SMBs underserved by hosting market, exec says

Small to medium-sized businesses are typically under served when it comes to access to data centre services, said an executive with Primus Telecommunications Canada Inc.

Traditional telecom and hosting companies have primarily built data centres in large regions with an expectation that customers will flock to them, said A.J. Byers, senior vice-president with Primus Business Services.

“We found many companies refuse to send their servers out of city or out of province,” said Byers of the challenges of outsourcing infrastructure services facing smaller businesses.

The Etobicoke, Ont.-based telecommunications provider already had two data centres in Ottawa, two in Toronto and one in Vancouver when it decided to launch two more earlier this year. Market research by Primus on major cities across Canada revealed that the cities of London, Ont., and Edmonton experienced the fastest growing SMB market. Furthermore, those SMBs were found to be under served when it came to hosted infrastructure services.

Primus is “very focused” on the SMB market and delivering products and services in a “solutions manner” that meets those unique needs, according to Byers.

Businesses in London and Edmonton can “take advantage of a more sophisticated infrastructure,” said Byers of one of the motivations behind the data centre expansion. “They’ll get their servers out of the closet and out of these areas that aren’t air conditioned properly and that aren’t handled properly to house a server in.”

But disaster recovery management was another motivation. Byers explained that cities chosen by Primus for a data centre are within a two- or three-hour distance from a major region (Edmonton is within three hours of Calgary; London is within two hours of Toronto). A business situated in Calgary, for instance, looking for a disaster recovery location for their servers won’t have far to look because the data centre in Edmonton “[services] another very large market from a disaster recovery perspective,” said Byers.

The 22,000 square-foot London facility opened last February and is approximately 25 per cent full in its first phase. That initial phase comprises a 3,500 square-foot area of raised floor. The Edmonton location, opened last April with 10 customers so far, is a 4,000 square-foot area with options for one-eighth, one-quarter, one-half and full-sized and custom cages for collocation space.

Locating data centres in London and Edmonton grants an economic advantage to those regions, while also attracting new businesses to set root, said Byers.

One London data centre customer is EK3, a multimedia company based in the same city. EK3’s vice-president of operations Geoff Wagget said the company offers “a high degree of engineering” in its multimedia offerings. “Without proper network fail-safe infrastructure… we cannot deliver our solutions,” he said.

Traditional customers of hosted infrastructure services, Byers noted, are often technology-based organizations that already understand the benefits of transitioning the server infrastructure out of the office and of ensuring system up-time. But there is also a market among businesses transitioning from a single-office setup to multiple remote offices because if the network connection at the office headquarter goes down, all satellite offices are cut off.

Byers said he’s unaware as to how data centre customers are ultimately applying the hosted service in their business, but they are likely Internet-based or network-based applications.

However, he’s certain that smaller businesses prefer to “maintain a fair amount of control” over their infrastructure management, likening Primus’ off-premise model to one that “is more co-sourcing than outsourcing.”

For the time being, Primus plans to continue to expand its current seven facilities, which Byers said can double or triple data centre space given the available real estate.

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