Xtra's ambitions clouded by Met Office

Xtra's ambitions as a business ISP have taken a blow with the loss of the Meteorological Office's account to its rival, Voyager. Computerworld understands the Met Office's decision to change providers after only a few months with Xtra came after it suffered three outages of two hours or more in two months. Met Office spokesman Marco Overdale says the agency has 'quite a stringent business requirement for access to Internet', one Xtra was unable to meet.

Xtra's ambitions as a business ISP have taken a blow with the loss of the Meteorological Office's account to its rival, Voyager.

Computerworld understands the Met Office's decision to change providers after only a few months with Xtra came after it suffered three outages of two hours or more in two months. The change is the Wellington--based agency's second in a year, after it left ComNet, the former DSIR networking unit, on cost grounds.

Met Office spokesman Marco Overdale is unwilling to discuss specific failures, but says the agency has "quite a stringent business requirement for access to Internet. We have to make sure that we can get out to our customers and vice versa pretty well 24 hours a day. And at this point, we feel that Xtra doesn't suit our business needs in that respect."

Overdale says the Met Office both gathers data and provides it to its customers over its Internet connection "so we see it as a business-critical channel for the products we sell".

Once the agency decided to shift, says Overdale, "we asked a number of ISPs what kind of other customers they had, what kind of support arrangements they provided and other things, and out of that we decided to go with Voyager".

The agency is in the process of changing its 128Kbit/s direct Internet connection over to Voyager, whose general manager David Mackey describes the new business "as a great little coup for us".

The agency will maintain its various other Telecom services, including X.25 and fax, and the shift will not affect the WeatherNow Web site, which will continue to be hosted by Xtra.

Telecom spokesman Clive Litt acknowledges the loss of the account has been a disappointment.

"They did come to us with some matters they thought we could improve on," says Litt. "We actually went back to them with some solutions which we felt did answer their needs, but they decided they wished to take their business elsewhere in the end.

"We remain, of course, a major telecommunications supplier to Met Service, and that is the nature of the business environment — it is highly competitive. We'd always be hopeful that in due course we could win the business back."

Although Overdale made the decision to look for other providers, Voyager sales mana-ger Brent Smith says it was Met Office chief Murray Russell who approached the company, on the basis of word of mouth.

"The issues for the Met Office with us are guarantee of service and the fact that they'd always be able to get us on the phone, which is what they wanted," says Smith.

"They wanted the comfort of being able to talk to key people immediately and get service straight away. We also had additional functionality which Xtra couldn't provide them with," including the use of a news server, says Smith.

Computerworld understands Voyager may also have been able to offer help with internal IP addressing problems at the Met Office.

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