Agency finds its Web voice

When he hunted last year for a services company to host his agency's new Web site, Peter Vaselopulos wanted a contract vehicle that would get the project started quickly. He wanted to avoid the lengthy bidding process of due diligence, but his initial try was unsuccessful.

"We did not find a lot of hosting companies on the [General Services Administration] schedule in September 2000," said Vaselopulos, Internet development coordinator for Voice of America, which broadcasts Radio Free Europe, Radio Free Iraq and others. And of companies on the schedule, none seemed prepared to deal with federal agencies, he said.

VOA broadcasts in 53 languages around the clock via satellite, short-wave radio and other technologies, and officials wanted to start offering that content via the Internet.

After spending months looking for a Web-hosting company, Vaselopulos turned to VOA's parent organization, the International Broadcasting Bureau, for help. An IBB contracting officer recommended the GSA Cinema (Commerce, Internet, E-Mail Access) contract.

"Cinema is an [indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity] contract competitively awarded, so fair consideration and due diligence has been taken care of," said Mary Kenney, Cinema program manager. "It's a direct-order, direct-bill program. We don't micromanage it. However, if a problem arises, we will step in to help the agency." The Cinema program charges a 1 percent contract management fee and has two vendors: BTG Inc. and AT&T Global Network Services. Through a partnership with BTG, Genuity Inc. offers Web-hosting services through Cine

In reviewing Web-hosting services, Vaselopulos had one main question: "Would we be able to stay up 99.9 percent of the time?" The Web site, VOAnews.com, needed to be reliable, scalable and secure. "There are lots of countries that would rather we not provide those news stories," he said. "Terrorist organizations could seek us out and try to shut us down."

Genuity shared its business plan, which pledges to provide the latest security technology, and its catastrophe plan with VOA. Plus, Genuity promised to accommodate irregularities in bandwidth utilization through flexible pricing. Vaselopulos was sold, and the project was launched.

Genuity hosts VOAnews.com on two Web servers and one database server at its data center in Virginia. VOA currently streams 900 hours' worth of content each week via the site, with plans to add more. The site was the first test case of Black Rocket, Genuity's eBusiness network platform program. Black Rocket includes a service-level agreement that guarantees a scalable, secure, managed Web-hosting platform within 10 business days, with 99.9 percent uptime and 24-hour technical support.

For its first test-case deployment, Genuity got the VOA site up and running within three weeks.

"It was pretty fast," Vaselopulos said. "And if the box goes down, they have to replace the box."

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