Broadband on a Diet?

When “all you can eat” broadband becomes “pay as you go,” life gets more complicated for IT pros and their SMB clients. By Carolyn Heinze

Remember the last time you thought about how much time you were spending on the Internet? Yeah, us neither. But as cable and telephone companies start replacing unlimited “all you can eat” plans with metered packages - which boast extra fees when customers exceed pre-set data limits - life gets more complex for both channel pros and their SMB clients.

“It's a real commentary on strategic pricing behavior on the part of the carriers,” says Robert Frieden, professor of telecommunications and law at Penn State University, in University Park, Pa. “They may sponsor academic researchers to characterize it in terms of good economics or whatnot, but the bottom line, particularly in the wireless arena, is that the carriers are trying to identify new profit centers and extract greater revenues and greater profits.” And businesses, in an age when broadband-hungry video is increasingly used in corporate communications, must find ways to keep costs under control.

For Stanley Li, CEO of MSP Netswitch Technology Management, headquartered in San Francisco, the first thing channel partners can do to address this issue for their customers is to help them figure out how much broadband they are currently using. In some cases, they may discover that metered broadband actually provides an opportunity to cut costs, since customers that are presently paying for unlimited access may not be consuming nearly as much as they are paying for, enabling them to sign up for a metered package at a lower price point.

“For example, we tell our clients to use a backup router - be it DSL, cable, or whatever,” says Li. There will be a significant savings on those backup routers, he notes, especially when “80 percent of the time they are sitting there, not doing anything.”

“We use a lot of open source tools which are free for our clients to track utilization of their broadband.” Stanley Li, CEO, Netswitch Technology Management

But many SMBs face the opposite problem, rendering it necessary to establish a benchmark before choosing the package that corresponds with their current usage. And once companies have a clear idea of how much broadband they use - and therefore, how much they will need under a metered offering - there should be some form of monthly monitoring so that they may identify how much they are spending, and for what. After all, some organizations may discover that a large percentage of the broadband they consume has nothing to do with their business.

“We use a lot of open source tools which are free for our clients to track utilization of their broadband. And once these types of mechanics are put into a client's environment, we find that [broadband] is being used for a lot of illegal site [searching],” Li explains. For example, he says one Netswitch customer discovered that 40 percent of its usage was linked to porn sites.

While it's ultimately up to the client to decide whether or not it will filter employees' access to certain sites, the channel pro's role is to provide clients with the data they need to make informed decisions.

“As a managed service provider, it's our job not only to look for cost savings, but how our clients can run their businesses more efficiently,” Li says. “That is where monitoring comes in - to provide them with a business tool to help them analyze how they are using their resources.”

About the Author