Cox Touts VPN 'Hy-Life'

Cox Business Services is taking a high road in its first real push to market its virtual private network technology.

Hy-Life — short for Hybrid Lifestyle — is Cox's new pitch to businesses, a campaign touting the benefits of telecommuting using the MSO's VPN products.

Centered on a Web site loaded with information and case studies about VPN usage, the Hy-Life telecommuting promotion is set to launch in 14 markets, including Las Vegas, New Orleans, San Diego, Orange County and Phoenix.

Telecommuters come in two basic categories — those who do supplemental work at home in the evenings or weekends, and the true teleworkers, who have a formal arrangement and use employer-supplied equipment.

The latter group only constitutes 20% of the total telecommuter population, and that is something Cox Business would like to change, according Cox Business vice president of operations Bob Hattori.

Businesses and government offices are increasingly attracted to telecommuting because of its disaster-recovery advantages. By distributing employees outside of a central office, there is a better chance that the company will not lose as much time and money in disrupted operations if a power failure or natural disaster strikes.

"The teleworker is one that there is such a groundswell and momentum going toward it — protecting the environment and being flexible for your employees," Hattari added. "I think there is a big interest in having teleworkers."

Cox Business's managed VPN product provides a secure, dedicated link between a remote user and a company's computer system. It has been on the service menu for some time, but Cox Business recently upgraded the technology behind it and wants to give it a targeted marketing push, according to Cox director of media relations Bobby Amirshahi, who coordinated the promotion.

The idea is to dispel some of the myths about telecommuting and encourage companies to look at it as a viable work option.

"Ultimately, whether it is the Web site or whether it is going to be the direct mail, we're trying to get folks to look at case studies of businesses having telework programs and of course, broadband connectivity in the form of VPNs to do it," Amirshahi said. "Because when our salespeople go out in the market and try to upsell an existing Internet customer, there are still some barriers around the idea that teleworking is not really a need-to-have as a business, or it is more expensive than it really is."

For example, Cox's managed VPN service in most markets typically offers connections at less than $100 a month per connection. In some cases, it can be as low as $60 to $70 per month, Amirshahi said.

One case study featured is Oklahoma City University, which has about 400 off-campus students linked by Cox's VPN connection. The students can take courses from home or access the campus intranet.

"That's a different type of VPN customer that we would like to have in many of our other markets, so we are trying to educate universities on the advantages of having students with a VPN connection," Amirshahi said.

The promotion includes information tailored to the individual markets. For instance, customers in Phoenix will see lists of the local tax incentives offered to businesses that promote telecommuting.

"We lead people to those sources," Amirshahi said. "We are trying to be a clearing house. I think ultimately we are trying to associate Cox's brand with VPN and Internet networking knowhow."

Cox's sales force will use the Web site to direct clients for more information about VPN. As such, the site is designed not so much to bash visitors on the head with the Cox brand but to offer basic information'

"That's why the site is purposely not hard-core Cox branded," Amirshahi said. "It's meant to be somewhat of a third-party destination, [so] that folks are not getting hit on the head with a sales message — that really it is an opportunity for them to link out to other resources.

"But again, the end goal is to associate Cox with this space," he added.