The Evolution of Enterprise Communications Solution Engineering:

A Q&A with Justin Brinker

First in our Q&A blog series, we welcome Justin Brinker, Director of Solution Engineering at UPN. We speak with him about key industry trends centered around internet, voice, cloud, and dark fiber – and the overarching shift in enterprise communications during COVID. He has been with UPN for nearly four years and brings with him over 20 years of experience within the telecommunications industry. Read below for his take on what makes UPN’s high-bandwidth, fiber-based network solutions unique in tackling some of today’s pressing communications infrastructure challenges for businesses and other organizations.


Q: As UPN’s Director of Solution Engineering, you’re deeply entrenched in UPN’s products and services. How has UPN’s solution suite evolved, and what’s the latest?

A: When UPN first launched in 1998, we had a strong focus on dark fiber and our major customers consisted of school districts, governments, and a few traditional telecom carriers. At that time, many companies across other enterprise verticals didn’t need dark fiber, but that has all changed. Due to skyrocketing bandwidth demands, more customers can benefit from dark fiber than ever before, especially in the enterprise world. Even I’m surprised at times to see who’s interested in dark fiber now! Customers are actively embracing the immediate benefits and capabilities that it provides, but also preparing for future technology needs. (Check out this blog for more on that topic.)

We’re very proud to continue to fill the role of a communications provider for K-12 districts, but we’re also delivering additional solutions to a broad spectrum of customers as our abilities have evolved. The popularity of our lit services has also grown immensely in recent years, which has led to a substantial increase in services delivered to enterprise clients. A few solutions that are trending currently include our Internet service, Cloud Connect, and FiberVoice.


Q: When it comes to K-12 data networks, what are you seeing in the education community right now?

A: The K-12 community is going through major disruption due to COVID-19; the last thing they need to worry about is their internet connectivity. But high-speed internet has to be a major concern since it’s an essential part of running an effective modern classroom, so our goal at UPN is to make this confusing time as simple and straightforward as possible from a technology standpoint. Earlier in 2020, many school districts were upgrading their internet capacity to accommodate remote learning. At the time, many educators thought they would be returning to the classroom in the very near future, but since that didn’t happen, districts across the country prepared to consume an unprecedented amount of bandwidth to be ready for the unknown.


Q: How about the healthcare community – what’s the latest in that sector when it comes to IT?

A: This is a very similar situation. The healthcare providers are having to make quick, difficult IT decisions in the midst of a rapidly evolving situation. It’s tough for hospitals to keep up with bandwidth demands right now; they’re consuming every ounce of internet capacity that they have and still need more. Telemedicine is a big reason for that, and telehealth can also require enhanced capabilities such as low latency and data security. In addition, we are talking to many hospitals that are in the process of researching the potential benefits of moving portions of their operational workload to the cloud.


Q: What services do you offer the data center market (colocation, DCI)? Are you seeing any new / developing trends in this space?

A: Within UPN’s core metropolitan operating markets, we have an extensive network connecting to many data centers. We offer both private data transport as well as internet connectivity to our customers who utilize these facilities. Since UPN’s network is capable of providing large bandwidth circuits, we are a natural fit for customers who need high-speed circuit capability, and we also provide services directly to the data centers themselves. UPN is observing data center service offerings continue to expand and evolve far beyond just providing the typical colocation and disaster recovery services. Data centers of today are now marketing a full suite of products that include hosting, cloud, security, compliance, connectivity, and managed services. UPN has strategically partnered with multiple data centers to complement their service offerings and provide a complete set of product capabilities to their customers.


Q: Since internet connectivity is so critical in maintaining work and life these days, could you tell us what kinds of conversations you’re having with customers around their internet service?

A: People often think of internet connectivity as a commodity – they think all internet service providers are basically the same, just with different branding. This is a huge misconception, as key differences lie in the network and customer service. Oftentimes, receiving the best price for the service is coupled with businesses feeling the broadband “crunch” during peak times of the day, making company operations frustrating and slow. Not to mention general customer service support not being timely or responsive.

UPN strives to be different; our clients always get the amount of bandwidth they purchased, no matter what time of day it is. That is due to the manner in which we design and maintain our network. In addition, since we do not offer residential services, we consider all of our traffic mission-critical so we strongly take into account redundancy, security, and multi-home Tier 1 ISPs into our UPN Internet backbone for incredible resiliency. Our fiber-optic network is built on a platform that provides optimal uptime and reliability. Furthermore, I believe it is difficult to find another service provider that can offer the customer service and support that UPN delivers.


Q: You like to use the phrase “The UPN Way.” What does that mean to you?

A: Simply put, it means delivering our services the right way, and in a fashion that the customer anticipates. It means doing what you say you’re going to do. “The UPN Way” is not to chase unproven technology trends – but instead to deliver stable & maintainable solutions. We don’t offer every product out there, but for the ones we do provide… we are experts and deliver them well. At UPN, the way we deliver services and meet our client’s expectations is essential to our success.

UPN has 13 distinct advantages that really go back to old-school business methods. For example, when we tell clients they have a dedicated account team, we don’t mean one sales rep who’s only been with the company for a few months. Our approach is a throwback to the days when, as a client, you had a dedicated sales rep, a local sales manager, a local engineer – and you could call any of those people directly (and they would pick up or get right back to you). That’s the way UPN still operates, despite recent market flux. Of course, this service model requires increased headcount and resources, so many telecom providers have gotten away from that, but it’s still very important to UPN and will continue to be in the years to come.

If you have any questions for Justin, feel free to leave a comment! Connect with Justin on LinkedIn, and check the below video to learn more about UPN. Thanks, Justin!