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Market Confusion: Understanding the Options for Telco Services

Market Confusion: Understanding the Options for Telco Services

The telecom industry is a complex matrix of companies and partners providing the hardware, connectivity, services and software required for Unified Communications, including phone, fiber, cable, advanced telephony functionality, and more.

Feel a bit overwhelming?

For corporate decision-makers, a firm grasp of the industry will provide the insight and clarity required to make informed decisions. Knowing who the players are, their roles, and what they actually provide compared to other options goes a long way to knowing you have the best fit for your business.

The competitive layout of telecom is fluid and constantly affected by ongoing changes, acquisitions, and government regulation. Consider this article a snapshot of the current telecommunications landscape.

The ABC’s of The Telecom Industry

While understanding who the providers are for every area of telecom is valuable, we know it can feel like a lot to stay on top of. This is one of the reasons why we work with small and medium-sized businesses, nationwide, to help them determine the best services for their needs.

ILEC PROVIDERS

ILEC – (Incumbent Local Exchange Carriers) telephone companies that held a regional monopoly on providing local service when the Telecommunications Act of 1996 was enacted.

ILEC’s are the legacy phone service providers that are mandated to provide and maintain copper services across the nation. While densely populated areas are moving to fiber optics and wireless services, rural areas still rely on ILECs to provide services over copper wires and T1 lines.

For the most part, any service delivered over copper will use the ILECs maintained network of landlines. ILECs are large regional providers (though the wireless side of their business is nationwide in scope), which means their infrastructure and size can become a weakness. It’s really no surprise that customer service is one of the most common complaints with these behemoth carriers.

However, companies in rural areas, or with offices spread across the nation, no other type of carrier can provide the reach and services those companies may require. Rather than have different providers at each location, many enterprises choose ILEC providers to provide service at all locations. This centralizes their telecom services and makes it easier to manage as a whole.

CLEC PROVIDERS

CLEC – (Competitive Local Exchange Carrier) is a telecommunications provider company (sometimes called a “carrier”) competing with other, already established carriers (usually the ILEC).

After the Telecommunications Act of 1996, a lot of small local carriers began to burst onto the scene. Originally, they provided services, such as Internet or phone service, over copper lines they leased from the ILECs. They could generally provide better pricing to the end customer for a variety of reasons, such as lower infrastructure costs and operational overhead.

Since the rush of the Dot Com Era in the late 90’s, a lot of CLECs have been consolidated into larger companies. These companies are now starting to build their own fiber optic networks (or take over fiber already in the ground), providing services such as cloud-based phone service, fiber Internet connectivity, and data center services, outside of the ILECs copper landline network.

The advancement of fiber optics, wireless and voice-over-IP technology, CLECs are uniquely setup to provide the entire spectrum of telecommunications services to their regions. These companies are much smaller than the ILECs, which usually translates to newer, better-maintained technology and more personalized customer service and support.

Atlantech Online originally started out as an ISP, but has grown into a registered CLEC. We are building our own fiber optic network in the Washington DC area, which allows us to provide direct-connect telecom services to our clients in the region, but we have options for businesses nation-wide. Direct-connect over fiber means fast Internet, crystal-clear cloud-based phone service, as well as data center services with point-to-point fiber connectivity. On top of all that, we are 100% dedicated to providing the best possible customer service and support.

 

INTERNET SERVICE PROVIDERS

ISP – (Internet Service Provider) provides access to the Internet through cable, fiber, wireless or other technology. In addition, some provide other services such as colocation and web hosting.

ISP’s rely on connectivity from ILEC’s & CLEC’s, providing a public connection to the Internet. ISPs are a good fit for smaller businesses and residential internet service.

MULTIPLE SYSTEM OPERATORS

MSO’s primarily provide TV service and sell advertising. They often bundle phone and Internet connectivity together with television service for residential users. Some small businesses also use them.

They operate via a franchise agreement with local jurisdictions to be the registered cable operator in a given geographic area and do not have nationwide footprints. Depending on the region, they can provide coverage to a patchwork of localities.

 

DATA CENTER OPERATORS

Data Center Operator – Privately owned and operated facilities that house floor space for servers and equipment.

Data Center Operators usually don’t have their own networks but offer ILEC, CLEC and ISP services in their data centers. The primary business operation is to provide floor space for servers and switching equipment to be deployed with robust physical security, redundant power systems, complex HVAC systems and “meet me” facilities for telecom carriers to terminate services.

INDEPENDENT AGENTS

Agents are a major player in the telecom industry, although many businesses don’t even know they exist. The agent provides customer referrals to carriers and service providers in exchange for a set percentage of their contract, perpetually.

The relationship can be very lucrative for the agent, earning as high as 25% per referral for the lifetime of the customer’s service. It makes sense from a carrier’s position as well, paying independent referral agents a perpetual commission is expensive, but it’s a secondary option from paying a sales team to accomplish the same results.

Referral agents can be anyone, from tech support contractors to telecommunications consultants. Referrals are generally made with a, “I know a person at x company that can get you better Internet.” The referral is made to a salesperson at the Internet provider, and the silent agent receives his commission.

The difference between an agent and a salesperson, of course, is that a sales team is paid an ongoing salary, and any commissions for sales are usually one-time sums. An agent, on the other hand, receives a set percentage for as long as you have service. Until that customer changes carriers, the referral agent gets a percentage of the monthly bill.

The biggest difference, however, is for the customers that pay for the service. They can easily recognize a salesperson from “Acme Internet Inc.” But they are usually completely unaware when an “agent” is selling to them.

For this reason, dealing with independent referral agents doesn’t always benefit the customer. In some cases, agents are incentivized to sell for the highest commission, not necessarily the best match for the customer’s needs.

It’s important to realize that referrals are commission-based sales in most cases. Anytime you are considering going with a new carrier, it’s important to shop around – regardless of which telecom provider you are being referred to. That way you can be sure you’re getting the best possible service, rather than being an “easy sale.”

What’s Right For Your Business?

Choose a provider that offers the following:

  1. A scalable, flexible solution with easy growth opportunity
  2. Streamlined billing for direct services provided
  3. A trustworthy, established network with a track record of success
  4. An independent, top level data center
  5. Access to cutting edge telephony and connectivity services
  6. Customer service that is proactive, attentive and responsive

The overwhelming amount of choices means there is an ideal solution for every customer. Look for the one that is just right.

If you choose a small-scale provider, chances are you’ll be a big fish in a small pond. But there’s also a chance you’ll just be sold a commodity, or resold white-label services from a 3rd party carrier.

Choose too big, and you’re just an account number in a maze of customer service ambiguity. Not to mention the big guys have legitimate issues with disaster recovery due to massive infrastructure requirements.

Choose a more complicated, multi-vendor solution and you’ve got a confusing bill, multiple providers and your money is going out every month to a varied group of carriers and resellers that aren’t even directly providing you service or assistance.

 

Posted by
Tom Collins
Author Bio
Tom Collins is the Director of Enterprise Sales & Marketing for Atlantech Online. He has over 25 years of professional experience in the Internet Service Provider industry and is known for translating technology into positive results for business. A native of Washington, DC, a graduate from University of Maryland (degrees in Government & Politics and Secondary Education), Tom is also a five-time Ironman finisher.
A Fit Agile Framework

A Fit Agile Framework

A Fit Agile Framework

By Millie Paniccia

I’ve dedicated the last 18 years of my professional life to working in commercial software product development environments—from employee to executive. As the current Managing Partner of an advisory services firm, I have seen just about all there is to see in business, working with startups whose employees range from three to large organizations that have tens of thousands. Nowadays , I spend most of my time helping organizations with product delivery issues improve, scale or prepare for IPO.

I have learned that regardless of industry, organization size, or belief in an organization’s individuality, most of these environments actually have a lot in common—including teams comprised of good people with good intentions. Unfortunately, most of these teams are lacking a common framework in which to operate.

I believe that an Agile framework is much better than how we used to get work done. I have found that the application of Lean Agile principles with consistency, just like a good exercise regime, can transform how product is delivered to market.

How to Get Your Agile Principles In Shape

Extensive writing already exists defining Lean Agile principles and my intent is not to re-write these articles. The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe ©) website and texts are an excellent resource on this topic. While all of the Lean Agile principles have value and importance, I have found organizations are most likely to get in shape and stay there, by staying mindful of the following.

  • Sometimes the only way to get into shape is to re-train teams, together
  • People really are doing their best 
  • Product and engineering need to be in the boat together

To read the full article click here https://www.tecveris.com/resources/getting-your-agile-framework-into-shape/

 

Posted by
Millie Paniccia
Author Bio
Millie has led PMO, Help Desk Operations, Software Development, QA and Product Development teams. Millie is a certified Scaled Agile Framework SAFe Agilist and strategic leader in Lean Agile adoption.
Does Regulatory Compliance Apply to My Business? Yes.

Does Regulatory Compliance Apply to My Business? Yes.

Today, almost all businesses are affected by compliance. Whether you’re in the healthcare industry and are bound by HIPAA regulations, or you’re a manufacturer attempting to meet NIST standards before you lose your government contract, your business cannot afford to be in the dark about compliance regulations.

What Technologies Should be in Place to Remain Compliant?

Data Encryption – All regulatory programs require organizations to encrypt and control their sensitive data. When data is encrypted and controlled with data loss prevention policies, the information is illegible– unable to be read without a secret key and proper permissions.

Data Life Cycle Management – It is easy to lose track of information after it leaves its original source. Do you know what happens to your data after you hit send on an email? Most regulatory standards require that you track exactly who sees that data and what they do with it. Data Life Cycle Management software allows organizations to track the entire lifecycle of their documents– and revoke access to that sensitive information at any time.

Disaster Recovery – What is the first step your business would take in the event of a breach? How long would it take to get up and running if you suffered a natural disaster? Being compliant means having a disaster recovery plan in place, and testing that plan regularly to ensure its effectiveness.

Next Steps

Due to the complexity of the requirements and what is at risk if you don’t comply, an IT resource that understands the complexities of maintaining compliance in your industry is essential. Consider a third-party resource, so you can focus on your business while they handle the rest.

Posted by
Advance Business Systems
Author Bio
Advance Business Systems helps organizations focus on their core mission by providing technology that can increase efficiency and effectiveness and services that eliminate the distractions that many organizations face. The right resources and a plan are critical to an organization achieving and exceeding their goals. Advance provides services such as IT planning and support that will take IT off your plate, keep you from worrying about data security and position your business for the future. Having the right business technology solutions in place, such as multifunctional copiers, interactive white boards and document management software, can greatly improve the flow of information through an organization.
The Specter and Meltdown Vulnerabilities: a CPU/Architecture Perspective

The Specter and Meltdown Vulnerabilities: a CPU/Architecture Perspective

Specter and Meltdown, names given to a recently discovered vulnerability that affects almost every computer chip manufactured in the last 20 years. If exploited, attackers could gain access to data previously considered completely protected. The Specter and Meltdown flaws work by exploiting two important techniques used to make CPU chips execute faster, called speculative execution and caching.

Speculative execution allows a CPU to attempt to predict the future to work faster. For example, if the chip determines that a program contains multiple logical branches, it will start calculating the values for all of the branches before the program decides which branch to take. When the correct branch is determined, the CPU has already produced the values for that branch. If the CPU sees that the same function is frequently used, it might use idle time to compute that function so it has what it thinks the answer will be ready if needed.

Caching is used to speed up memory access. Random access memory (RAM) is located on separate chips and it takes a relatively long time for the CPU to access data in the RAM. There is a special small amount of memory storage called CPU cache that is built on the CPU chip itself that can be accessed very quickly. This cache memory gets filled with data that the CPU will need soon or often. Data that is produced by such speculative execution is often stored in the cache, which contributes to making it a speed booster. The problem arises when caching and speculative execution start circumventing protected memory.

Protected memory is a foundational concept underlying computer security. It allows a program to keep some of its data private from some of its users, and allows the operating system to prevent one program from seeing data belonging to another. In order to access data, a process needs to undergo a privilege check, which determines whether or not it’s allowed to see that data.

A privilege check can take a relatively long time. Due to speculative execution, while the CPU is waiting to find out if a process is allowed to access that data, it starts working with that data even before it receives permission to do so. The problem arises because the protected data is stored in CPU cache even if the process never receives permission to access it. Because CPU cache memory can be accessed more quickly than regular memory and due to the long latency associated with privilege checks, the process can potentially access certain memory locations that it shouldn’t be allowed to access. As this problem exists in the hardware there is no direct way to correct it. Software patches have been offered to mitigate the exposure but have led to some degradation in performance of the CPU. In many cases, the software patch is targeted at a specific product and installing the wrong patch can severely impact system operation.

The most immediate action security teams and users can take to protect computer systems is to prevent execution of unauthorized software and avoid access to untrusted websites. Security policies must be are in place to prevent unauthorized access to systems and the introduction of unapproved software or software updates.

Posted by
Written by: Prof. Bill Pierce. Submitted by Ivana Shuck
Author Bio
Prof. Bill Pierce, the author of this article, is an Assistant Professor of computer science at the Department of Computer Science & Information Technology at Hood College in Frederick, Maryland. He teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in Computer Architecture, Digital Logic and Switching Theory, Digital Signal Processing and Musical Computing.*
Big Announcements from Maryland Tech Council

Big Announcements from Maryland Tech Council

Please see important information below regarding our office move, guest blogs and member videos! Let me know if you have questions.  I’m looking forward to seeing you soon!

  • Big Move

    Maryland Tech Council is saying goodbye to our old digs on September 20, 2017.  Please make note, our communications will be down that day and we will resume full activity on September 21, 2017.  MTC’s new headquarters will be located at Launch Workplaces in Gaithersburg MD, 9841 Washingtonian Boulevard, Suite 200, Gaithersburg MD 20878.

  • Be a Guest Blogger

    Maryland Tech Council is launching the Member Point of View (POV) guest blogs.  We are inviting members to submit content for our blog page.  The content will be focused on your niche/industry where you can add a new POV for the MTC audience. Our goal is to position you as an authority and well-known name in the industry. And for us, we will have fresh new content for the page and get new readers to our blogger community.  It’s simple and a win-win.  We will have numerous categories that you can write articles for; those will be available in the next few weeks.  We are kicking off the Member POV blogs during Cyber Security Awareness month in October.  If you are interested in submitting a blog on that topic, please let me know and we will get you started.

  • Become a Familiar Face in the Community

    Maryland Tech Council is revitalizing the “member spotlight” that is featured in the VIBE E-newsletter. We now offer the opportunity to feature you, the member, through our new and exciting video blog or vlog.  The video will be 30-45 seconds, prerecorded at our offices, about your company. We will then feature the vlog in our monthly VIBE E-newsletter.  The vlogs allow us to distribute the member spotlight through other formats such as twitter, Facebook, etc. to get you more exposure.  I mean, we are the Tech Council, right?  

 

Remember, everyone in your company is a member of MTC. Please share this important information with your team.

Warm Wishes,
Michelle

Michelle Ferrone
EVP, Operations
Maryland Tech Council
240-243-4047