Say you walk into a school, office building, or warehouse and ask the first ten people you encounter how the building’s internet infrastructure works. Most of them would have no clue.
You might, however, hear qualitative judgments, like “It’s so fast!” or “The Wi-Fi sucks here.” This is significant, because it makes internet unique from other utilities — just imagine someone complimenting the quality of the electricity in a building.
But opinions on network quality do not answer the question: How does one set up infrastructure for a business? Most people, when pressed, would likely guess that setting up internet, networking, and Wi-Fi is just like turning on your power meter or water meter. That is, after all, about how easy it is for most people in the United States to set up a network in their home.
But any IT person knows that the truth is significantly more complex. That setting up internet infrastructure for a business is a complicated, expensive web of hard work, vendor negotiation, expensive purchases, difficult decisions, and a mountain of inefficiencies. That, as it stands today, setting up internet infrastructure for businesses is a mess.
Setting up a network for a business today is like getting electricity 100 years ago
The transformation of electricity from brand-new commodity to ubiquitous utility did not happen overnight. If you ran a business in the early 1900s and wanted to get power, you did not have many great options:
- You could generate your own power with on-site generators and figure out the rest of the infrastructure yourself.
- Or you could find a local private power station that did the generating for you. That only solved one part of the problem. Even if there was someone who could provide electricity, you still needed to manually wire that electricity to your building and set up the infrastructure for everything to work.
Over time, infrastructure (and the industry) improved and became more centralized to the point where, now, getting electricity to your building is about as simple as saying “Let there be light”.
Setting up internet infrastructure for a business today is, unfortunately, not much less complicated than figuring out power before power was what it is today. And, due to the nature of what a network is, it can actually be more complex to get a good operation up-and-running.
That leads to some serious consequences for the people tasked with figuring this out.
How the internet infrastructure nightmare becomes an IT team’s problem
Who is responsible for setting up and managing the very thing that allows a business to function in the modern world?
It’s the IT team. Often small, often underloved and underfunded, yet responsible for engineering the foundations that allow the business to work. It’s a tricky situation: if an IT professional makes a mistake — or the network simply falters — it’s a crisis-level problem for the company, and the blame falls squarely on their shoulders. If they do a stellar job, well, the business just runs. People don’t actively notice it.
Let’s run a short thought experiment: imagine an IT team wants to set up a network for a 50,000 square-foot space. Below are the big questions they'd need to ask.
- Who’s providing internet?
Much like the early-1900s businesses that needed to find a source for their building’s electricity, IT teams have to figure out which internet service providers (ISPs) can service your business. Then they have to decide the right bandwidth to purchase, and negotiate with to make sure they get a fair rate.
- What would an optimal network look like for this space?
What kind of space is this? What are the connectivity requirements? What kind of hardware will be necessary, and where does that hardware need to be placed? How should the network be designed such that if part of it fails, the rest of the network can compensate? All of these questions, and more, are the responsibility of an IT person.
- What is the best way to install and configure the hardware?
IT teams have to implement the network design, which means they need a whole slew of hardware to make the network design actually work (things like access points, switches, security appliances, and more).
- What is the best software to use?
Networks run on an intricate layer of software, protocols, and services. These things keep networks high-performing, efficient, and secure. This is yet another thing IT teams have to solve for.
- What happens when something breaks or changes (because it will)?
So the IT team has set up a network? Great. Their job isn’t over yet. Once things are up and running, they have to actually manage the network, make sure everything’s running smoothly, make sure they’re up-to-date with the software, monitor for outages, fix things when they break, and more.
Simply put, “Please figure out fast, high-quality, reliable internet, networking, and Wi-Fi for our business’ massive space!” is the point-blank request IT teams have to take on. To get it done, most IT people (expertly) cobble together a DIY blend of multiple vendors, contracts, and solutions. It gets complicated quickly:
- Setting up a network ‘the old way’ is a lot of tedious labor for the IT person. They do it because they’re good at doing hard things. But really, they are the equivalent of a developer trying to build a web app prior to cloud computing — IT people are doing a ton of things themselves that they shouldn’t have to.
- Pricing is wildly unpredictable. Most internet infrastructure projects have a fixed budget, but the typical approach leads to unpredictable upfront costs. And things tend to get out of control in the long run — network upgrades as data usage surpasses expectations, unanticipated maintenance, growing software licensing costs, and more — which ultimately causes blame to be placed on the IT people for not anticipating it.
- Managed Service Providers (MSPs) can be excellent partners to act as an extension of an IT team, but do not always have in-depth software and hardware expertise. We often find IT people prefer to work with dedicated experts for network design and anything related to networking hardware and software, and work with MSPs on other tasks.
In a word, setting up internet infrastructure for a building is usually a mess. We believe it doesn’t have to be, though.
IT people deserve a fundamental change
Meter transforms the IT team’s life so they can finally focus on the high-leverage strategy work they love — and less on tedious, unpredictable, undeserved infrastructure tasks. How?
We provide everything an IT person needs (hardware, software, deployment, and management) to run, manage, and scale internet infrastructure for a business. At an outcomes level, IT teams use Meter to do the following:
Find and negotiate with the best ISP available. We take this task — often frustrating — off IT teams’ hands to get them the best rate and a smooth installation.
Design the network for optimal efficiency. No two spaces are the same. We spend a significant portion of the process on network design in order to make sure every single inch of the space has strong coverage.
Install the network with our own custom hardware. We design and supply IT teams with our own hardware, which we’ll install (with as many access points as the space needs).
Thoroughly test the network. We’ll make sure things work like they’re supposed to.
Deploy and configure key networking applications. We configure and install important applications for networks, like VPNs and DNS security.
Manage the network. We’ve built exceptionally-resilient tech that keeps networks running even when problems occur: for example, if an access point goes out, the system will automatically increase strength to a nearby one.
Provide a team for ongoing support or maintenance. Like an internal team of network engineers.
We do it because IT people deserve to be freed up to focus on higher-leverage tasks, just like people building things online post-AWS no longer have to build and run their own server rooms. And because internet infrastructure for a business should be designed as a perfectly optimized whole, not as a hodgepodge of complicated, fragmented parts.
How Meter does things differently
Usually, IT teams have to quarterback a messy web of multiple vendors, contracts, and unpredictable pricing — we went step by step to solve for each inefficiency.
We build all of our own hardware and software, and we are IT teams’ single point of contact for the entire installation. This is a fundamental change to how things get done otherwise.
This isn’t the whole picture, of course. There are other things a good network needs, like VPNs and DNS security (and more). We want to help IT teams with all of that.
The internet is miraculous. It should also be ubiquitous.
What if David had fought Goliath with his bare hands?
You probably know how the famous Biblical story goes: a lowly shepherd named David is slated for a one-on-one duel with a 9-foot hulk of a man named Goliath. The outcome seems guaranteed. And yet, when they face off on the battlefield, David wins. Because he uses a sling.
If you’ve ever seen a video of a sling, it becomes clear that even a 9-foot giant would have no chance — an expert with a sling can get a rock to go more than 100 miles per hour. If David had been forced to fight Goliath in a UFC-style cage match, a successful outcome would’ve been much more difficult. Maybe not impossible, but difficult.
What does that have to do with Meter?
Every modern business needs internet, networking, and Wi-Fi, but most IT teams are Davids facing Goliath-sized problems. Meter helps you take care of those problems. We do it because internet infrastructure should not be something you have to spend months (and endure headaches) figuring out. Instead, internet should come with the building. You should be able to customize it to your needs, then just turn it on.
Every building has a power meter and a water meter. We want to make the same true for internet and networking.