DSL, cable, Wi-Fi, 3G—the challenge for traditional carriers to support all the key access methods now inherent to a competitive enterprise has grown into something more closely resembling a burden. Add to that growing number of access methods an assortment of providers, each with its own forms of authentication, billing, client software and management tools, and the resources required of a single carrier to manage so many details—and geographies—are more than most enterprises can bear. Consequently, many enterprises are turning to service aggregation companies, which are proving adroit at replacing that burden with reliable, global mobile access.
Dollars and Sense
MTV, FedEx and Digitas are just a few of the major players that have put their good names in the hands of DoubleClick. Headquartered in New York, with offices—and clients—around the world, DoubleClick provides solutions that enable advertising agencies, marketers and web publishers to plan, execute and analyze their marketing programs to yield the highest return on their marketing dollars. With so much at stake, DoubleClick employees need to be constantly available to customers and never far from a reliable connection. To the frustration of many DoubleClick employees, this wasn’t always a possibility.
“A lot of our people go on the road, traveling,” says Chris Chatterton, VP of Global Networks and Infrastructure for DoubleClick. “Our salespeople would reach their hotels and be unable to connect, and they’d wind up spending a lot of time calling our help desk, trying to figure out why they couldn’t connect. … We had a remote-access solution, and it always had to be maintained. It was breaking all of the time, and it was always full, with people staying online forever.” It needed a solution that could meet its employees’ demands.
DoubleClick considered several different solutions, says Chatterton. “We had a team of people that tested each of the products, then we went back and evaluated what our issues were with each one. The main criterion was ease of use. Wherever they were, these guys had to be able to just double click on an icon and Poof!, there they go—instead calling our help desk, trying to figure out how to connect. Out of all of [the products we tried], iPass was the easiest.
In the Office, On the Road
iPass Corporate Access is a software-enabled virtual network operator—an aggregator—with 1,500 enterprise customers. Instead of creating an architecture to do it all (the challenge that enterprises are finding so difficult), aggregators rely on architectures that are already in place and then broker deals with enough national, regional and local providers to meet the needs of their customers. The customer not only has a wider coverage area than it could have with a single carrier, but it is saved the trouble of forming numerous relationships and working through numerous deals—it benefits from the coverage of multiple carriers but only has to deal with the aggregator. “iPass acts as a bridge to all of that complexity,” says John Sidline, director of corporate communications for iPass.
Users can make a connection via six technologies—dial-up, ISDN, Ethernet and three wireless methods, Wi-Fi, GSM in Europe and PHS in Japan—the goal being, anywhere you are around the world, you should be able to find a local point to connect to. While DoubleClick was still beta testing iPass, Chatterton took a trip to Sydney, Australia. “I was able to connect there no problem. It was a great experience, and it was one of the leading factors in deciding to go with iPass.” DoubleClick has since deployed iPass to 378 of its mobile employees “who need to be in the office all the time—even when they’re on the road.”
End User Friendly
Some aggregators, such as Fiberlink, are managed service providers; if Joe’s Tools hires Fiberlink, Joe’s server resides with Fiberlink. With iPass, the server stays with the client—in this case, with DoubleClick. iPass gives the software to the IT team, trains them to use it and trains them to show others how to use it. “Our client isn’t the end user,” says iPass’ Sidline, “our client is the IT department.”
According to Sidline, iPass is a quick install, updates automatically and integrates with different security policies, such as VPN and anti-virus. “And they don’t just interact. The integration occurs at the software level. It’s simple and convenient, and all the end user sees is the username and password. They’re authenticated and can use their system the way they always have, whether they’re at home, on a corporate campus, in a wireless LAN or roaming.
With 60 customers in four countries, iPass spent 18 months building its current software version. “We built it for the worst-case scenario. We built it imagining that your CEO was on the road—that all 1,500 CEOs were on the road—and that we needed to build something rock solid,” says Sidline. Researchers asked users to perform tasks, so they could watch their intuitive responses. “We asked them to pretend they were in Dulles Airport and we told them to connect. It was a trick question—people think it’s in DC, but it’s actually Virginia.” Researchers also found that Europeans and North Americans move their eyes from the top left corner to the bottom right. Says Sidline, “We set it up to be intuitive to users, and it’s reduced the number of help desk calls.”
DoubleClick is pleased with the results as well. Its IT department doesn’t need as many people to run iPass as it needed to run the old solution. Its mobile employees are now able to get to a hotel, check their e-mail and respond to clients in a timely matter. “We were able to reduce the number of calls to our help desk by 75 percent,” says Chatterton, which also means a reduction in bodies manning the phones.
Lastly, the cost savings have been significant. DoubleClick receives a monthly report from iPass, which shows every attempted connection, every actual connection and the number of minutes he or she stayed online—for every worker. The cost per connection is determined by the type of connection and the location. By studying the reports, DoubleClick can discover anomalies—if a particular user is having difficulty connecting, IT can work with that person. It can see the costs associated with each individual, which is useful for budgeting. And it can see where connections are taking place. “We just recently renewed our contract with iPass,” says Chatterton. “We were able to look at areas of the world where we were seeing we had the most usage and negotiate better rates in those countries. iPass has been very flexible. It’s been a win-win for both of us.”