With more competition in the South African bandwidth market, ISPs (Internet Service Providers) are finding it harder to differentiate their companies and are being forced into deals with lower margins simply to retain their existing customers. The only way out of this predicament is to differentiate themselves by improving service levels.
“The inconvenient truth about improved service levels is that most customers see ISPs as bandwidth providers,” says Brandon Rochat, territory sales manager, South Africa, Exinda Networks. “And the ISPs are partly responsible for this because the traditional response to clients’ complaints of a slow network is ‘buy more bandwidth’. Hence the tendency to play ISPs off against each other when tenders for bandwidth are released.”
Rochat says the only way for ISPs to improve their business models and differentiate their service is to offer each customer a customised solution, not just a data pipe. In this scenario, the amount of bandwidth purchased is secondary to the management of it.
“Every corporation has as many as 20 or 30 business critical applications it needs to share among dispersed offices,” adds Rochat. “With the prevalence of non-critical applications used by staff on a daily basis, from YouTube videos to social media and music downloads, business applications are often relegated to the back of the queue with the resulting poor performance and complaints of a slow network.”
Using WAN optimisation technology, ISPs can offer a service that guarantees the performance of important applications without increasing bandwidth. Efficient WAN optimisation solutions don’t simply speed the movement of data over the network, they operate intelligently on Layer 7, the application layer.
This means the solutions understand what is tying up the network’s resources and can prioritise selected applications according to the requirements of the business.
“An ISP offering optimisation technologies will be able to do what was unthinkable only a few years ago and guarantee the user experience of its customers,” explains Rochat. “Offering customers a service that ensures its business applications perform optimally, not matter what other demands are being made on the network is a clear advantage.”
A managed service of this nature allows the ISP to brand themselves as service providers that deliver application performance over the WAN and not only bandwidth. This allows them to take back the layer of the network they are losing to resellers selling WAN optimisation products directly to customers.
“Not only does this add to the overall customer offering the ISP can provide, but it also puts them above the margin-squeezing bidding of traditional ISPs that only have a data pipe to sell,” ends Rochat.