Allstream Corp. is offering local-area networking (LAN) management service to mid-sized and large organizations, and plans to announce end-to-end voice over IP (VoIP) services within the next few weeks.

Last week, the Toronto-based

telecom service provider announced its managed LAN service, which includes network assessment, fault monitoring, performance reports and security monitoring.

Within the next few weeks, the carrier will announce converged voice and data services, whereby it will integrate Internet Protocol (IP) telephony equipment, said Jeff Crews, Allstream’s vice-president of infrastructure management and solutions.

“”We see that managed LAN piece as a key stepping stone to allow us to sell customers converged solutions as well, that could involve IP phones and some of the newer applications,”” including unified messaging, Crews said.

Allstream — formerly AT&T Canada — has always had strong infrastructure management offerings, said Ronald Gruia, enterprise communications program leader for research firm Frost & Sullivan‘s Canadian division.

“”Right now, you’re going to start seeing an increase in their focus towards LAN services and some of the applications,”” Gruia said. “”I think you’re going to see them start hosted contact centre solutions.””

Gruia predicted the carrier will also start offering collaboration, messaging and conferencing applications.

Crews said Allstream’s managed LAN offering includes a network assessment service, which is valuable to telecom managers who want to determine whether their IT network will support both voice and data.

Roberta Fox, president and senior partner of Markham, Ont.-based Fox Group Consulting, said Allstream’s service could be a “”nice first step”” for IT staff who want to figure out whether their organization’s networks are ready for voice.

“”Most of us don’t know how our network performs,”” she said. “”We don’t have people sitting there running reports, so before you can go to voice over IP, you have to know how healthy your network is, so maybe the first step is to go to a managed service, so you get the traffic and statistics reports.””

Although Allstream offers security monitoring, Fox warned potential customers should read any outsourced security agreements closely, in order to ensure that the service provider will take responsibility for any intrusions.

“”(If) I’m paying you to make sure that I don’t get intrusion, then I want to make sure I have the contract to match the intent,”” Fox added.

Crews said Allstream tailors its service level agreements to the requirements of the customer, but added Allstream’s intent is to provide security expertise and help companies draft policies, rather than to provide hard and fast guarantees.

“”For example, if we were being asked to just monitor for uptime a wireless access point, and the customer really is not looking for us to help them with the development of that security policy, that access point could be up and running , but a lax security policy could cause problems,”” he said. “”The access point is up and running, but it’s more an adherence to a policy that becomes a problem as opposed to the actual hardware or software that’s being maintained.””

Allstream plans to monitor customers’ networks from its Mississauga, Ont.-based network operations centre, which is currently used to monitor customers’ wide-area networks.

For example, Crews said, a government organization with several offices across Canada could hire Allstream to manage both the wide-area connections between offices, and the internal networks within the offices.

Allstream would charge a monthly service, which would depend on the number of locations, switches, routers and other gear. Allstream could also purchase and install equipment for the customer, and add a rental fee for the equipment on to the monthly service charge, Crews said. He added the rental fee would be an option for organizations who don’t want to spend a lot of money up-front on new hardware.

Although the service is based on Cisco’s AVVID product line, Allstream could service networks with products from other vendors, Crews said.

“”The focus will be Cisco, but we certainly have the ability to look beyond that.””

He said Allstream’s yet-to-be announced converged voice and data solutions will be Cisco-based, but “”there will certainly be other technology options that we will be pursuing as well that will be supported by that Cisco infrastructure within the LAN.””


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