Bullet-point brief: Ian Collins, Cogeco Data Services

Ian Collins has been acting president Cogeco Data Services since his predecessor, Dave Dobbin, left the company in October to head up Data Audio Visual Enterprises, which bought wireless spectrum last June.

Cogeco Data Services was known as Toronto Hydro Telecom until Cogeco Inc. bought the company last July. It operates more than 500 km of fibre optic cabling in Toronto and the One Zone WiFi network. It also offers data centre, metro Ethernet and security services.

Collins briefed Network World Canada on the company’s re-launch, why it is hiring in the midst of a recession and why it claims to be different from other network service providers.

*Some recent trends in demand

We’ve seen a higher demand for disaster recovery type services, backup and storage. That’s one of those things that with the customers, their regulatory demands requires that they have business continuity plan.

We are seeing enhanced requirement for multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) type services. One of our recent wins is the Toronto District School board. With that network, essentially it was a $39 million contract, a minimum ten-year deal, which came with guarantees from us we will future-proof their network by ensuring their capacity for bandwidth is always upgradeable and scalable – things you can only do with a fibre-based network.

With the economy and people cutting back on air travel and those kind of things, there’s a higher demand for video conference services and that’s when they come to us looking for quality of service You’ve got your voice over IP, you’ve got your video, you want quality to go with that.

*Why Cogeco Data Services says it’s different

Cogeco data services is there to support and help the IT professional. We don’t feel they get the service from our competitors that they deserve. We come with a different attitude, very focused on the guys that are doing the heavy lifting in the background and we want to be their right-hand person, as it were.

Our network is an all fibre-based, it’s separate from our competitors and as such we control a lot of the services we can deliver. We also have limitless bandwidth. We can do just about anything our customers ask us to.

*How the company is holding out amid the recession

We have 100 employees. We’ve been growing as a business over the last few months. We’ve hired more sales staff, we’ve hired more operational staff to support the large contracts that we’ve recently won, and we are in very much a growth mode. We had 70 employees a year ago.

*What’s new with the One Zone WiFi service?

At this point demand for the One Zone has been quite steady. At the end of last year we added roaming agreements with North American providers such as iPass and Boingo. And that’s provided increased revenues from the business travelers coming to Toronto. With respect to upgrading or enhancing it, at this point no plans to do that. We’re quite happy with coverage area that we currently have, although we will be providing some new features in the not too distant future to support some of the users.”

*Who besides the school board buys from Cogeco Data Services?

We have a lot of financial base customers, we are very strong in the health care centre, media, communications and with the Toronto District School board and some other contracts, which we hope to announce in the not too distant future, we will enhance the public sector components of our business. Nine out of 10 hospitals in Toronto are our customers. We also have the wholeseale component to our business so we support other service providers, carriers, U.S. based carriers, national carriers.

*How the data centre is reducing its carbon footprint

Data centres are energy hogs and we try to make sure our data centre can be more energy efficient than traditional ones. We have a specialized flooring that allows us to distribute cooling for efficiently, we expect to reduce our cooling requirements by 25 per cent compared to traditional data centres. We have natural gas generation that allows us to put power back on to the grid in times of high demand.

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