Netifice adds new looks to Web portal

Netifice Communications is upgrading its customer portal Web site to let users more easily see the status of their remote VPNs - from order provisioning to network uptime.

Netifice Communications is upgrading its customer portal Web site to let users more easily see the status of their remote VPNs - from order provisioning to network uptime.

This week Netifice is expected to announce upgrades to its SmartWorx Web portal, which works hand in hand with its Workforce Connect broadband VPN service. Upgrades include a Global Management view, a software interface that links up a customer's ERP application, and additional e-bonded access service providers.

The Global Management interface lets network administrators see how many users are awaiting provisioning, using DSL or cable modem service, and are pre-qualified for broadband service. A user is pre-qualified after he gets an e-mail indicating all the broadband services in his area.

"The upgrades allow users to get to information more quickly and with more information pictured graphically," says Greg Davis, vice president of marketing and product management at Netifice. "By clicking on a segment in a graph, users can drill down to data for more specific information."

Netifice always had provided this information to users, but they had to dig around to find it, says Michael Suby, an analyst at Stratecast Partners. The upgrade eases management, which is essential for customers trying to understand a network provisioned by several service providers, he says.

"The Global Management tool is quite useful," says Glen Bowling, senior IT analyst for Solvay Pharmaceuticals in Marietta, Ga. The graphs that showed how many users were waiting for deployment, were pre-qualified, or were waiting for a truck roll were helpful when Solvay's 1,000-user VPN was being deployed last year, he says.

It also makes it easier to respond to users' questions about the status of their order, Bowling says. "I go to one place and can even drill down and get case notes for each order," he says.

Netifice's experience in managing large VPN deployments, such as Pfizer's 10,000-user VPN in 2003, was one of the reasons Bowling went with Netifice over incumbent AT&T. AT&T would have been good about building a VPN using its network, but the company doesn't have the same experience Netifice has in dealing with a variety of providers, he says.

But Suby says one thing users have to remember is that Netifice is a smaller company that's privately held. That means users have to go the extra mile during contract negotiations asking for financial information that is not public.

Netifice also has added an API to its SmartWorx portal so users can link their corporate ERP applications to it, Davis says. Previously, API users had to download spreadsheets to the portal with information such as all new employees hired that need service and requests to disconnect service for users that have left. The API lets Netifice's portal download that information from a user's PeopleSoft or SAP database.

E-bonding lets Netifice streamline the order management and provisioning process. E-Bonding is essentially a software interface between Netifice and each of its access service providers, which automates the way service orders are requested, tracked and provisioned.

The e-bonding DSL service providers are BellSouth, Covad Communications, DSL.net, MCI, New Edge Networks, SBC and Verizon. The e-bonding cable service providers are Cablevision, Charter, Comcast, Cox Communications and Time Warner. 

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