Serving Corporate Travelers

By Alex Goldman

December 02, 2004

An ISP that specializes in serving business travelers at hotels has gone that extra mile to serve its most important corporate customers.

We're talking to Stephen Cobb, Chief Security Executive (CSE) of Salt Lake City, Utah-based hotel Internet specialist STSN at the Wi-Fi Planet Conference & Expo in San Jose. He has been interviewing large corporate customers about what they expect from their hotel ISP.

Demands vary by business sector and size of company. "A large financial business is aware of all the security issues and cares about them; An SMB manufacturer may not be aware of the risks," he notes.

He believes STSN's facilities-based architecture gives it a significant advantage. "Back in 1998, STSN thought about security, when it was building its network. It's better to build in security than to add it on later."

STSN has always kept a pool of IP addresses ready so that hotels can offer access to attendees of conferences (see STSN's Hotspots in Related articles, below).

More recently, STSN has been working with individual large enterprise customers to ensure that their VPN will work at any STSN hotel. Cobb says this is a more difficult problem than many might expect.

"VPNs have een oversold. It can be difficult to make them work. The settings on the VPN client have to be correct. It needs to use DNS, IP addresses, SMTP, etc., in the expected way, but a laptop that was given to an employee with the correct settings shows up on the road three days later with incorrect settings."

So STSN updates the software in what is, in effect, its hotel POPs, and updates its customer service database with the correct settings. "We have a list of over 200 companies. We know how their VPN works, and if someone calls with a problem, we can ask what company they work for and solve the problem. However, that's not usually necessary because the system is already tuned to make that company's VPN work."

So STSN is, in effect, an active partner of the IT staff of large corporations. "This is of considerable value to IT managers," explains Cobb.

STSN also maintains a page of security advice for all business travelers. The page concludes, "Secure Your Provider: Connect using only trusted, secure providers such as STSN, providing end-to-end network security." So there's a little marketing there, too.

Cobb is honest about why he's working closely with corporate IT managers. "We approach relationships with big corporations as drivers to our hotel services. When customers demand the STSN brand name, that helps us get hotels."

More in the future

For the future, Cobb sees STSN continuing to focus on security. So far, the company has not run anti-virus or anti-spyware services, but would be willing to if a client were willing to pay for it. "We wouldn't want to control what users can and cannot do without prior permission," he explains.

He would like to "beef up" network monitoring and to better ready the network to fight "zero day exploits" which are those problems for which patches or other solutions have not yet been identified.

He says that STSN is continually evaluating value added services opportunities, but he is not ready to talk about any specific value added service at this time. STSN, he notes, helps its hotel customers provide the services they want to provide. "Some hotels are looking at voice over Wi-Fi, perhaps using dual mode phones. Because we control our own network, we could support different levels of service."

Voice, of course is not easy. "There's a QoS issue with voice." Yes, that's true.

Reprinted from ISP Planet.



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