Resolutions for telecom managers

Before we get too deep into 2005, a fresh assessment of your telecom strategy is in order. To ensure you're focused on the right challenges, taking advantage of the most compelling cost-savings opportunities and investing appropriately to enable a more agile infrastructure, make sure these are on your resolution list:

1. Assess your remote-office and remote-worker connectivity. Up to 90% of your employees might be in remote offices, according to recent Nemertes research. And the percentage of home-office and small-/remote-office workers has probably grown faster than you think - our data shows a nine-fold increase in "virtual workers" since 1999. (Virtual workers are those in a different location from their supervisors.)

Your voice and data costs might be as much as 40% higher than you think, once you've factored in remote-worker connectivity such as cellular services, wireless mobile data charges and home-office Internet connections. To reduce costs, plan aggressive carrier negotiations (see resolution No. 2 below), look into consolidating your cellular services rather than reimbursing employees individually, and explore managed-service, Wi-Fi and cable offerings.

2. Issue a telecom RFP. Unless you renegotiated in 2004, take a look at your telecom contracts. I recommend following the "matrix RFP" format: List all your services down the side, with geographic regions as columns across the top. Include services such as cellular, home-office Internet, mobile data and other hidden costs. Then issue the RFP to as many carriers as possible, including not only local exchange carriers and interexchange carriers, but also newer managed services providers, cable companies and wireless "cellcos." Pursue a competitive negotiations strategy that aims to reduce the number of providers to no fewer than two to three (having one provider holds you hostage).

3. Assess your vulnerability to distributed denial-of-service (DoS) attacks. Last year saw a noticeable uptick in the number of distributed DoS attacks against commercial organizations. You might think that unless you operate an e-commerce site, you're immune to the danger - but an increasing percentage of your corporate data traffic might be traveling across the Internet. If a distributed DoS attack can cut off your remote workers from corporate resources, you're vulnerable. Major carriers, including AT&T, MCI and Sprint, all offer distributed DoS-protection services, as do third-party players such as Equinix.

4. Assess VoIP. Documented VoIP cost savings include local-loop reduction, a dramatic decrease in audioconferencing charges, and a 50% to 95% reduction in the cost of moves, adds and changes, which can cost large organizations hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars.

5. Optimize your WAN. Telecom managers tell us they're anticipating a 50% increase in bandwidth requirements. To pack more traffic onto your pipes, you'll need to investigate creative measures. Products such as those from Peribit, Packeteer, Expand and Avaya (which recently purchased RouteScience) can help. They'll also give you much-needed insight into application performance - indispensable for your migration to next-generation applications such as Web services, business peer-to-peer and VoIP.

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Copyright © 2005 IDG Communications, Inc.

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