ISP to ASP: The Impaq transition

Melbourne-based educational ASP Impaq can now lay claim to being one of Australia's largest ASPs, moving on from its humble beginnings in dial-up connection.

The successful transition from ISP to ASP, according to Impaq marketing manager Marc Niemes, is simple: users have to get what they actually want.

Impaq's mission is to enable school campuses to be accessed online from anywhere and at anytime. It installs thin-client servers, broadband connections and intranet solutions on campuses, enabling students to access the school's educational material via a virtual private network from home. It also manages the campus network remotely, monitoring and blocking suspect use, and allocating bandwidth on a user basis, regardless of what device the user switches on.

Impaq's philosophy on educational ASPs is that content should best be left to the educational institution itself, not the service provider.

"We have the belief that only dot-edus can educate kids, not dot-coms," Niemes said. "So we enable a school technically - we don't replace their content. It's a hybrid model. You can have great technology, but if it doesn't improve educational outcomes or save on costs, it isn't worth using. There are 950 ISPs out there trying to reinvent themselves by forming content partnerships," he said. "But you need something people actually want to access."

Impaq's heritage is as a Melbourne-based ISP. It made the transition into content provision and already has 40 per cent of Melbourne's private and independent schools using its solutions. It remains a private company, with 40 staff and offices in Melbourne, Sydney and Singapore. Impaq is currently looking into second- and third-round private funding to push operations into Asia, Europe and the US.

Niemes claims Impaq could easily be considered Australia's largest ASP, serving over 100 schools, which provides access for up to 120,000 students.

Niemes highlights that much of Impaq's success has come from a willingness to listen. While Impaq staff specialise in technology, financially it has an experienced board which includes chairman David Adams, the executive director of Macquarie Bank. The company has also appointed an advisory board made up of educators who keep the technologists in touch with the realities of making the system work for students.

"We look at it in what we call the 'bottle of water' theory," Niemes said. "The Internet is this huge tap of resources which is largely free, but what we have done is gather resources, then packaged and delivered them to users. The users pay for that privilege.

"What you have to remember is that your customer wants the capacity, but also the reason to need it," he said.