Maintaining focus is key for LANLink

When Peter Metcalf, John Quinn and Ken Louis formed networking specialist LANLink two-and-a-half years ago, a central element of the company's strategy was to avoid attempting to be all things to all people. "That's an easy mistake for a company to make: to try to take on anything and everything that comes its way. But when you do that, you don't develop a level of expertise in any one particular area," Metcalf said. "We've always stayed focused on the hardware end of network implementation. For example, we install entire networks, but we sub-contract all software applications."

Although LANLink may maintain a hardware-centric focus, the company's client base is anything but one dimensional. "A lot of our contracts have tended to come from the government sector, but within that market there's a lot of diversity. We've designed and installed everything from LANs for [use by] a handful of users, up to a WAN for the South-East Queensland Transmission and Supply Corporation that connects 8,000 users," Metcalf said. "We've also designed a variety of networks for the Queensland Justice Department, the Department of Mining and Engineering and the Treasury Department."

At the heart of LANLink's operation is the company's network of direct relationships with a range of major manufacturers: Xyplex for Ethernet hubs; Xylan and ADC for switching solutions; as well as partnerships with Digital, AT&T and Optical Fibre Systems. Additionally, LANLink has emerged as one of Queensland's largest 3Com resellers. Metcalf says teaming up with 3Com has worked well. "In May and June we sold 120 four-port 3Com SMS stackable hubs," he said. "3Com is one of the few companies that's been able to successfully integrate the companies it has bought into its existing range."

At your service

Selling equipment is one thing, but it is in the support arena that a networking company proves its mettle, Metcalf says. "People are beginning to wise up about who they're buying from. The days of doing a box drop - as was often the case with the high street brigade - are over, " he said. "LANLink has always emphasised service and support over simply gaining sales."

Metcalf says LANLink urges its clients to initiate preventative measures for systems maintenance. "It's a lot easier to look after a network while it's up and running than it is when it's crashed," he said. As an example, Metcalf points to a network probe. "Under a secure service, we can monitor a system and look for places where the network is overloaded. The reasons for most network inefficiency are silly and all it often takes is a bit of analysis. It may be just a matter of saying 'You're 80 per cent loaded on this LAN. Now is the time to introduce a switch'."

In addition to its support operations, LANLink offers a variety of network training courses. Most courses are conducted over two days and include: a LAN/WAN Ethernet course (from basics to configuration); a TCP/IP course; an access server/terminal server course; a bridging/router course, and an IPX routing course. The fee for most two-day courses is $900; one-day courses cost $500.

"The courses are open to everyone, but, typically, they are attended by customers who have purchased networks from us and who want to know more about their system. We limit the size of most courses to eight to 10 people. You need that in order for students to get individual attention," Metcalf said.

As far as gaining new clients, Metcalf says LANLink largely relies on word of mouth. "If you're doing a good job and providing people with quality, the word's going to spread. We've certainly found that to be the case," he said. In addition, LANLink produces Network News, a newsletter aimed at current and prospective clients and, joining with vendors, conducts free seminars on networking technology. "Of course, we don't mind spreading the word a bit on our own, as well," he said.


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