Economic Impact of Broadband - Small Business View
Some of you have been to our rural property in Mount Albert, Ontario (north east of Toronto Canada). It is a unique mix of nature and technology, with good access to highways, while being totally private with no chance of urban sprawl.
Our property is in the Oak Ridges Morraine, in the environmentally sensitive “blue zone” with a running creek, springs and bogs. The house is Edwardian, and has been kept relatively original by all three of the former owners. Our only addition was to add LAN wiring to each room in the house, wireless in both house and annex, and fibre from the house to network the Annex.
When we purchased the property eight years ago, the first thing on our list was reliable, high speed broadband services being available (whether wired or wireless). The second item was a separate space to work from to keep work and personal life separate (or at least try to).
Combining broadband providers to get maximum capacity
Since we moved in, we have added additional broadband providers in order to get the vendor diversity and redundancy. We now have six DSL lines connected to a load balancing router, as well as 4G wireless service, and a 10M satellite business broadband account.
You are probably wondering why we need so much capacity.
Cloud applications drive the need for increased capacity and speed per person
Last year we moved to our third generation of unified communications applications by moving to 100% cloud-based hosted solutions (including our telephony requirements). All of our data is also stored offsite in various data centers, depending on which application we are using and who we are working with.
Our individual and combined network bandwidth requirements have grown substantially, as has our dependence on carrier services as we use various media-dependent unified communications applications. On average, we each required 1.2 – 1.75 megabits of network access per person in order to use the tools concurrently.
Since a lot of our client-oriented communications is voice and/or video communications, we also need to ensure that we have low latency in order to have good quality real time communications. (Funny thing that our clients judge our consulting ability by our use of technology!)
The net is that if we don’t have Internet access, we don’t have a business!
Adapting Business to Changing Client Requirements
One of our observations about IT and communications technology converging is that our clients’ requirements for assistance have also changed. The projects have become more complex to manage internally as they all now involve IT, data, telecom, applications and business unit professionals, whether it is to develop a UC strategy, replace a legacy PBX or acquire next generation network services.
There is definitely the need to have business units involved, and not just technology professionals when developing clients’ next generation solutions.
This has enabled us to leverage our business and management experience, as well as change leadership, facilitations and communications expertise. It has also caused us to enhance our technical consultants’ abilities to write executive level reports with content that is understandable across a broader range of professionals.
In order to re-tool our resources skills, we have developed standard tools, processes and methodologies in order to deliver consistent, professional, high quality strategies and design. The training is now delivered via real time webcasts between senior leadership and consultants on a one-on-one basis.
We have found that the one-on-one training delivered via video web sessions provides high retention and understanding of expectations and requirements and is well worth the time invested. An additional benefit is that it helps us keep in touch as a distributed consulting team.
Looking to Next Location – Connectivity First
As we did our analysis of the business changes, we determined that we were seldom using our corporate office facility. We decided that we would investigate the alternative of moving to another part of the province, primarily to be closer to family, and started to investigate commercial grade broadband capabilities within an urban or small town area, hopefully near London, Ontario.
What an interesting journey this has been!
Over the last four months, we have cross-matched 4G cellular, cable, DSL and fiber optic network availability with our personal and business requirements. We also investigated different county and region web sites to find out who was offering network and other incentives for small business to relocate to their area.
We have found that there is a small area of southwestern Ontario south of Woodstock, that “gets it” when it comes to high speed, and they have significantly invested in building out fiber optic and hybrid broadband capabilities. They also have incentives for local jobs created, whether part time students or full-time staff.
We have found a property in a small town in southwestern Ontario that has everything on both our personal and business list, and we are most pleased to report that the property has 100Mbits per second fiber optic Internet available right to our door! We would be able to have Internet-based TV as well as our various business cloud-hosted services and only use a 4G account as vendor diversity and redundancy. The performance should also be top notch due to the low latency of fibre optic network services!
The small town, Norwich, ON also offers all of the personal and business support services that one expects of a larger urban center, but without the traffic and rat race. The town is also about 20 minutes from a major provincial highway, and major train line, so it’s close to get to other cities as and when required, whether by rail or car.
The last, and most interesting points about our selection journey is about the local Chamber of Commerce YouTube videos on various member services. Upon reviewing some of the videos, these small town businesses have expanded their services to new markets using high speed networking and various web-based applications.
One of the more interesting examples of network technology involves a commercial fish farm. They have automated their fish production over their farm LAN to monitor and adjust the water temperature of the fish based on the volume of commercial fish sales that they have via their direct e-store.
Guidance to Local Governments
Upon reflecting about this next generation of FOX GROUP’s evolution, as well as feedback from many other small businesses, we advise regional governments to really consider how infrastructure investments should not just be applied to building roads and shopping centers.
They should be investing significantly more to include communications highways with the fastest, most reliable network technology available. Build it, and we will come!