c4lLate last year, C4L announced that it would be providing free wi-fi across all its 51 points of presence in the UK. These sites include its own data centre, located in Bournemouth, and facilities around the UK, such as those owned by City Lifeline, Telehouse and DRT. C4L started rolling out the free wi-fi on October 18, and it is now available in almost all of the sites.

Maintenance-friendly

The idea was to allow network engineers to test availability of co-located servers, and file reports, while maintaining security in the data centres. The facility is open to all devices, including smartphones and tablets, and is completely separate from the data centre infrastructure, so there are no security implications. The company’s own experience suggested that engineers would really benefit from a separate internet connection within a data centre. In the first two and a half months since the roll-out, over 1000 unique devices were used to access the wi-fi, suggesting that it’s been popular, and is therefore providing a useful service for data centre engineers.

Expanding to provide what customers want

C4L was established fifteen years ago by Matt Hawkins, who is now Chairman. Over the last fifteen years, it has morphed and changed, alongside customer needs. The unexpected but welcome move to provide wi-fi is perhaps typical of a company that started out providing web design services, before moving into the realms of connectivity and data centre space, expanding into gaps and niches to provide services that customers wanted.

C4L now has a turnover of over £10m and more than fifty staff. Headquartered in Dorset, it provides access to over 100 UK-based data centres, and more than 300 around the world. As well as its own data centre in Bournemouth, it also has a fully privately-owned high-capacity, 1-100Gb-capable fibre-optic network that links data centres around the UK. Among its clients, C4L numbers government agencies, FTSE 250 companies, international financial institutions, system integrators, resellers and many of the UK’s network carriers.

A partnership approach to reselling

C4L has a partnership approach to business, offering a three-tiered structure to potential reselling partners:

  • Associate Business Partners, the lowest tier, is the entry-level for partnership. These partners get access to C4L information and resources to enable them to resell successfully, including the partner web portal. Training is provided via webinars, and they also have access to retail price discounts across the board.
  • Professional Business Partners commit to a higher level of business, with a jointly created business forecast. They have a dedicated Partner Account Manager, who works with them and reviews the business plan regularly. In return, they have access to improved benefits, such as faster SLA times.
  • Executive Business Partners is the highest reseller tier, and partners are expected to deliver significant and regular business. The joint forecast is reviewed monthly, and partners have access to C4L executive sponsors for meetings and events, and can request on-site support from C4L sales or technical staff.

For those who do not wish to resell, but do have potential to make referrals, there is a ‘Referral Business Partner’ option. Although the relationship will be between the end-user and C4L, the referral partner will be recognised as having played a key role, receiving benefits as a result. C4L also has a partnership approach to suppliers, with a special tier of commercial partnership called ‘Technology Business Partners’. These partners are crucial to the C4L ecosystem, and as such, get all the benefits of partnership. They are also able to refer and resell if they wish to do so.

Moving forward

C4L appointed Simon Mewett as CEO in 2012, to free up founder Matt Hawkins’ time to concentrate on strategy and new developments. Although it is always hard for an entrepreneur to move away from day-to-day control of a company, there are signs that C4L has achieved that transition.

Mewett has made something of a specialty of growing firms rapidly. Last year, C4L had high market growth, and launched new cloud and connectivity products. In November, it also announced the appointment of two new members of the executive team, a director of marketing and a director of sales. The company has huge plans for growth over this financial year, and these appointments look likely to be an important step in achieving them, supporting marketing of those new products. It will be interesting to watch.

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