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23Sep

Telecom Service Contract Length, 1-year or 3-year


I recently read an article that Sorell Slaymaker put out a few years ago, and he stated that folks should stop signing up for 3-year contracts (https://talkingpointz.com/foolish-things-we-do-telecom-contracts/). I respect his opinion, but there are many variables to consider.

From my wholesale background, 1-year terms made sense. I would consistently see at least a 15% and more often 20% rate reduction year over year. There were also times when three years made more sense. Change platform from 10 gigs to 100 gigs, or get 30% or discount over 1-year price versus 3-year price. 

When working with the enterprise side, I see wholesale pricing, and most of the time, the three-year pricing is the best option for customers with the lower MRC. I decided to reach out to my network of professionals and ask their opinion and share best practices. The response was tremendous, critical decision-makers from Cloud Aggregators, Submarine Cable providers, Fiber Network, Larger Enterprise focused providers, wholesale Carriers, OTT providers, Large ISP. Here is a breakdown:

Customer Access: 3 years is prevalent. Providers have no issues with matching the term for the access piece to the client's commitment. If a company was only purchasing a few circuits a month and circuit management is relatively easy, hey would consider 1-year terms, but if there are many orders, the resources to manage the workflow often outweigh the cost savings. 

Network Backbone: Many respondents had their fiber network backbone and mainly purchased last-mile access. But a few buy their backbone networks from wholesale providers, and a 1-year term is preferred. Many have seen cost reduction year over year. Last-mile connectivity has become more fluid, eliminating a significant obstacle of changing out providers. 

Portability. My industry colleagues are incredibly savvy. They purchase a significant volume of services and have many moving parts connecting the metro, long haul, and customers. They insist on a portability clause in their Master Service Agreements (MSA's). Usually, they have services priced at a 3-year rate and sometimes even a 5-year rate. Most providers will require the circuit to stay in place for one year to use portability. You may have a customer that signs up for one year; you price out the access at a three-year rate. This approach is beneficial in winning the business; others may be pricing the higher one year rate. The customer elects to go elsewhere after the year, and you have a circuit that has two years left on the term. With the portability, you cancel the circuit no longer needed and assign a new circuit to that position or renew an existing circuit towards that commitment. Portability requires very efficient and effective Telecom Management.

Dark Fiber. Here is an area that is rarely a 1-year rate. If you are in the market for dark fiber, you are more than likely to operate DWDM, having more than just a single circuit. Terms can run 3-year, 5-year, or possibly a 15 to 25-year IRU. 

Overall, there is no one size fits all.  Many times 3-year agreements work, and other times the 1-year deal works. At 3 Eagles, we analyze what is best for our customers and present all options. Whatever your service needs: VOIP/SIP, UCaaS, Cloud, Transport, SD-WAN, IP, and many others. 


Before I close, I wanted to shout out to key contributors: Frank Florentine, Nigel Bayliff, Debbie Grasso, Walt Wollny, Jim Jerrells, Michael Hallgren, Lauri Abrahamson, Mike Leber, Jake Miller, Gary Funk, Bill Rauch, Jens Leuchters, John Welch, Julie Brown and many others.



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13Jun

One thing I found is that Telecom Providers love service reviews. The Account team gets a clear picture of their performance and can develop plans to improve. As your advocate, they can work through their company's internal organizations and push for improvement, also allows their senior management to what is working

Carrier Management Service Reviews

One thing I found is that Telecom Providers love service reviews. The Account team gets a clear picture of their performance and can develop plans to improve. As your advocate, they can work through their company's internal organizations and push for improvement, also allows their senior management to what is working and what does not.

Many years ago, when I was on the front line in deploying our network backbone. I was extremely critical of our providers. They sold a service, and in my opinion, they were not delivering to expectations. I was chatting with my CTO, and I mentioned that I was under the impression the head of sales of our primary provider was not too fond of me. To my surprise, he said that he appreciated me; because of my demanding nature, I made his company better and paid dividends to other customers.

If you are in a sourcing position, you should spend the time to have reviews and engage all internal parties for their input. Reviews will help in the selection process; sometimes, it is not always about price. It takes time to pull away from your day to day and look at the whole and give an accurate assessment. A bi-annual review works well, provides time to correct identified areas, and also enhances the relationships with the communication between you and your partners.

There is much subjectivity in this review process, but try to make it objective. Comparing providers against one another can be a start, grading them on a curve. You may find all of them require improvement in a specific area (Billing is a common sore point). A point system or grade system is something all parties can understand.

Areas to Evaluate:

1. Product offering. Are they wholesale, enterprise focus, do they meet your companies needs. Maybe they meet requirements in some areas but not all.
2. RFI/RFP response, communication, compliance, and intervals. Communication is critical, let your provider know far in advance that you are putting an RFI/RFP together and what you expect from the providers. The notice allows them time to secure their resources to provide the best response possible

3. Service Implementation. Do they meet the FOC? As part of the awarding service, there is the desired date. Providers are selected based upon their ability to meet this date. Planning is required, revenue and cost projects adjustments are for both parties based upon these estimates. Meeting the targets is essential.
4. Installation. Does the service work upon delivery? Unfortunately, more often than not, the service is delivered and passed to the customer, and it doesn't work. I have my team spending days and sometimes week to get the circuit operational.
5. Performance. Is service working as promised once installed? Are they exceeding the SLA's? Make sure you set limits on planned maintenance in your MSA's. I have seen somewhere the carrier has an 8-hour window every day to perform maintenance with little or no notification. Eight hours a month is sufficient if they have a well designed and robust network.
6. Billing. As mentioned before, this never seems to go smoothly. Look over the invoices carefully. Some providers like to sneak in "Fees" that are unwarranted. In my opinion, all costs associated with delivering the product are in the price of the service order. Credits for SLA violations are also a problem; a customer should not have to fight for what is rightfully yours. Check out my blog on Force Majure, the provider's accounts receivable department like to use that clause all too often.

You can always modify your list and add to it or take away. Evaluations should be a work in progress, ever-evolving. Remember to recognize the good; sometimes, a carrier comes up with something that is so far out of the box and beneficial! A top carrier sent automatic credits based upon outages; we did not have to request them. I would always ask, I am glad somebody listened.

We welcome comments, and at 3 Eagles IT Solutions, we can set up evaluations and ensure your company is getting the service you ordered! Schedule a call now. 

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22Apr

With so many terms and offerings from the cloud, it is important to become familiar with them. Take a few minutes to learn some quick cloud verbiage

Anything as a service (XaaS) is a term that describes a broad category of services related to cloud computing and remote access. With cloud computing technologies, vendors offer companies different kinds of services over the web or similar networks. Common examples found in the Cloud Industry: 

API as a Service  (AaaS) API is the acronym for Application Programming Interface, which is a software intermediary that allows two applications to talk to each other. Each time you use an app like Facebook, send an instant message, or check the weather on your phone, you’re using an API. Postman and Tyk are examples of API integrators.

Software as a service (SaaS) is a model for the distribution of software where customers access software over the Internet. In SaaS, a service provider hosts the application at its data center or Cloud and a customer accesses it via a standard web browser.  Examples: HubSpot, Shopify, G-Suite, Zendesk, Dropbox, Slack, Adobe Creative Cloud, Microsoft Office 365

Infrastructure as a Service, or IaaS, is a cloud computing model which provides outsourced computing infrastructure to users and organizations. It can provide users with resources that include servers, network connections, storage, and features like content delivery networks and load balancing. Organizations use the IaaS cloud as a way of easily scaling new or existing applications to larger audiences. Top IaaS providers: Amazon Web Services (AWS), Digital Ocean, Microsoft Azure, Rackspace, Google Computing

Desktop as a service (DaaS) is a cloud computing offering in which a third party hosts the back end of a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) deployment. With DaaS, desktop operating systems run inside virtual machines on servers in a cloud provider's data center.   This allows companies to deploy basic tablets or low-cost devices and access the Cloud for all the computer and storage needs.  It also adds security and the providers can help with compliance.  Some companies offer this platform:  AWS, VMWare, Microsoft, Citrix, Effortless.

Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) is an enterprise service method for streamlining all communications via cloud-based software services. If you’ve ever heard the saying ‘everything is going into the cloud,’ then you may already have an idea of what Unified Communications as a Service.  The combined services such as video, voice, text messaging, email, and conferencing are rolled under one provider. Utilizing UCaaS eliminates the need to buy bulky IT infrastructure or hire a full IT team. Cloud service providers take care of that for you for a fee. Top UCaaS players are Microsoft, Cisco, 8X8. RingCentral

Platform as a service (PaaS) or application platform as a service (aPaaS) or platform-based service is a category of cloud computing that provides a platform allowing customers to develop, run, and manage  Web applications without the complexity of building and maintaining the infrastructure (software and hardware)  typically associated with developing and launching an app. Amazon Web Services (AWS) Elastic Beanstalk   Oracle Cloud Platform (OCP) Google App Engine Microsoft Azure Salesforce aPaaS. 


Other as a Services outside of cloud

Communications as a service (CaaS) is a collection of different vendor services that facilitate business communications. Organizations may use these and similar services to lower costs and increase efficiency for business processes involving audio or video telecommunications.  It can be in the cloud but also can reside on the internet or other communication transport means. The top CaaS are the familiar telecommunication providers AT&T, Verizon, CenturyLink, Zayo, Windstream, Comcast, Spectrum.


Use what you've learned and set up cloud services now.

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15Apr

If you have not had a cost review in over a year, you are probably paying too much and not getting the best service available! 3 Eagles IT Solutions can navigate through all available options and present to you the best service at the best price! Companies that set out to reduce their telecom spending are often confronted with a grim reality – it’s difficult and resource-intensive. It takes a startling amount of work to achieve savings that are meaningful to the bottom line.

 

1) Engage the Telecommunications and IT Service Provider

Your provider may have a lower rate than what currently exists which they are not sharing. We can do cost comparisons with the competition.  Many times, a provider is willing to lower the price immediately, even if you are under a contract term.  They would much rather keep you as a customer than to lose you. Continual contract optimization can save 15 to 30 percent.

3 Eagles IT Solutions provide support to a wide range of carrier products such as data, phone, integrated voice, internet and cloud services. We help you acquire services which are best suited for your business and your budget.

2) Get the right ISP and broadband for your location

There is nothing more costly to a business than being locked into a contract with an ISP for the wrong service. Not only is this a costly mistake to make, but a wrong network can mean a slow network. Slow internet lowers employee productivity and increases time to deliver to customers.

We will confirm your ISP and broadband moves at the speed of your business at the best price with quoting software.

3) Find the right Voice plan for your business

Companies are transitioning from traditional phone lines to Voice over  IP (VoIP) to allow for scalability and cost savings. Apart from the lower rates on phone calls, you can do away with the incremental cost of having a “just in case” long distance package and enjoy a “pay for what you use'' plan structure instead.

We will help navigate the best voice plan for unified communications with employees and customers across the globe.

4) Bundle services

Check on the availability of feature plans if you’re paying individual rates for your phone features. If you’re receiving your phone service from one company, and your long distance or toll free from another, request rates for those services from your phone service provider. Ask one of the companies to bundle the services for you.  Managing subscription and service optimization saves from 10 to 25 percent.

We research your current services and find possible bundles to save your business time and resources. 

5) Mobile Phone Review 

Here is something you don’t hear “ Hello, This is Mobile Phone Company we have just announced a new promotion and we are going to cut your rate by 20%, this should show up on your next invoice” Providers are not proactively looking to save you money. It is important for annual reviews of your mobile services. Clear the clutter, stop paying for add-ons that are not used. 

We save clients thousands of dollars by taking advantage of all the published and unpublished discounts for wireless with cost savings of at least 10 percent.

6) Cloud Optimization

Cloud has grown tremendously over the last 15 years.  The product sets are changing daily as is the pricing models.  Many businesses get the sticker shock with their first few cloud invoices. They may have been set up with a minimum usage plan and in reality only needed a small fraction of the services they signed up for. Up to 35% of business cloud expenses are wasted on unnecessary features.

Schedule an appointment Now to start Saving Money.

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09Apr

How Does Covid19 And Force Majeure Effect Your Business. A "force majeure" clause (French for "superior force") is a contract provision that relieves the parties from performing their contractual obligations when certain circumstances beyond their control arise, making performance inadvisable, commercially impracticable, illegal, or impossible.

Defined:

A "force majeure" clause (French for "superior force") is a contract provision that relieves the parties from performing their contractual obligations when certain circumstances beyond their control arise, making performance inadvisable, commercially impracticable, illegal, or impossible.

It is also commonly referred to as an "act of God." The contract clause is often not given the attention it really needs. Now that Covid19 is affecting business, it may be gaining more traction.

Here is a sample language seen on MSA’s:

FORCE MAJEURE. Neither party will be responsible for any delay, interruption, or other failures to perform under the agreement due to acts, events, and causes beyond the control of the responsible party (a "Force Majeure Event"). Force Majeure Events include natural disasters (e.g., lightning, earthquakes, hurricanes, floods); wars, riots, terrorist activities, and civil commotions; inability to obtain parts or equipment from third party suppliers; cable cuts by third parties, a local exchange carrier's activities, and other acts of third parties; explosions and fires; embargoes, strikes, and labor disputes; and governmental decrees and any other cause beyond the reasonable control of a party.

From a telecommunications provider view, this is perfectly acceptable.  They have accountants that can nearly always classify any service disruption as a Force Majeure event. 

From a customer's view, this should be the ideal language:

FORCE MAJEURE. Neither party will be responsible for any delay, interruption, or other failures to perform under the agreement due to acts, events, and causes beyond the control of the responsible party (a "Force Majeure Event"). Force Majeure Events are natural disasters (e.g., lightning, earthquakes, hurricanes, floods).

Your provider should be accountable and have an ownership stake in their products.  

What will happen in the negotiations is a comprise between both parties that reads closer to this:

FORCE MAJEURE. Neither party will be responsible for any delay, interruption, or other failures to perform under the agreement due to acts, events, and causes beyond the control of the responsible party (a "Force Majeure Event"). Force Majeure Events a natural disaster (e.g., lightning, earthquakes, hurricanes, floods).  Possible Force Majeure events:  wars, riots, terrorist activities, and civil commotions; inability to obtain parts or equipment from third party suppliers; cable cuts by third parties, a local exchange carrier’s activities, and other acts of third parties; explosions and fires; embargoes, strikes, and labor disputes; and governmental decrees and any other cause beyond the reasonable control of a party.

Possible events must be mutually agreed upon by both parties. Now that Covid19 is effecting businesses looking at this clause is more important than ever.

The bottom line,  pay close attention to the language and make sure your company is absolutely in agreement with what is and what isn't a force majeure event. 

Protect your business by scheduling an appointment now.

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06Apr

3 Eagles IT Solutions isn't a direct provider. Instead, 3 Eagles IT Solutions assist in selecting the providers that offer the options, features, and services that best suit your business. With 3 Eagles IT Solutions, you can choose the right telecom carrier or cloud solution from an informed position.

IT firms like 3 Eagles IT Solutions, exist to partner their clients with the right provider. 3 Eagles IT Solutions represents more than 100 different carriers offering services ranging from a localized territory and covering regions across the United States. 3 Eagles IT Solutions isn't a direct provider. Instead, 3 Eagles IT Solutions assist in selecting the providers that offer the options, features, and services that best suit your business. With 3 Eagles IT Solutions, you can choose the right telecom carrier or cloud solution from an informed position.

  1. Consultants Work For You!     

Carrier Direct Sale Reps work for their respected companies. They may present themselves as acting in your best interest. But in reality, it is in the best interest of their company and the products they have available. A consultant, working for you, can recommend all providers and different products. These providers compete to win the business. A consultant can truly represent your best interest.

  1. Consultants have experience with multiple providers.     

Many people are familiar with Verizon, AT&T, Centurylink. These are the Incumbent Local Exchange Carriers (ILEC) across the US. They also offer business and wholesale products. Each can provide you with a high-speed transport service from NYC to LA. Are they the right choice? Are their better, more efficient options such as Zayo, Airespring, or Windstream? 3 Eagles IT Solutions has relationships with them all and will present available opportunities. A consultant will put forth the due diligence and provide accurate assessments recommending what they believe are the best options available.

  1. Consultants can provide you with visibility.     

Carriers, such as CenturyLink, AT&T, Airespring, allow consultants to channel integrate with direct reps allowing your consultant to attend meetings related to your account. This approach offers a level of visibility you wouldn't receive if you dealt directly with the carrier's account team.

  1. You get more expertise, but you don't pay more.     

With A consultant, you receive expertise, customer service, product support, and project management, but you don't pay for those extras, the carrier does.

  1. A Consultant can help you through the Cloud

Should you be on the Cloud? Should it be a private cloud, a public cloud, or a hybrid? In the Cloud arena, the top players are AWS, Azure, Google, IBM. Interestingly enough, the top telecoms are not on the list though they do offer cloud services. The Telecoms carry the traffic to the cloud provider, the cloud provider stores, and manages your data in their data centers. A consultant can sort through this maze and find the right solution for your business needs. They work with cloud aggregators such as RackSpace and Synoptek and others to put a complete package together, allowing you time to focus on your core business.

  1. Consultants allow you to focus on your core business.      

Consultants represent you to various providers; they can manage the entire process for you, from sourcing to implementation. This saves countless resources and brings the stress level way down. consultants are available after installation to ensure the services are at the right price and meets operational expectations.

3 Eagles IT Solutions is the trusted consultant that your company needs. Schedule a call now.

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31Mar

Sourcing a Telecom Provider: A few of my clients have asked what my process is for making carrier recommendations.

How To Source a Telecom Provider for Internet, Phone, and Cloud Services

A few of my clients have asked what my process is for making carrier recommendations.  First, we must understand the requirement. Establish the specification, we can then stack rank the product offers by prioritizing some of the various factors: price, reliability and performance, account management, post-sales support, contract terms, and Service Level Agreement (SLA).  I will go over these in greater detail on future blogs, here is a brief synopsis:

Price

One would think this is straight forward, but that is not true. There are ways some carriers pad the cost, more on that in contract terms. 

Reliability and Performance

Is the service linear or protected?  Does the customer have a specific expectation? The protected service standard is 99.999% uptime, linear we strive for at least 99.5% availability.  Does the provider have customer testimonials they can share on their performance?

Account Management  

Account management is an essential element. The account team is your door to the provider.  They need to be your advocate, a client's employee that works for the provider.  They need to have the authority to correct faults. 

Post-Sales Support

Post-sales covers a wide area, service order processing, provisioning, testing and acceptance, NOC/Customer Care support, billing, dispute resolution, and many more.

Contract Terms and SLA 

We must be in total agreement with the contract terms. Areas that to monitor:  start billing date, fees and taxes applied, term length, mean time to repair, credit schedule for SLA violations, force majeure, right to cancel, liabilities, planned maintenance, emergency maintenance, and more.  These all need close attention. Some fees added should be considered as part of the product, schedule maintenance should have a not exceed 8 hours a month, the billing start date should be when the client accepts the service after thorough testing. 

At 3 Eagles IT Solutions, we analyze all areas and make concise recommendations.  We will review all offerings and put the best network at the best cost with uncompromising results.  

Save yourself all the hassle and schedule a call now.

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