Service provider eyes SME sector

An all-in-one converged IP business hosting platform is offering small to medium enterprises the opportunity to roll their service provider bills into one as it goes head-to-head with carriers and resellers.

Known as Techontap, the privately-held entity is a curious departure from traditional channel- and carrier-based business models in that it offers those who feel unnecessarily burdened by the weight of sorting through different bills to migrate to a unified hosting service that covers everything from VoIP to back-up, storage, Web and applications hosting.

The service will offer users the "pay as you go" option for a range of Microsoft-based applications including Office, effectively providing the equivalent of thin client service over broadband hosted out of Techontap's data centre in Ultimo, Sydney.

Microsoft's regional hosting specialist Philip Meyer said the software behemoth was backing the business model, adding that "software as a service" was currently Microsoft's fastest growing market segment. In a neat bit of vendor agnosticism, the back-end of the Techontap hosting is understood to be running on Sun Solaris.

Techontap executive chairman Graeme Boorer said the way carriers delivered services was doomed to be relegated to the realm of hobbyists as a new breed of converged IP-based providers cut their market out from under them.

Nonetheless, Boorer confessed that he was currently attempting to negotiate a deal with a mobile carrier for his converged service to deliver mobile and mobility-type services.

Techontap CEO Robert Machin said the new business will be rolled out to customers via a franchisee model aimed at a small army of IT savvy mid-lifers who are looking to invest in an asset they can grow and manage and eventually get a return on.

Machin described the ideal franchisee as someone who wanted to run their own business but didn't fancy the prospect of more traditional franchise employment opportunities such as cooking, cleaning or mowing lawns.

"It will be nothing like Jim's Mowing," Machin told assembled backers including representatives from Cisco, Nokia, Check Point and Comindico.

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