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Wake up, carriers! It’s time to branch out!

Apr 25, 20062 mins
ComputersSmall and Medium Business

* What IT execs want from carriers' branch office connectivity offerings

When you do the math, it doesn’t take long to decipher where one of the biggest cries for help will emerge: In the branch office.

The number of branch offices is growing by an average 8.9% per year. A company with 100 branch locations this year manages, on average, 700 networking devices at all the branches combined. Next year, with 109 branch offices, that same company will manage number must manage 763 devices. The number will continue to rise.

And those figures don’t even take into account the number of new applications that will result from the corporate convergence project, or the need for more robust infrastructure because of the data center consolidation project.

That’s why it’s no surprise that IT executives are looking toward the carriers and other service providers to develop and support some compelling offerings for branch office connectivity.

What are they seeking? To name a few areas:

* Monthly, per-user pricing for connectivity and hosted applications. They want carriers to get out of the complex pricing game and make it easier to budget for growth by simply offering a per-user pricing model.

* Hosted service offerings globally. Carriers are the first to understand the challenges in working with global PTTs. Organizations want to open more branches globally, but they’re tired of communications being a hindrance rather than an enabler. Carriers can further leverage their global relationships with advanced hosted offerings (such as hosted VoIP, hosted unified communications, and hosted IP audio/video services.) That said, enterprises can’t expect such services to be dirt cheap.

* Managed remote access. Rather than spending their time searching for broadband carriers in Onarga, Ill., IT staffs can focus on more business-critical issues. They’d like third parties to handle the broadband ordering, installation and ongoing management for them.

There are opportunities for several types of companies to fill in the gaps that IT staffs discover as they try to connect, manage, and innovate at branch offices. Companies generally select providers from these categories:

* Managed Remote Access services (MegaPath/Netifice)

* Carrier/Hosted Services (AT&T, Sprint, Verizon)

* Traditional outsourcing/management (EDS, CSC, Accenture)

* Value-added resellers/Systems Integrators (Aimnet, Dimension Data, carrier VAR units)

The numbers clearly point to a need. Now the providers need to forge ahead with compelling offerings that help organizations connect their branch offices.