Richard Tang: Zen and the art of internet maintenance

The world has come full circle for Richard Tang over the course of 25 years. The 54-year-old founder and executive chairman of Britain’s oldest internet service provider argues that two very different types of crisis have determined his company’s trajectory.

Zen Internet was founded in 1995 after Mr Tang and his brother came up with the idea over a few pints of beer in a pub in their home town of Rochdale, an old mill town a few miles north of Manchester, and gambled that internet access was destined for the mainstream. Having launched the business, Mr Tang lived in fear that a large group such as BT would spot an opportunity to dominate the nascent market for internet access and he was right.

Yet it was UK electronics retailer Dixons that pounced. It launched Freeserve in 1998 and scuppered the business model of dozens of internet pioneers by giving away their product for free. “It was my worst nightmare come true,” recalls Mr Tang.

Yet Zen turned heel on the consumer market to focus on a small group of business customers who needed more than just a basic free dial-up connection. The switch paid off as Zen recorded its best year to date, and its first ever profit, having found its niche.

“With threat comes opportunity,” says Mr Tang, citing Confucius, as he reflects on the three main crisis points — the Freeserve launch, the financial crisis and this year’s coronavirus lockdown — that have proved broadband is a resilient business.

Zen has expanded its network over the past year to reach 80 per cent of the country’s population and Mr Tang also brought in a new management team to expand the longstanding niche broadband player into a true challenger brand.

A quarter of a century after it

City Of Austin Website To Be Offline For Maintenance

AUSTIN, TX — The City of Austin website will be offline for six hours on Sunday for maintenance work, officials said.

The website at www.austintexas.gov will be down from 6 a.m. to noon, officials said in an advisory. The city is conducting routine maintenance on the data server during this time period, oficials explained. The scheduled maintenance will improve the city’s digital security across a variety of services and applications and will ensure the continuity of services for residents of Austin long-term, officials added.

During this time, the Austin Airport’s website and the City’s COVID-19 resource page will be offline, as they are sub-sites within www.austintexas.gov, officials added. “Please be patient as the city works to protect the integrity of our digital systems,” city officials said.

COVID-19 Resources:

  • Scheduling a test: COVID-19 test scheduling and online assessments will be offline during the maintenance window. Please book your COVID-19 test before or after this time period.

  • Dashboards: COVID-19 dashboard information will be unavailable during this time period. Dashboards can be accessed through the links below.

  • Twitter: Check https://twitter.com/AusPublicHealth for updates.

Austin-Bergstrom International Airport Resources

  • Flight Status: During the maintenance window, please consult your airline for updates on flight arrivals and departures, as well as bookings.

  • Parking: Parking rates have been temporarily reduced in Blue and Red Garages. These Garages are the closest parking options to the Barbara Jordan Terminal.

  • Food: Some concessions are closed or operating under limited hours based on passenger demand and staffing considerations. Concessions that are open have enhanced cleaning and safety procedures and protocols.

  • Masks/Face Coverings: As outlined by Orders from the State of Texas and the City of Austin, people must wear face coverings while visiting Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. Non-compliance with these orders could result in a fine or an inability to board a flight. Most

Rethinking Building Construction And Maintenance, With Help From The Cloud

The construction industry can—and must—undergo as profound a digital transformation over the next few years as any business segment, spurred on by help from the cloud. 

Foundational business practices—such as supplier and customer relationships, as well as organizational structures and marketing methods—have profoundly changed in 2020. That’s true no matter what product or service you sell, and there’s a strong chance these new ways of working will survive the COVID-19 pandemic as lasting parts of your business. 

Many organizations are already working in the cloud for faster and more accurate sales tracking, as well as quicker reactions to market changes. Typically, those companies are in fast-moving industries like online retail, finance, and digital media. But what about industries that haven’t been seen much in the cloud? There are signs that businesses in these industries are also moving toward profound digital change, reimagining themselves in unexpected ways—and reaping benefits that prove the cloud isn’t just for digital-native companies. 

Too often we hear the argument that digital transformation is only for digital companies. I don’t agree.

Consider the field of construction and building maintenance. Two years ago, a survey by Ernst & Young of companies along the engineering and construction value chain (including general contractors, designers, developers, and companies focused on infrastructure, building materials, and engineering) showed that only 25% of respondents had a clear digital transformation plan in place. That’s a fairly shocking number for industries of this size. The construction industry alone employs more than 7 million people and creates $1.3 trillion worth of structures each year, according to a report by the Associated General Contractors of America, the leading association of the industry. This means that businesses that can put together and execute their