Blog · 29 Nov 2019

How to avoid costly mistakes when buying internet services

As global companies turn to internet services to meet bandwidth needs, the burden of sourcing and managing internet services on a country-by-country basis is growing.

With 20 billion devices estimated to be connected to the internet by 2020*, and numbers expected to explode to 500 billion by 2030**, this growth in connected devices is driving an insatiable thirst for bandwidth.

And servicing this is a constant headache for multinational companies. As the speeds, availability, performance and costs of consumer-grade internet continue to improve, IT purchasing managers are increasingly turning to the internet to plug the bandwidth gap. However, not all internet is the same, and provider offers differ, making achieving clarity on cost, performance, security and service a minefield.

Sourcing from ISPs is complex, time consuming and risky

Take a typical multinational providing bandwidth for a thousand sites across a hundred countries. Potentially, you need to source the best possible service for the best possible price a hundred times. Each ISP will have different terms and conditions, different ways of describing bandwidth offerings, and will work to different standards of security and service. On top of that, you must think about contention ratios, peering arrangements and service level agreements. What will happen if something goes wrong? Who will you call? How long will your internet connection be down? Pinning down these details takes time and significant effort — and the potential impact of making the wrong choice is huge. Plus, when you do make the wrong decision, you’re stuck with it for the length of the minimum contract, typically 12 months.

A small retail outlet, for example, may appear — on the surface — to be an ideal match with consumer-grade broadband, having low bandwidth requirements and seeking to keep costs low. However, if its connectivity goes down, it can’t process payments, so it needs a provider that’s able to restore service as soon as possible — yet response times for consumer-grade services are longer than for higher-grade services. The company’s reputation is on the line and the pressure is on to get it fixed fast. But, if the purchaser didn’t make the right choice between cost and service reliability, availability and support during the purchasing process, the outlet could be waiting until the end of the next business day for service to be restored — or longer if the fault can’t be traced. 

It’s the same story for smaller offices: now most businesses are reliant on cloud-based applications, when internet connectivity goes down, work grinds to a halt as people are unable to access any applications and are potentially even left without phones if their system is IP-based. On the surface, the simple answer appears to be to increase resilience by adding in another broadband connection. However, ISPs frequently resell each other’s core bandwidth, meaning that, should one service go down, the other will, too. How can you be sure that your chosen providers aren’t sharing a common infrastructure?

Internet services require ongoing management

The burden of managing such incidents across the world is huge. For a start, you need ISP service desk numbers and relevant circuit numbers at your fingertips. You then have to work with each individual ISP to establish where the issue is and, as a small customer with little leverage, you may find the ISP’s first response is to blame other parties or other parts of your network, slowing down the resolution process. At this point, your true contractual levels of service may emerge, leaving you at the mercy of the ISP, and your business suffering.

Even when things are going well, the management load of multiple ISP contracts is significant. There’s so much to consider beyond connectivity, for a start. You’ll need to establish how your supplier peers to your cloud service partner and your other chosen ISPs, as well as the bandwidth contention your users will face in peak and core business hours. Then, via a range of portals and across differing metrics, you need to build an overall picture of how each service is performing and then pull that information into your own network management system. Plus, on an ongoing basis you’ll be managing and paying invoices and checking contracts from around the world, sometimes working in local languages. All in all, your people are expending energy on low value task work, rather than on core business activities that generate a return on investment.

Outsourcing brings peace of mind and cost savings

Many global organisations are unclear about the service levels provided by the ISPs they deal with and routinely run into difficulties when it turns out they’ve bought the wrong ‘kind’ of internet. That’s why we remove the complexity and confusion by categorising our internet services into six easy-to-understand grades ranging from a high-contended broadband service up to an uncontended provision with high service support and increased security integration — so you’ll always understand what you’re buying. Drawing on our experience and expertise, we’ll advise you on what grade of service is right for your business, removing the possibility of taking on a contract for something that’s not fit for your purposes. Should your service be disrupted, you get in touch with us and we make sure your service level agreements are fulfilled.

We deal with the ISPs on your behalf and, over the last year, we’ve significantly increased the number of partners we work with to over a hundred, enabling us to reduce our prices by 30 per cent. And we continue to add to our partnership network, focusing particularly on building relationships in hard to reach places, so we can offer services in places others can’t. We’ve recently become the first global telco to receive domestic telecoms licences in China, and this capability means we can provide services in China 20 per cent cheaper than before.

Find out more about our internet services by visiting our dedicated webpage.

*Gartner, Leading the IoT, 2017

**Cisco, Internet of Things at a glance, 2016