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Communications technology levels the playing field; Alison Adams, senior manager, VPN products, explains why companies need to have the right people, processes and technology in place to realise their ambitions.

Byline: Alison Adams

THE global digital economy has opened doors for UK companies. Today, over half of organisations are doing business on a national scale, whilst one in eight is trading internationally.

The good news is that the opportunities just keep coming. The UK Department for Business, Innovation and Skills is committed to creating more regional autonomy and driving regional economic growth.

Whichever party wins the next election, it's clear that to reinvigorate the UK's balance sheet, incentives need to be concentrated on cities up and down Britain, and not just in the capital.

Regional Development Agencies have a big role to play in developing entrepreneurial talent, giving businesses access to much-needed financial opportunities and encouraging innovative thinking.

On this note, the internet has proven to be a useful tool in breaking down barriers, such as location and distance, that have previously held back regional businesses from competing on a national or international stage. However, to realise their ambitions, companies need to have the right people, processes and technology in place.

Research carried out in December, 2009, by Virgin Media Business found that half of British businesses think that developments in technology have made it easier for them to compete with firms on a national or international footing.

But businesses in the North-West feel somewhat differently.

Just 43% think that technology has played a part in improving international competitiveness. This is a surprising result, but it could be because many companies haven't taken advantage of the region's rising international profile. Only 7% of businesses have taken to the world-wide stage. That's the second lowest in the UK.

On top of this, a third of companies in the North-West feel that technology is no substitute for getting out and meeting people. A further 25% think that technology has "mostly just given existing customers new ways to access our products and services".

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COLLABORATION AND SOCIAL MEDIA TOOLS "My number one cost saving tip," says David Tebbutt, author of Green IT for Dummies, "would be cutting out travel and accommodation. You can substitute a lot of travel with seeing people or collaborating using a shared white space."

There are a lot of ways companies can do this, from looking at unified communication tools, making collaboration with workers and partners in other sites easier, to using SSL or IPSec VPNs to allow remote workers secure access to the internal network.

Tebbutt also uses social media tools to form and maintain relationships, inverting the usual paradigm of meeting in person then communicating online, and advocates integrating these tools into the business. Forums such as LinkedIn and Twitter have made it easier than ever to network with customers regionally and globally.

UNIFIED COMMUNICATIONS Companies are becoming increasingly disparate, with staff working from many and varied locations. Company heads are looking at how IT can help them to foster team working and productivity.

Virgin Media Business's IP Multimedia product is bang on brief. A fully managed service, it brings together voiceover IP, video conferencing, presence and messaging capabilities in one application. The cost savings can be felt right across the business. Flexible working reduces overheads and allows you to widen your recruitment catchment area, ensuring that you attract the best talent.

CLOUD COMPUTING The current darling of the IT world is going to have to answer some tough questions in 2010. Cloud computing caught the attention of businesses with promises of making them leaner and meaner. Businesses who want to price their goods competitively and be more in step with market demands are seriously considering the advantages that cloud computing can deliver. To prevent a "digital divide" from emerging within the enterprise, businesses need to ask if their telecoms are up to scratch.

Companies with ready access to Next Generation Networks are likely to fare better than those that still depend on the UK's ageing legacy infrastructure.

The performance of a business's network is vital to organisations realising the efficiencies and agility that the cloud has to offer.

ETHERNET Ethernet is to business telecoms what sliced bread was to the rest of the world. With technology simplifying business communications, it was inevitable that Ethernet-based solutions would emerge as the "gold-standard". Widely understood and affordable, Ethernet is flexible enough to accommodate companies of all sizes, across multiple verticals. Plus, it's future proof. Virgin Media Business is leading the way when it comes to Ethernet.

As its network goes right past your front door, you can access Ethernet services today.

CAPTION(S):

Better communications can make business slicker and boost growth Cloud computing makes for leaner, meaner IT that increases agility The internet has proven to be a useful tool in breaking d hampered business in the past Better communications can broaden horizons Ethernet services over a fibre-optic network can power all sizes of business
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Feb 17, 2010
Words:1094
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