President, Bell Canada’s Enteprise Group.

The country’s largest telco Bell Canada aims to be the nation’s largest tech security advisor for businesses with a new security services arm. But the firm has to deliver on some big promises to impress potential corporate customers, according to one industry observer. We plan to be the largest security organization in Canada.Isabelle Courville>Text

Launched Tuesday, Bell Security Solutions Inc. (BSSI) consolidates and expands a number of IT security services that Bell provides. The new business entity, headquartered in Ottawa and with offices in Calgary, Montreal and Toronto, offers professional services such as security consulting, managed solutions like network protection, and security hardware and software from over 40 partners, according to Bell representatives.

“We plan to be the largest security organization in Canada,” said Isabelle Courville, president of Bell’s enterprise group, speaking during a press conference in Ottawa yesterday. She added that security is “an absolute building block” in Bell’s initiative to move customers away from older network technologies and towards IP, an increasingly popular connection protocol.

According to Mark Quigley, a telecom industry analyst at The Yankee Group Canada, BSSI’s advent makes sense for many reasons: security is an evermore popular topic in IT circles as viruses, worms and other digital ne’er-do-wells traverse networks; protection is top of mind for many corporations, especially since IP — an open standard as well known to hackers as it is to network managers — displaces other protocols for voice and data connectivity; and Bell needs services to differentiate itself from other telcos, Quigley said. BSSI might give the firm a competitive edge.

But if BSSI wants to make a corporation’s short list of potential IT security providers, it has to walk the walk. “Execution, execution, execution” is key, Quigley said — “being able to continually demonstrate execution of the promises they make.”

According to Roberta Fox, senior partner of Fox Group Consulting, businesses are clamoring for security services. “Our enterprise customers have been saying they’re struggling on the resources side,” because it’s difficult to find IT security experts.

But BSSI has to prove itself customer friendly, she said. “Can they make it easy to sell and support? That’s one question we had that nobody (at Bell) seemed able to answer.”

The BSSI undertaking essentially extends work Bell has already been doing in the security sector for organizations like the federal government and the provincial government of Quebec, company representatives said. Fox pointed out that the previous experience could boost BSSI’s trust factor among enterprises.

Charles Salameh is BSSI’s president. During the press conference, he said BSSI would leverage Bell’s goodwill as a trusted service provider to convince companies that his firm is the best choice for security offerings. “Our view is security cannot be looked at in isolation of the network,” he said. “We’re one of a very few companies taking an integrated view of networking security.”

The new company is partnering with security-minded tech vendors to round out its portfolio. CGI Group Inc., Cisco Systems Inc. and Entrust Inc. are among BSSI’s brothers in electronic arms. “We can’t do this alone,” Salameh said.

He said BSSI is headquartered in Ottawa in part because the area’s rich in IT expertise, thanks to the numerous high-tech firms that call the nation’s capital home. The new entity expects to hire employees for its branches to reach a full complement of over 300. The business has just over 200 workers now.

BSSI aims to service companies of all sizes and sectors, Salameh said, but the firm will actively target industries that have demonstrated a particular interest in security, like finance, government, health care and transportation.

News of the security initiative comes on the heels of another Bell announcement that it would join forces with Wesley Clover Corp., a holding company with technology assets, to build an IT innovation centre in Ottawa. It aims to develop advanced communication systems for small- and mid-sized businesses operating in certain vertical markets, such as the retail, manufacturing and transportation sectors.

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