can have a significantly negative impact.
Burke & Associates, a Las Vegas-based general contractor, recently started using an alternative to T1 lines. The company chose a fixed wireless alternative for its Internet connection, both on job sites and at its headquarters. To bring high-speed Internet to a new job site, the company simply installs an antenna on the roof of a trailer, powers up the generator and goes to work. Moreover, fixed wireless is less expensive than T1 for greater capacity and speeds can be increased quickly with a service request.
Burke & Associates takes advantage of VoIP services to lower phone costs and eliminate the gap between the main office and field. Customers can call the main number and immediately be patched to field supervisors. Engineering plans, documents, project details and photographs all flow quickly and seamlessly between job sites and the main office.
“Once we realized the advantage of moving our business to the Web, there was no turning back,” said Rick Coblentz, IT specialist for Burke & Associates. “With fixed wireless we have the flexible, reliable Internet connection we need to make certain our job sites come up quickly and are productive from day one, and to ensure our entire operation runs smoothly.”