ITK is a little-known name in the UK reseller channel, but managing director Steve Shergold wants to change all that. After setting up the UK division of the ISDN specialist in Iron Acton, near Bristol, in January, Shergold has carved out a successful niche for the company's ISDN products in the dealer channel during the past six months.
The company is well known in France, Germany, Scandinavia, the Benelux countries and the US as a supplier of ISDN systems. ITK's headquarters are in Dortmund, Germany, where the company has built a significant channel presence with its ISDN solutions.
But unfortunately for Shergold, the market for ISDN in the UK is still in its formative stages, thanks to an oppressive pricing policy.
'The UK has suffered because of the high price that BT places on ISDN.
No one knows why this should be so, especially when you look at what Deutsche Telekom has done with ISDN in Germany,' he says. Shergold notes that ISDN is the communications link of choice for businesses installing several lines in Germany.
Despite the u400 buy-in threshold for BT's ISDN service, Shergold claims that businesses are waking up to the benefits of ISDN - faster connections, healthy data throughputs and the ability to link Lans together on a virtual Wan basis.
'Then there's the Internet. ISDN access to the Internet allows businesses to fully exploit the nature of the Internet for what it is - a low-cost communications system,' he told PC Dealer.
Although the industry has a significant number of vendors offering ISDN hardware to the channel, says Shergold, no one is supplying the channel - or users - with a one-stop ISDN solution to meet the needs of business users of the Internet.
ITK first caught the attention of the channel in June when it unveiled its ISDN for Windows 95 package, a hardware and software bundle that allows users to link PCs across ISDN channels.
The package unveiled in the summer came bundled with a passive ISDN adaptor and supported the Capi 2 interface.
By using Microsoft Exchange, users can send and receive faxes, record and store incoming calls and play them back using the audio recorder.
ITK's software supports the Euro file transfer system, which allows remote transfer of files to other compatible sites.
At Networld & Interop late last month, ITK revealed the focus of its plan to offer the reseller channel a one-stop ISDN and Internet solution for small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) - Business Connect, an ISDN solution for businesses.
Shergold claims the essence of the package is that it offers business users a one-stop solution to their Internet needs. It comprises an ISDN system suitable for connection to a Lan, Novell Netware 4.1x, Novell Groupwise, and Quarterdeck's I-Ware Internet as well as ITK's Internet software.
It also includes a discounted application for Uunet Pipex's services.
Backing up ITK's launch were representatives from Novell and Pipex, partners with which Shergold has been working to develop Business Connect. Shergold says that while resellers may not listen to ITK on its own about Business Connect, they will sit up and take notice now that Novell and Pipex are involved.
'Businesses in the UK have, for too long, had to assemble their own systems to access the Internet. What we, in partnership with Novell and Pipex, are offering, is a system that can connect a Lan to the Internet at a sensible price and quite painlessly,' he says. Prices for the Business Connect bundle start at u2,500.
Shergold claims that the package requires only a single installation procedure to get a small to medium-sized business up and running on the Internet.
'For businesses in the SME market, the Internet has long been touted as the latest technology that will help them grow and prosper,' he says.
'But all too often the reverse has been true. Many firms have decided to set up intranets with Internet connections, but have been dogged by complicated installations and integration problems that arise from buying components from a variety of sources.
'With Business Connect, we can fully leverage the demand for Net access and information, enhancing inter and intra-company communications.'
Business Connect is billed as providing small to medium-sized companies with all the necessary internal Lan functions, such as file and print, email, director and file services, as well as Groupwise scheduling, workflow and address book facilities. External services including Internet access, Lan to Lan connectivity and remote Lan access are also available.
To support its push into the UK ISDN market, ITK has published a white paper that extols the benefits of Business Connect for SMEs. Free copies are available to resellers from the company's UK headquarters.
The white paper details the growth of interest in the UK channel for ISDN. According to the white paper, together with the active ISDN card, the ITK multiprotocol router in the Business Connect package guarantees access to the Internet for all Lan workstations. The paper claims that a reliable comms link to the Internet is possible using a TCP/IP option within the supplied software.
Unique selling points of the package include cost efficiency through performance capabilities, such as bandwidth on demand, compression, channel bundling, filtering and spoofing facilities.
The Business Connect option also offers a good upgrade path for users, with support for two to 120 ISDN B channels, as well as high levels of security with options including caller ID, callback and password protection systems.
According to Shergold, Business Connect is a flexible business solution that grows when business users grow. The system can support from five to an almost unlimited number of users in the Lan environment.
Primary rate upgrades, meanwhile, can offer access to any MVIP-based telecoms card, as well as ITK's multimodem card, which allows up to 40 remote modems to call into the Business Connect system on the same number as the remote ISDN users.
Optional extras on Business Connect include Fax Connect, a fax routing system; Remote Connect, a fully integrated remote access product; Mobile Connect, for GSM data users; and Branch Connect, and a routing as well as a firewall protection facility.
For higher end businesses and even the Internet service providers themselves, ITK has launched the Suprimo, a multi-topology connection system in a single box.
The u15,000 system is aimed at users who want high performance access to the Internet and intranets. Suprimo incorporates up to four primary rate ISDN interfaces and V.34x analogue (33.6Kbps) modem technology, GSM digital cellular data capabilities and a dial Lan router into a single 19in casing.
The idea behind the integrated system is that the relatively small cased unit can be easily installed within a network's central site, without the need to configure modems and gateway computers from multiple manufacturers.
Access to ISDN is achieved via a primary rate interface and the in-house connection by simply integrating Suprimo into the existing Lan architecture.
Shergold says dial-in users need only remember a single access number regardless of whether they are sending data via ISDN, analogue modem, X.25 or GSM data links.
'The rapid growth of people using online and interconnect services presents a significant challenge to the network service provider and to the corporate networks,' he says.
Suprimo is aimed at Internet service providers and large businesses offering high-performance intranet/Internet services, so that they can support all types of communications protocols in one unit.
'As well as simplifying the whole process of getting online, Suprimo is ideal for data-intensive users who can take advantage of the higher speeds of ISDN, while still supporting equipment that connects to the PSTN,' explains Shergold. 'It also opens up the possibility of multimedia facilities such as video conferencing, which require compatibility with a range of communications standards simultaneously.'
Shergold says Suprimo will automatically detect whether a call is digital or analogue and respond with the appropriate packet handling and routing.
Central site and backbone network connections are open to Ethernet, Token Ring, Frame Relay and ATM.
According to ITK, all ISDN ports on the system can be used simultaneously for digital and analogue communication, including GSM data and V.110.
For purely digital use, the multi-channel adaptors on the unit can be replaced with additional ISDN primary rate interface adaptors as needed, so increasing the number of available ports.
To market Business Connect and the Suprimo system to the channel, Shergold has appointed Data Connectivity as its master distributor. Data Connectivity will service the needs of the channel through four sub-distributors: Technology Concepts, Data Pacific, Volante and PPCP.
Shergold says: 'We see this arrangement as offering the best level of service to the reseller channel.' The distribution model draws on the company's experience in Germany, where ISDN is a big seller in the business community.
'We will be offering users of Business Connect a free upgrade to Novell Intranetware,' he adds.
Both Shergold and Mike Hoyer, a member of Novell's European staff in Germany, do not believe the prospect of ITK routing Novell-based solutions through its own channel will upset Novell resellers.
Hoyer says ITK's distribution model was set up some time before Intranetware was announced and there should be no conflict between resellers selling ITK's Business Connect and Novell dealers handling Intranetware. In any case, users will not lose out, he says, as they will have the option of upgrading Business Connect to full Intranetware functionality free of charge.
Shergold says resellers stocking Business Connect and other solutions have a significant market to attack. He adds that there are about 2.5 million potential SME customers for Business Connect in the UK.
'Coupled with the fact that we're teaming up with several major players in the market, our best of breed products and solutions offer users the best choice,' he explains.
ITK has ambitious plans for the lower end of the ISDN Internet market.
While Suprimo is aimed at the high-end business user and Business Connect at the SME market, the company plans to unveil a Columbus ISDN system for SoHo users in the near future.
'This will allow us to offer a full range of ISDN solutions for all types of business user,' says Shergold. 'For too long there have been interoperability problems with users having trouble with different vendors' hardware and software. What we're seeking to offer is a one-stop solution for ISDN access to the Internet.'
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