Direct Energy and Fusepoint Managed Services have signed a three-year outsourcing contract that will help the competitive energy and home/business services

retailer ensure the optimal performance and reliability of its mission-critical systems, said the principal parties.

Bernie Gillies, CIO and senior vice-president of IS, Direct Energy in Toronto, said the managed infrastructure services deal will not only provide his company with a robust environment to store business recovery systems, but also provide workspace staff can use if there’s a crisis.

“”This is a managed space contract,”” said Gillies, adding his organization will retain full operational control over its systems. “”(The deal) allows us to design and deploy systems to meet our disaster recovery objectives.””

Gillies, who said the time between the signing of the contract and the availability of the system will be four to six weeks, stressed Fusepoint’s relatively close proximity to Direct Energy was but one factor his company considered during the RFP process. Cost effectiveness, availability of office space and the ability for the energy provider to expand its footprint were other reasons.

“”Fusepoint had the ability to support us from a network perspective,”” said Gillies. “”For us to go out and try building the appropriate infrastructure would have been extremely expensive. We’re leveraging their investment so we don’t have to pay a (significant) cost to build a data centre. . . . Even though we’re not using their managed services today, it’s important to have a vendor that had those abilities.””

In the wake of ice storms, blackouts and terrorist attacks, companies are increasingly realizing the benefits of preparing contingency plans, according to Rob Lalonde, senior vice-president of corporate development, sales and marketing, Fusepoint in Mississauga, Ont.

“”A company like Direct Energy is responsible for heating millions of homes, so it’s important to have 100 per cent uptime,”” said Lalonde, who on the same day the contract was announced was himself officially introduced as Fusepoint’s newest executive. He added that loss of reputation, customers and revenue can result if companies don’t plan ahead.

While outsourcing IT functions isn’t necessarily all that prevalent in Canada, it is happening more and more frequently, said Jim Westcott, senior analyst, Canadian outsourcing services, IDC Canada in Toronto. The blackout last fall, he said, is one of the drivers convincing companies to securely store business data.

“”Fusepoint can come in and offer services very quickly and cost effectively,”” said Westcott. “”We see some growth on the outsourcing side. It’s important for outsourcers to be able to go to customers and say, ‘You don’t have to handle these problems as they arise.'””

Rather, outsourcers should help potential customers realize how important it is to have plans in place ahead of time and to be proactive rather than reactive, he said.

Michelle Warren, IT industry analyst, Evans Research Corp. in Toronto, said it only makes sense that companies are starting to look at the outsourcing model more closely.

“”What we’re seeing is IT being recognized as a productivity tool,”” she noted. “”Companies can either bring IT in-house or outsource it. . . . By outsourcing, organizations are able to focus on core competencies. We’ve seen this in other areas like accounting.””

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