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August 03, 2009

Network Installation and Repair Experts: "Plumbers" of the Information Age

By Michael Dinan, TMCnet Editor

For companies that specialize in network installation and repair, federal dollars earmarked – as part of the $787 billion economic stimulus package – for high-speed Internet proliferation in the United States may be compared to programs that brought electricity to much of the nation about one century ago, the head of a Louisville, Ky.-based professional services firm told TMCnet.
So-called “broadband stimulus” funding not only will deliver new Internet capabilities to unserved and under-served areas in the nation, according to Russ Maney (News - Alert), principal and co-founder of Xponential Group – a firm that consults on a wide range of technology-related needs for businesses of all sizes, including the network – it also will serve to help many carriers build out their network infrastructures.
For Maney, whose company recommends Contingent Network Services for such projects, organizations public and private likely will use the broadband stimulus dollars to expand or update their local and wide area network infrastructures – meaning they’ll need services such as those offered by Contingent.
In an interview with TMCnet – printed in full below – Maney compares network installation and repair specialists to present-day “plumbers” of this information age, as more and more businesses come to rely on the network for business operations and communications, including voice communications through hosted VoIP services.
In fact, during our back-and-forth, Maney discusses “VoIPWorX,” Contingent’s hosted IP telephony and SIP trunking services.
Our exchange follows.
TMCnet: Clearly, network installation, maintenance, and repair represents one of many areas that form Xponential Group’s core business. Talk to us about how network installation fits into the company’s larger practice, and why Xponential recommends Contingent Network Services, specifically, for this area?
Russ Maney (pictured left): Xponential Group is a professional services firm, founded by technology experts with decades of experience in technology procurement, on both the “selling” and “buying” sides of the table. At its most basic level, our core service is matching end-user enterprises with the right technology product and service providers, to meet the most difficult technology needs and solve the most difficult technology problems.
We have built our business by identifying a single, “best of breed” source of each product or service, for each problem or need, based on our collective experiences with hundreds of different providers. For technology installation, maintenance, and repair – as well as for WAN and VoIP services – Contingent Network Services is the best of breed provider, hands down.
We first experienced Contingent when one of our co-founders was the vice president of operations for a rapidly growing hosted VoIP service provider. That company needed new installations and service calls completed properly, quickly, and with short lead times – nationwide. After several bad experiences with other providers, he found Contingent – and his worries were over. So, Xponential Group started out as, and still is, a Contingent client, too. Now, we recommend them as the installation, maintenance, and repair partner for all of our other best of breed providers’ products and services, as well as for all of our other clients’ needs in those areas.
TMCnet: Companies such as Cisco Systems (News - Alert) Inc. push the idea that the network itself represents the core of business operations. More and more, it seems, we’re reading about “hosted” services, “the cloud” and “Software-as-a-Service” business models that rely heavily on the network – in part, because those kinds of services save on installation and repair costs. The catch, of course, is that the network itself must function well in order for those services to serve business well. What kinds of trends, if any, is Xponential seeing in terms of companies requiring more network services as they come to rely more heavily on the Internet for communications and operations?
RM: Cisco is right: The network itself must function well in order for hosted, cloud-based and SaaS (News - Alert)-based services to succeed. However, fundamentally, this is nothing new. Very few companies generate their own electricity anymore. They all connect to “networks” to get their electricity from other providers. The same goes for water and sewer services. Now, we have one increasingly ubiquitous network for information and information-based services – the public Internet.
However, there is one critical difference. Most businesses will not rely on the public Internet alone. They are also creating their own private, IP-based networks as well, for security, reliability, and controllability reasons. So, what is evolving today is a blend of one worldwide, public network infrastructure, cross-connected with countless smaller private – or “virtual private” – networks, be they LANs, WANs or combinations of both.
Regardless, what do all of these networks need? Skilled craftspeople to install, repair, and maintain them: electricians, plumbers, and now, network engineers and other technicians that can install, repair, and maintain information delivery networks and the ever-increasing numbers and kinds of devices being plugged into them. In today’s “information age,” it really still is all about “the plumbing.” It’s just that the plumbing is now IP-based networks and the nationwide “IP plumber” of choice is Contingent.
TMCnet: Talk to us a little about EverWorX – Contingent’s managed wide area network – or “WAN” – service. Why would an enterprise turn to you instead of a regular carrier for things like network core design?
RM: Contingent has been installing, repairing, and maintaining networks for nearly 25 years. They still perform this work every day for nearly all of the “regular carriers.” However, as they began to serve very large, multi-site, 1,000-plus location clients, like national restaurant chains, retail stores and the like, they discovered that no single regular carrier could serve all of a client’s locations. This forced Contingent to take on the role of a network aggregator, where Contingent designs the overall network infrastructure, finds the best circuit for each client location, and then knits everything together into one nationwide WAN on the client’s behalf.
Thus was born their EverWorX service. A large, 1,000-plus location client WAN will often include circuits from many different carriers, all integrated by Contingent and billed to the client on one simple and summarized bill. Contingent is thus their clients’ single source for all of their LAN, WAN and other networking needs. Importantly, Contingent is not a carrier; they simply aggregate other carriers’ circuits to meet specific client needs. In fact, when they do so, they are “carrier-agnostic.” They accept no commissions from the providers of circuits (or equipment) they procure for their clients. They simply find the best solution for each client location and each client need, and then make it all work together – seamlessly.
TMCnet: We see that Xponential also recommends Contingent for managed VoIP services. We in the IP communications media space often write about how more and more businesses are turning to IP telephony because it offers flexibility, some cost savings and serves as the backbone to so-called “unified communications” platforms. What are you seeing in VoIP? Small- to medium-sized businesses appear to have emerged – because there’s less VoIP penetration in that segment – as a target for many service providers. Is that true of you as well?
RM: Once Contingent became a nationwide – and in 55-plus countries worldwide – WAN provider themselves, adding a VoIP offering was a natural extension. Phone service, via VoIP, is becoming another application delivered over the network, albeit a mission-critical one. Based on growing demand from Contingent’s existing customers, as well as from the overall business communications market itself, Contingent developed hosted VoIP and SIP trunking services that are second to none, which they have branded as “VoIPWorX.”
As for the SMB space, it is definitely becoming a target for many service providers. Contingent serves the SMB market, too. However, there are really two types of SMBs: small companies that have just one or a few locations and larger companies that have dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of company or franchisee-owned locations, each of which is an “SMB” in many respects. Contingent serves the former, but specializes in serving the latter.
TMCnet: Finally, one of the very hot topics we’re following closely here involves the start, in earnest, of broadband stimulus funding awards. We imagine that the proliferation of broadband Internet services represents only more and more opportunity for a company that focuses, among other things, on network installation and repair. What benefits, if any, are Xponential and Contingent expecting to see as broadband build-outs take place?
RM: Again, if you think about it, the broadband stimulus funding really isn’t a completely new concept. Think about the government-sponsored rural electrification programs in the early- and mid-1900s, as well as similar programs designed to bring clean drinking water and adequate sanitation to areas without it. What private groups, in addition to public electric and water utilities, benefited from those programs? Electricians and plumbers.
So, Xponential Group and Contingent see the broadband stimulus funding as a huge opportunity. Contingent already works with many national and international carriers to help them build out their infrastructures and already has the resources in place to perform much more of that work. And, as private businesses and public organizations – such as schools, government buildings and nonprofit groups – utilize this funding to build out and update their LAN and WAN infrastructures, Contingent is the company they can trust to do it all – quickly, efficiently, reliably, nationwide, and guaranteed.

Michael Dinan is a contributing editor for TMCnet, covering news in the IP communications, call center and customer relationship management industries. To read more of Michael's articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Michael Dinan

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