This article was featured in the May 2015 issue of Vermont Business Magazine
Taking Vermont Businesses to the Next Level
Byline: Maura Mahoney, Senior Director of Marketing & Product Development, FirstLight Fiber
Today’s businesses face a highly competitive marketplace. There are a number of obstacles to success, especially as business technology undergoes a major shift. This shift is largely driven by the explosion of data as well as the progression of mobile and the cloud. As technology advances, so must businesses in order to keep up, stay relevant and remain profitable.
When it comes to premium business connectivity, more and more businesses are seeking communications services delivered via optical fiber to grow and best serve their customers. Why?
Optical fiber, hundreds of times faster than DSL, cable or wireless systems, offers a platform of incredible speed and virtually unlimited bandwidth capable of carrying vast amounts of data. Optical fibers are each as thin as hair, but can carry vast amounts of critical data from place to place. Optical fiber allows businesses access to high speed wide area networking (WAN) services, Cloud and Internet connectivity, and mobile applications.
Innovations in optical fiber technology continue to revolutionize global communications, and break new records. Vertical Systems Group, a leading market research and strategic consulting firm, released a report in 2015 that business fiber penetration of commercial buildings in the US increased to 42.5% in 2014, compared to a penetration rate of only 10.9% in 2004.[i]
But Vermont, as the 49th most connected state in the nation, according to BroadbandNow.com, has more work to do to get businesses connected with optimum technology. While 93.5% of Vermonters have access to wireline service, just 18.6% have access to fiber-optic service.
Fiber for Vermont Businesses
How does access to reliable, scalable broadband help Vermont businesses prosper?
The high speed, reliability and scalability of optical fiber provide an underlying strength to businesses of all types and sizes – as well as the overall economy as a whole. As the need for fast, secure, reliable broadband continues to grow, Vermont businesses are finding that fiber-based connectivity is the optimal solution.
Lack of access to high quality broadband as well as cellular coverage in rural areas most definitely has negatively impacted Vermont’s economic development, its towns and schools.
As a result, there are ongoing statewide efforts to increase broadband technology. Vermont organizations, service providers, such as FirstLight Fiber, and state and federal funding mechanisms are moving Vermonters towards that goal.
BroadbandVT.org is one collaborative organization that is helping Vermont improve its connectivity. The partners involved in the effort include The Vermont Center for Geographic Information (VCGI), the Vermont Department of Public Service (DPS), the UVM Center for Rural Studies and the Vermont Telecommunications Authority (VTA).
Connecting Your Vermont Business – Does Your Network Measure Up?
In the effort to sustain continued profitable growth and stability, network connectivity should be a top priority for organizations. With everything so connected today, it’s hard to imagine how a business can operate without solid network connectivity. Businesses are finding that upgrading their networks is increasing their overall business performance. But in order to achieve a strong return on that investment, it’s important that business owners and decision makers work to ensure that the selected telecommunications services are delivered cost-effectively and proactively benefit business activities.
Some things to consider when looking to source a communications solution include:
- Do Your Homework: Locate all of the options available in the area, and obtain information about each of the plans, all of which include different features and options, such as:
- Network performance guarantees – look for measurable and guaranteed Quality of Service (QoS) levels, which are critical for managing both a single location’s LAN as well as multi-site or distributed networks (WANs). Along with the stated metrics for key network performance indicators, ensure that there are penalties should your provider not meet those SLAs.
- Scalability – make sure your network is poised to keep pace with your business. Choose a provider that offers scalable data solutions so that bandwidth demands can be readily increased to meet your organization’s specific needs now and grow with you over time.
- Opt for dedicated bandwidth – Beware of low cost solutions from providers, such as your local cable company or phone company, which are often shared and oversubscribed. This ends up costing your business dearly in the form of decreased productivity and missed opportunities due to network congestion from other users’ traffic.
- Flexibility – The service provider you choose should offer the flexibility to customize and bundle a tailored solution to support your operations.
- High-level customer service – perhaps the most important attribute, is dedicated, proactive support from the service provider. Time is money and you simply can’t afford downtime or technical issues. Your service provider should offer you direct access to knowledgeable and proactive support staff, available to you 24x7x365, which includes dedicated account managers familiar with your business, staff and network needs.
- Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help: Talk to other business owners; see what has worked for them.
- Assess your budget: The lowest priced solution can often cost your company a lot in terms of lost time and productivity. The right service provider will work with you to identify solutions that limit cost, without sacrificing performance.
The Time is Now
The smartest businesses will leverage technology as a way to stay ahead of the competition. As broadband availability increases, especially connectivity via optical fiber networks and the extension of cellular service across the State of Vermont, businesses should seek to take advantage of the of the benefits that this level of connectivity creates.
Companies like FirstLight Fiber, a facilities-based telecommunications service provider operating in Northern New England and Upstate New York, are helping businesses enjoy everything that fiber has to offer, and saving them time, money (and headaches) while doing so.
About FirstLight Fiber
FirstLight Fiber headquartered in Albany, NY, provides fiber optic data, Internet, colocation and voice services to enterprise and carrier customers in Upstate New York and Northern New England with connectivity to Canada utilizing its own fiber optic network, which spans over 215,000 fiber miles connecting in excess of 1,600 lit locations. FirstLight offers a robust suite of advanced telecommunications products, including dedicated Internet access, Ethernet, traditional TDM solutions, SIP trunks, virtual PBX and audio-conferencing, managed commercial wireless systems, and Data Center Colocation. FirstLight’s clientele includes national cellular providers and CLECs and many leading enterprises, spanning high tech manufacturing and research, hospitals and healthcare, banking and financial, secondary education, colleges and universities, and local and state governments. FirstLight is a portfolio company of Boston-based private equity firm Riverside Partners.