Locating the Right Computer or Phone System for the SMB
By Gail Chiasson
You have a young company, a small business for which you need a computer system and new software, or maybe a medium-size company for which you need to update your whole telecommunications or computer setup.
What’s the best way to proceed? Should you hire a big firm and hope that it can help you set up a full system to solve your needs? Or should you pick and choose from what you’ve heard is out there that you believe will keep costs down and still solve your problems for now and the immediate future?
Here are three viewpoints, two from suppliers and one from a client. While they won’t solve your dilemma, their ideas might, at least, offer food for thought.
Bayly Communications, located in Ajax, Ontario, provides telecom transmission and network access equipment with a range of innovative and cost effective solutions that integrate voice, data and image traffic. It also supports the integration of IP-based technology into legacy networks, and enables convergence of both microwave and private fiber networks.
“It’s not necessary to go to a large enterprise, but it’s best if the companies aligned have a similar culture,” says Robert Offley, Bayly’s president and CEO. “A smaller company can give a customized, integrated package with good service and support and an end-to-end solution.
“First of all, you have to choose a company that works well with other companies and uses an agnostic approach to fulfill your needs. It must be disciplined, and needs to be clear on your objectives.
“Before you start, you need a full assessment on your needs. This means making sure that all stakeholders wade into it. You must be clear on everyone’s needs. And a methodical, disciplined approach is needed in choosing vendors. Don’t get lost in a company where a map is needed for people to know what you are trying to achieve.”
Offley says that compatibility of products is key.
“Our tagline is ‘Bringing networks together’, and we mean it,” he says. “Some companies will tell you that this works with this and that, but it often doesn’t work outside the box. Theory has to meet practice. At Bayly, we do interoperatibility testing to assure that new products work with others. All too often, we’ve seen other companies get near the end of their mandate and the products they chose weren’t compatible.
“Of course, one can’t always tell what a client might need way down the road, but we have integration skills. And we often do staging, as if in the client’s environment, before deploying — a sort of ‘measure twice, cut once’ approach. That way, the customer is sure of getting the best available, compatible solutions that will meet current needs and those foreseen in the future by all stakeholders.”
Bayly’s clients are mainly mid-market accounts, often helping link offices between, for example, Montreal and China. Its clients range across many sectors including telecommunications companies, hydro firms, banks, and transportation firms, among others. Recently, it has been working on solutions for the U.S. Coast Guard.
With its new Remote Site Management Alarm and Control tool, its technicians can perform preventative maintenance, assessments and service calls remotely, meaning significant cost savings and a swift return on investment — specifically for companies with sites in very remote locations.
IBM may be a big firm itself, but it can, and does, bring solutions to companies of all sizes. The key to that ability is that it has industry-specific people to help develop answers and ensure that even the needs of the smallest businesses are met, says Paul Lovell, business unit executive, Integrated Communications Services at IBM.
“If we understand a business but are not experts in its sector, we seek out people specific to its industry,” says Lovell. “Through our network of small businesses, we have partners who understand, from the size and scale of the company, the solutions that can help the business build its brand. And we can seek out different opinions and different partners for comparisons.
“If a manufacturing client, for example, is looking for software solutions, we can come up with recommended partners and introduce them. Most of the relationships would be between the client and the business partner or partners.
If the company is looking for solutions for production inventory management, for example, it would look at using the partner’s expertise and IBM’s technology.
“The great part about our technology is that smart people can usually apply it directly for their needs. And we have tools that can help them identify the best products to meet those needs.”
Of course, says Lovell, the company should begin with a solid plan so that it can explain to providers what its needs are, the problems it’s trying to solve, and where it is going in the future.
Larry O’Donoghue, president of O’Dee Display Graphics Corp., in Markham, Ontario, did things his own way.
“We have our own qualified technical people working on staff, and they keep up-to-date on new hardware and software that we can potentially use, so we opted not to pay the big guys to come in,” says O’Donoghue.
“We’re a ‘same equipment’ user family and until recently, we’ve used Macs across the board, and always tried to see that our computers and software were all compatible. However, we recently bought a wide-format solid-based digital printing machine, and try as we might, we just couldn’t get it to work with our other equipment, even with the help of the printing machine technician. We finally ended up having to buy one $500 PC just for use with that printer.
“We also bought a new phone system and use Bell voice mail, but we have our own IT guy inside, so got everything working with our equipment with no problem. There are a lot of tech-minded people in the work force today, and the reason it all has worked for us is having our own tech people inside.”
O’Dee started adding equipment as needed when pushed by its clients’ needs.
“At first, we dealt with our needs the best we could, but at one point, it got to be too much, “ says O’Donoghue. “So we asked others how they decided to do it. People advised us: ‘Don’t try to save money. Just jump right in with both feet and get the best you can for your money, because whatever you get will be out-of-date quickly’.
“That’s what we did, and except for needing that one PC, everything has been compatible.”