Though the world of IT has changed dramatically in the last 20 years, Heath Freel, CTO of End to End Networks Inc., says that in many ways the managed IT services company’s goals have remained the same since it was first founded, in 1993.
When Freel was recruited by the company’s two principals, whom he’d worked with at a previous company to launch End to End, their goal was to provide the LAN management services that, at the time, were only being provided by a few telecommunications companies. The switching, router hookups, firewalls, private lines, and other “plumbing” that connected the different parts of an office could be managed by one company with the ability to set up systems and troubleshoot glitches.
with Heath Freel
1. What does innovation mean to your company?
Anything we do around enhancing customer service so they can get to their data. We’re striving toward innovation around autoremediation.
2. How do you innovate on a day-to-day basis?
Our development team is very open and ready for anything. We’re always listening to our support centre on new ideas for how to make everyone’s jobs easier. We have an open-door policy where if you have idea, you should share it, and if it makes sense, we’ll implement it.
3. Where do you hope this innovation will lead you in five years?
I really want our portal to take off in such a way that it’s a true cloud service, which we could sell independently from our support-centre functions.
4. How has the notion of innovation changed in the past decade?
I think IP-enabled protocols are changing a lot. That’s really what’s allowed us to build our portal out the way we have.
5. How do you cultivate innovation among your workforce?
We encourage people to come in with ideas—anyone from a tech working the night shift, all the way to the top. Even if it’s a bad idea, we’ll listen.
“We would do LAN management for any organization, and over time that turned into IT and the Internet,” says Freel. “But we’ve essentially been doing the same thing for 20 years; it’s just that the technology’s been growing and changing. That was the goal back then, and it still is now. You could almost say that nothing’s changed.”
Today, End to End has a 24-7 network operations centre and supports a couple hundred commercial clients, including some enterprise companies, and ranging from small to medium-size businesses. For larger enterprise businesses, Freel says, End to End will typically provide one specific service, like firewalling, that can help supplement the company’s larger IT department. For smaller businesses, End to End will likely manage all of their IT needs.
One of the industry gaps that End to End filled, Freel says, which helped the company stay ahead of the curve, was “the will to proactively monitor [systems] … Protocols like SNMP, which stands for simple network management protocol, were never around before. It’s a very complex protocol that allows us to monitor everything in the network … We can see degradation in a circuit before it really goes down, and we can see patterns in geographic regions.” Technicians might be able to see outages in Québec, for instance, and begin working on the problem immediately before massive network outages occur.
But while End to End’s fundamental goal of service management remains the same, it’s also constantly working to develop new products and technologies. Merging voice and data networks, for instance, has been a huge part of the advancements End to End hopes to make. Building new capabilities in the realm of wireless devices, like iPads and iPhones, has also been an area for growth. In addition, security concerns, which have grown more complex over the years, are being addressed with a new system that will automatically change passwords in a secure manner.
“I do try to keep my ear to the ground, and I read a lot,” says Freel, who is tasked with staying abreast of new technologies and researching products. “I talk a lot to our developers and keep an ear to the ground on the consumer side, because I often find that the business world follows what’s happening in the consumer world.” To do so, Freel attends conferences and other industry events, and stays active in the social-media world.
“You’ve got to be quick,” he says. “You’ve really got to be able to come up with ideas ahead of the curve, implement them quickly, and get them out there to customers. Then, once you have it out there, you need to see what the adoption is like and adjust accordingly to how it’s used. Speed is the key right now.”