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SP360: Service Provider

Since its founding in 1999, Cbeyond, the Atlanta-based managed services provider, has tried to remain true to its name. The company which focuses exclusively on small- and medium-sized businesses must observe and act on technology trends well in advance to maintain its position with its customers as both a communications and hosted IT provider.

We recently had an opportunity to interview Brent Cobb, Cbeyond’s Chief Revenue and Customer Officer to hear how Cbeyond enables its small business customers to reap the benefits of advanced technology usually unavailable without the IT infrastructure of a big business.

Cisco: What kind of challenges does Cbeyond see facing its customers?

Brent Cobb:

It is a very challenging economic environment for our customers. What we saw in 2007 is still what we see today. In fact, we saw the recession coming 6-9 months before anyone else could because of the selection of services they were buying. It seems like the economy is more stable now, but it’s still cloudy for small business. There is still a lot of uncertainty about what the economy is going to look like in 12 months and also what government regulation and taxes will look like.

We’ve asked our customers how they feel. They say, “we’re looking to stabilize but cautiously optimistic about growth.” Productivity, profitability, and protection of our customers is what we’re pushing today. Our customers are trying to work with fewer vendors, partners, and service providers and where they continue to work with someone they want to see more added value. For Cbeyond, there’s an opportunity to streamline our company and provide better service for less money. Last year we acquired companies in the cloud server space to allow for virtual and dedicated server services, and we’ve been including more of those services in our core bundle – giving our customers a better value. Our customers really prefer using the power of cloud-based computing in lieu of spending more money on servers on premise (and the operational headaches they bring). It also helps their balance sheets.

What trends in the industry are most affecting Cbeyond?

Brent Cobb:

Technology innovations are happening quickly, especially around mobile. There is the advent of mobile broadband and of applications being developed for high speed mobile networks. You’re starting to see things moving into phase with each other. You’re starting to see the speed of network, the processing power of the smartphone, and the applications being tuned so they can leverage each other at optimal performance. This hasn’t been the case in the past. You’re starting to see the integration of the network -- wired or wireless – integration of applications across multiple operating systems and handheld devices.

Cbeyond is happy the market is moving in this direction because we spotted these trends. We launched mobile services as an MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator) a few years back. We provide, provision, manage, authenticate, and deliver apps over a mobile network and have been selling smartphones since 2006. We have relationships with 4G providers, including Clearwire and Sprint. We’ve had a 3G solution for five years now. We understand the need to integrate wired and wireless networks. Because we’re offering applications that are hosted in a data center, it doesn’t matter to us where that request is coming from – smartphone, PC, across LAN or WAN – and we’ve been anticipating the integration of wired and wireless networks. Look at Apple – they’ve been a major driver in this trend worldwide. We’ve been pleasantly and anxiously awaiting it for some time because we can bring all these things together with a level of customer intimacy they’re not going to find from our competitors.

Please check back tomorrow for Part 2 of our interview.

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