In the past three years, XCEED Mortgage Corporation in Toronto saw its communication needs grow. Stephen Samuels, the IT administrator for the 80-employee company, looked to MTS Allstream Inc. to provide services for its growing needs. When XCEED was based in Mississauga, Ont., Samuels said, it had no high-speed Internet and Allstream provided an Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) connection.
“We are 100 per cent reliant on the Internet and communication technology,” he said. Having a high-speed connection helped the mortgage company handle the thousands of pages of faxes it receives on a daily basis. The company specializes in non-conforming mortgages (where a person has an impairment to their credit.)
“[Before the Internet] our fax machines were working at a ridiculous pace,” Samuels said. Working with Allstream, he devised a way for these faxes to be sent digitally to employees’ e-mail inboxes using a Primary Rate Interface (PRI) line.
XCEED is one example of how a small- and medium-sized business (SMB) has utilized technology to improve its operations. With 100,000 SMB customers across the country, Allstream is a growing player in the SMB market and the firm recently cemented its commitment to SMBs with the release of a new suite of integrated SMB services.
“The SMB segment is the fastest growing segment,” said Doug Michaelides, senior vice-president of marketing for Allstream. “It is growing at approximately twice the rate of the enterprise space and represents 45 per cent of total IT spending in this country.” He added this market has also been chronically underserved by incumbent telephone companies who seem to target large enterprise companies.
“The assumption has always been SMBs don’t have the money to spend [and are] traditionally characterized as entirely price-focused. What we have experienced is they absolutely do have the money to spend in order to address their business needs,” Michaelides said.
Roberta Fox, senior partner with Fox Group in Markham, Ont., said telecos like Allstream are targeting SMBs as a new way to generate revenue. “The enterprise customer and their price per unit has really dropped down. The challenge is that it can be very expensive and time consuming to sell to SMBs.
You have to be very organized, very effective and efficient,” Fox said.
In addition to providing high-speed Internet with anti-spam and antivirus features, the new suite also includes fully-featured local lines (including voice mail and custom calling features) with long distance or PRI access for connection to customers’ PBXs. As well, there is firewall service and hosted Microsoft Exchange and Sharepoint for document sharing.
“The hosted Microsoft Exchange [and] business security is an enterprise solution that has been scaled down to an SMB,” Fox said. “Those are two areas that were not available to [SMBs] to buy before as a hosted service. In the past, [SMBs] had to have [their] own servers and licences.” She added it would be interesting to see if other Canadian carriers would be offering the same services.
The benefit for SMBs in using a suite like Allstream’s, Michaelides said, is it acts like a virtual IT department so SMBs would not have to dedicate resources internally for their IT requirements. The suite is available now and savings of 30 per cent are available if two services are purchased.