Publication Date: 
Sun, 2010-06-13 02:03

DAMMAM: In 1989 personal computers and the Internet were both in their infancy. At that time, a large computer hard drive might have 260 megabytes of memory available — about a 30th of what a memory stick contains today. The Internet transmitted about 300 bits of information per second — about 333 times slower than a commercial connection today.
It was also the time that Haitham Abu-Aisha and a colleague launched an Internet bulletin board service (BBS) in Saudi Arabia that would later become Sahara Net, now one of the Kingdom’s largest Internet service providers (ISPs). Between 1994 when it received its license as one of Saudi Arabia’s first ISPs and 2010, the company grew, energized by CEO Abu-Aisha and young Saudi talent who were granted the opportunity to acquire shares in the enterprise.
“Sahara Net is a mutual effort between me and my long-time partner, Kais Al-Essa, a friend, a brother and a journey mate,” 40-year-old Abu-Aisha told Arab News. “It has been over 20 years since we established this name. The aims were very simple at that time, and the vision was clear and set for a bright future. I believe, we still have a long way to go. Twenty years have passed with all the good and hard times. We can still dream about another 20 years of success.”
He said that success is the product of hard work and addressing customers’ needs. “Sahara Net has always taken into consideration the quality aspect of the projects carried out. In our solutions, we are constantly looking for possible improvements that could be provided to the customer,” Abu-Aisha said. “We maintain an excellent level of service by increasing our bandwidth links to the international backbone accordingly. We are proud to state that we are the only ISP in the Kingdom with redundant multiple links through all available Internet gateways.”
Abu-Aisha feels success is easy to achieve when you work for it. “It is not easy for those who sleep and wait for the panda to give birth,” he said. “The journey is long and I have been through good times and bad times. The secret is to keep moving forward even during the bad phase.”
Commercial customers make up a large part of Sahara Net’s business, which makes its high-speed network particularly important.
“Sahara Net provides a variety of high-speed digital data services for information transfer and Internet access and high-quality network connections for businesses seeking secure and reliable Internet access. Sahara Net was and still is the largest local Web and application hosting company in Saudi Arabia, and we are proud to state that we host thousands of the websites on our servers,” Abu-Aisha said. “Sahara Net offers its clients many technical options to meet their dedicated or shared hosting needs in addition to advanced security solutions that meet the security standards of modern financial institutions. Our recent team-up with SAP was another success and guarantee for mission-critical IT projects.”
Abu-Aisha said Sahara Net customers will soon be reaping the benefits from the new association. “Clients can always expect everything that will make them satisfied — continuous improvement of the service level, after-sales support and suitable price,” he said. “New services will be launched soon; those services will give us a better reach to our clients and enhanced performance. Our next step is to grow horizontally by acquiring other service providers with clear potential and vertically by adding more value to our services.”
On the company’s expansion plans, Abu Aisha said: “Our new European partners hold the majority of shares in Sahara Net. They come from a leading telecom giant with a very strong and long history. They have many ideas and plans. However, I can’t disclose any further details at the moment. All I can say is that we have something new and big for the market.”
The King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals (KFUPM) graduate takes pride that the company’s business model reflects Saudi society. “As a Saudi organization, it is very essential that we represent the values of Saudi Arabia,” he said. “We do not charge our customers upon a market supply-and-demand equation; our charges are basically the net value of the required hardware plus the man-hour value of our service to make an honest deal and build a mutual relationship.”
The Asharqia Chamber of Commerce and Industry recently elected Abu-Aisha to head its Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Committee, and he plans to do all he can to raise the bar for communications in the Eastern Province. “It is one of the leading committees in delivering the business and consumer voice to  government departments or commissions concerned,” he said. “Our mission in the committee is to conduct professional seminars focused toward enhancing public and business awareness of the ICT sector. This includes information security, technology use and reach, telecom availability and universal access.”
Abu-Aisha said the Kingdom’s IT sector has made the right moves to position it for success. “I see the future of the telecoms getting closer,” he said. “I can tell you that Saudi Arabia will be a major player in the region very soon.”

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