First published in Coventry & Warwickshire In Business Magazine
For the past eleven years, Paul Blore – who runs Coventry-based IT company Netmetix – has been working hard to get businesses and organisations to understand the benefits of cloud computing to replace physical servers and storage in an office.
He, and others, were doing a pretty good job in changing mindsets around the cloud but with Covid-19 forcing millions of people to work from home, the payback has become even more obvious and has led to some very satisfied and relieved customers.
“All of our clients that were in a cloud-based environment transitioned very easily to working from home,” he said.
“We were busy for a month or so, while people moved to homeworking. That was with simple stuff like setting up local printers and home Internet connections but, in terms of the operational aspects, it was smooth and seamless.
“We have had great comments back from customers. We had one architectural client who we’d just completed their migration to the cloud the week before lockdown so they just went home and carried on working. That really saved their bacon.
“We’ve helped businesses get up to 300 people working from home in the space of a few days and it was all very smooth and it meant they could just carry on with their work.”
Blore started Netmetix in 2001 as a reseller of CAD software but shifted to networking in 2008, before, as he puts it, going feet first into the cloud in 2010.
Not everyone was convinced, as business owners and organisational leaders felt comforted by the fact that they could see their IT servers in their office rather than based in, as they saw it, a mythical cloud.
“I was absolutely convinced that cloud was the way to go,” he said. “But it’s only in the past three years where it has really started to pay dividends. The uptake was very cautious early on and, while we were growing, it was growth on small numbers, whereas between 2020 and 2021 we grew by 23 per cent year on year.”
In pounds, shillings and pence, it’s been a jump from around £700,000 turnover four years ago to over £2 million in those 12 months – while the world was in the eye of the Covid-19 storm.
“The plan is to keep growing,” he said. “We are tentatively looking at possible acquisitions. That’s not to acquire technologies or skills, it would be for their client base. I’m not tied to a region either, it would very much depend on the opportunity.
“We’ve rolled out systems all over the world without leaving Coventry so geography isn’t an issue. There are around 60 Microsoft Azure data centres all around the world and we just pick the nearest one to the client and provision services from there.
“So, depending on acquisition, I’d like to be looking towards being a £10 million company in five years. What we do scales really well. We couldn’t have reached £2 million working the way we used to and doing what we used to do. We are now much smarter with our resources in a cloud infrastructure which allows us to scale up.
“We also support a small local charity called Alex’s Wish, which raises funds for research into a cure for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy by donating a share of our revenue every month. So, as we grow, so does the amount we donate.”
In terms of headcount, the company has grown to 12 but size isn’t everything and investment in expertise and training is what continues to set Netmetix apart.
“We are now recognised as one of the UK’s leading specialists in the field,” said Blore. “We’re not the biggest but Microsoft recognise us as real experts in this area.
“We do a lot of consultancy work for some of the big UK players and we do all of the Microsoft Azure (the company’s cloud platform) migrations for the UK’s largest software company.
“Our client base is spread all over the world – from the Queensland Government in Australia through to South America, North America, Middle East and all over Europe.
“We work through partners and a lot of that is through software vendors around the world. They might have an application that they would host in the cloud but they don’t want to become experts in cloud services so they will sell their products and we’ll provide all of the hosting services and support for them.”
Blore believes more organisations will follow suit and that there will be even greater uptake of the cloud as the world begins to return to normal.
He said: “We’ve not seen a sudden uptake in migrations to the cloud in the past year as most companies have been battening down the hatches and weathering the storm. What I suspect we’ll see is a significant pick up when the brakes come off.
“A lot of people will have recognised over this period of time that cloud computing offers significant benefits. So, where they might have been struggling to log into office-based systems over this period, we might see them looking to cloud-based services in the future. Cloud computing provides fantastic flexibility, which I feel will be hugely important in a post-pandemic world.”
Skills, expertise and levels of service will be the driving force behind Netmetix making the most of that growth in take-up of the cloud.
Every Netmetix engineer sits an external examination every quarter as part of their contract to ensure they are true experts in their field and keep all of their skills up to date.
“We’ve got one of the most qualified workforces per head in the country,” said Blore. “We’ve got seven Microsoft Gold Certifications in a 12-person headcount. Most Microsoft Partners aspire to get one and some larger companies might have three or four.
“We live or die by our technical competence. We’re not big enough in size to just keep going and getting new customers so it’s our technical expertise that brings in new clients.”
“A fundamental part of our business is that we don’t have long term contracts with clients. The only time we do is when it is dictated by third party suppliers. This means our customers are free to walk away whenever they want. It keeps us on our toes when it comes to providing the best possible service” said Blore.
“All of the services that we provide are done so on a rolling monthly basis and our client retention over the past year has been 100 per cent. Which is in a period where most of our team have been working from home. It proves that customer service is ingrained in the team. We haven’t been able to watch over their shoulders, and yet everybody has just done it because that’s what we do. It’s habitual.”
However, people with the right skills are few and far between in the jobs market. So the company has begun a policy of growing their own.
Blore said: “One of the challenges we’ve found is getting people with the skills we need. We are ahead of the curve which means people with ready-made skills aren’t out there.
“Our strategy now is to develop skills through apprenticeships. We take them on. Put them through our training programme and that’s our conveyor belt now for bringing our skills level up.
“We’ve got two who have come through the apprenticeship already and we want to keep them and develop more. We don’t lose staff!”
February will mark the company’s 21st anniversary and after the Covid-19 crisis put paid to any plans for 20th celebration, they may be able to celebrate this one.
On a personal level, the past 24 months has also denied Blore the opportunity to enjoy one of his passions away from the office.
“Somebody told me when I started the business that it takes 20 years to become an overnight success,” he said. “So, I’ve been waiting for that moment to come along! We wanted to have a celebration but we’ll make sure we do something as the regulations relax.”
He added: “I run the Cobra Register, a classic car club, and it seems such a long time since we’ve been out in our cars. We normally do quite a few events each year but they have all been cancelled due to Covid, so we can’t wait to get back out there.
“I’ve had a Vincent 500 motorbike for 40 odd years and I bought a Vincent 1000 last October, which is the one that I’ve always wanted. I’ve still got a Cobra and we bought a Dino Ferrari too, but they’ve been nowhere for a year.”
So, instead, he’s been honing his driving skills in something a little slower paced at his home near Lutterworth, Leicestershire.
“We bought a tractor in the past couple of years,” Blore said. “We’ve got about ten acres and we were killing the ride-on mower by trying to mow the paddocks with it so we decided we needed something a little bit bigger.
“Like all these things, you start off modest, so I was thinking I’d buy an old-fashioned tractor and ended up buying a brand-new John Deere, with all the whistles and bells!”. Spending three or four hours in the early morning sun cutting the grass is a real antidote to the pressures of everyday life.
If you’d like to find out more about Netmetix and how we can move you to the cloud then fill out our contact form below and one of our team will get back to you.
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas and whilst all your employees are sat at home eating mince pies and Christmas Dinner the last thing you want to be thinking about is your IT infrastructure overheads.
If your company is still working from on-premise servers, you will be aware that those things cannot turn off. They will always be ON, keeping your data safe and your network available. But what if you don’t want or need it available? I mean, how many people check their emails or compute-intensive CAD on Christmas Day other than using it as an excuse to get away from Great Aunt Jean’s story about that time you ate a real penny rather than a chocolate one?
Think about other times your consumption does not need to be at full throttle? Are you a 9-5 business? Why pay for consumption at 2 am? Are you a weekday-only business – then why pay for consumption on Sunday morning when you and your employees are only just thinking about coffee?
Luckily with Microsoft Azure, we can ensure that you can change your consumption to mimic the peaks and troughs in your business, whilst still keeping all your data safe and secure. If you’ve told all your employees to go home at lunchtime on Christmas Eve, then there really is no need to keep paying as if they’re all toiling away like Scrooge is their boss!
The difference this can make to your cost efficiency is impressive, with up to 85% savings* – to find out how much you could potentially save, try the Azure calculator.
*compared to Amazon RDS
No matter what your current on-premise server holds, Netmetix can safely migrate your infrastructure to the Cloud using CLOUDFLEX. Layered on Microsoft’s Azure technology to deliver a custom-built IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) environment to provide resilience, scalability and flexibility, and the broadest range of services available when compared to private cloud offerings.
If you’d like to find out more, then click the link below and fill out the short form so one of our team can get back to you.
We are so proud of our technical team here at Netmetix.
Here they are holding their latest set of certifications they have all passed, across areas such Microsoft Azure, Watchguard Firewall and ITIL.
Our constant drive for excellence means every technical member of staff passes an external certificate every quarter, keeping their skills as current as can be.
This ensures we deliver an outstanding service to our clients – and with a retention rate of over 98% we can see that our approach works.
Technology is changing at such a rapid rate it is so important our team keep up to date with the latest developments & best practices.
October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month – one of the most important things to realise in the fight against Cyber Crime is that we are ALL responsible for cyber security.
No longer does responsibility lie just with the I.T team!
End users must be vigilant and take steps to prevent incidents happening by taking a few basic measures…
Don’t click on suspicious links in Emails or Texts – if in doubt better to raise the issue with I.T than cause an incident! These are becoming more sophisticated in their format but it is always better to err on the side of caution.
Don’t use open Wi-Fi networks, and if you have to ensure you don’t send any secure data across them – click on the image below to watch a short video highlighting the risks of this.
Protect your money! Never make changes to regular payments without speaking to a person you know at the company, even a video call or visit if needs be, and minimise who can make payments on behalf of your business.
Use strong passphrases for your logins and ideally have Multi Factor Authentication in place to really protect key data. Don’t leave passwords lying around or share them with colleagues!
Don’t overshare on Social media – criminals are becoming increasingly clever about how they target businesses. Even personal or family accounts of owners & directors can be targeted to obtain information about decision makers being on holiday and try to leverage this with other staff!
Hopefully these tips will be helpful for you when it comes to protecting yourself and your business – they are by no means exhaustive but are a good start.
Get in touch if you would like to know more.
Business continuity is a concern for many organisations, particularly in the case of SMEs who don’t necessarily have the resources to respond quickly and effectively. 73% of businesses have now had some type of operations interruption in the past five years, and businesses must ensure that they have the correct measures in place to counteract these forms of disruption. Strategies must be well-thought out, with proactive tactics such as cyber-security, and frequent system backups for efficient disaster recovery (DR).
Paul Blore, Managing Director at Netmetix, explores the DR strategies available to organisations.
Historically, on-premise backup systems that use removable media in the form of tapes or disk drives to store backup data, have been used to try to ensure continuity in the event of a disaster. However, this requires manual action and designated employees, that can lead to human errors and failed or incomplete backups. Moreover, removable media is typically a consumable that needs replacing regularly; a considerable cost that is not ideal for SMEs.
When it comes to conventional DR, it works through the duplication of all critical systems, installed at a different location and ready to take over if disaster strikes at the primary location. Although a working solution, this is expensive, and many businesses have concerns over the required budget for ‘what if’ technology that may never be needed.
Cloud technology has received a flood of attention, and in the case of DR, has the ability to drastically reduce storage costs, whilst making entire system backups much more cost-effective and straightforward. All of the leading cloud providers now offer backup as a core service of their cloud offerings, and clients can generally select whichever backup schedule and retention policy they wish to utilise.
This also addresses the DR aspect as well, with major cloud service providers employing large-scale resilience and redundancy to ensure their systems remain operational. In the unlikely event an entire data centre goes down, client systems could operate from a second data centre. The very best systems can also provide a full DR service for on-premise systems by replicating on-premise data in almost real-time into the cloud. Then, if disaster strikes, the systems can automatically allocate computing resource e.g. CPUs, RAM etc. and “spin-up” virtual servers to seamlessly take over until normal service is resumed on-site. Once the disaster has passed, the cloud systems will “fail-back” to the on-premise systems and synchronise all data that was changed during the disaster window.
Operating on usage-based costings, this type of system is ideal as the secondary or replicated IT infrastructure lays in wait until it’s required, and businesses need only pay for it when, or if, they need it – perfect for SMEs with minimal budget. This means that when it comes to defining a DR strategy, businesses now have far more options available, with genuine DR systems now a cost-effective possibility for SMEs.
With so many businesses relying on digital technology to function day to day, business continuity should be a key priority for organisations, and will continue to be in the foreseeable future. After all, businesses will cease to function at full capacity if a disaster strikes and the necessary procedures are not in place; and as a direct result will experience a significant increase in downtime and expenditure, with a decrease in potential profits.
It’s now easier than ever to migrate to the cloud and take advantage of the inbuilt backup and DR options available. With the rate of cyber attacks on businesses of all sizes increasing significantly, no company is immune from the threat of hacking, human error or natural disasters, and there is no longer an excuse to not have these systems and procedures in place.
As we look back over the past year in technology, Paul Blore, our MD, shares his predictions for the digital trends disrupting business in over the next twelve months; including the challenge of cyber security issues, the rise of cloud computing adoption and how continued investment in emerging technologies can help tackle the UK’s productivity problem.
With an increasing number of high profile data breaches over the last year, it comes as little surprise that the issue of data security has become a key topic for businesses of all sizes, and rightly so; there’s no doubt that the number of these types of incidents will only increase further during 2018, in line with the value of data.
Whilst no business wants to be the target of any type of attack, a common issue we see is that many businesses still see IT as a tactical overhead rather than a vital strategic investment. SMEs often believe they are too small a fish to be a target for hackers but if data is valuable to a business, then it’s valuable to hackers. With such an increase in the number and sophistication of cyber attacks, we expect to see a greater emphasis from the security industry at large, on reviewed cyber security measures and strategic business protection.
In relation to the cloud, we have noticed a seismic shift in opinions surrounding security. In recent years businesses have been cautious about committing to the cloud, fearing that with no physical security, data could be vulnerable to attack. However, businesses are starting to recognise that the cloud might actually be a safer place for data than an on premise server and as such, are now focused on the operational benefits of moving to the cloud.
With 60% of workloads expected to be operated in some form of hosted cloud service by 2019, we are already seeing significant growth in the adoption of cloud computing amongst businesses of all sizes. As a result, the choice of providers is greater than ever before and therefore the consideration of a multi-cloud environment is becoming more and more popular. However, for many organisations that cannot justify spreading their infrastructure across multiple data centres, we anticipate an uptake of customers hosting with one provider, but using a number of web-based applications from a variety of vendors that host elsewhere. This multi-cloud approach is an unintended consequence rather than a planned strategy for many organisations, but importantly from the user’s perspective, it is completely invisible.
The Technological Revolution
It has been well publicised that the UK lags behind much of Europe in workforce productivity. The Confederation of British Industry has argued that the government should be encouraging greater uptake of new technologies, such as the cloud, to help close the productivity gap between the UK and neighbouring countries. Thankfully, the government seems to be listening, announcing an investment of £500 million in the Autumn Budget to be targeted at technological initiatives from full-fibre broadband to new start-ups. Some argue that the funds committed do not go far enough, but with such a focus placed on the UK being at the forefront of a technological revolution, it’s certainly a step in the right direction. With continued investment in emerging technologies and services, businesses will be able to – flexibly and cost-effectively – deploy the very latest applications that automate processes, provide complex analytics and boost productivity.
With just over 5 months until GDPR comes into full effect, if they haven’t already, it’s time for businesses to start reviewing their processes to ensure compliance, or risk facing hefty fines. Netmetix MD, Paul Blore, shares his thoughts on how cloud migration can help businesses ensure they meet the regulatory compliances, whilst providing affordable enterprise grade cloud security.
The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was designed to change the way that businesses approach data privacy in order to protect the personal data of all EU citizens. With such widespread reform, it’s no surprise that it is set to have a huge impact on UK businesses. Every modern industry has access to huge volumes of data that after 25th May 2018, must be stored, secured and managed in a way that is compliant with the new regulation. For a small business, this could be quite an overwhelming task.
For large organisations, whilst it is still a significant challenge, they are appropriately geared up to throw huge resources and hire dedicated staff to address the issue. But what about SMEs? The serious penalties at stake, including fines of up to €20 million or 4% of global annual turnover, could bring smaller businesses to their knees if they are caught out by GDPR. So, how can SME’s approach the issue of GDPR compliance effectively without the huge resources of larger organisations?
The first step for any business should be to assess their current infrastructure. For those businesses without a heritage in digitalised systems, many view IT as a tactical decision, only considering a short-term approach to addressing it. The problem with this strategy is that systems can quickly become overly complex or outdated, making the issue of GDPR even tougher to overcome. So what can businesses do to change this?
The answer is to start looking at IT as a strategic decision. For a large proportion of organisations, IT is a significant element which likely plays a part across each department, so it makes sense to consider the best way to approach it in the long term. This is where cloud technology can help. Not only does it provide a business with a future-proof and scalable infrastructure, it can also provide an efficient way to prepare for GDPR.
Cloud platforms such as Microsoft Azure also provide access to affordable enterprise grade security, allowing businesses to protect their data better than ever before. An experienced Managed Service Provider (MSP) is also best placed to advise on how businesses need to arrange their infrastructure in a way that will keep their data, and their customer’s data, compliant with the incoming regulations.
With the threat of such huge penalties, the consequences of failing to comply with GDPR would be felt that much harder by an SME, with narrower profit margins compared to an enterprise. According to the latest research from Aldermore, less than one in ten SME owners in the UK fully understand what GDPR actually means for their business or have taken the appropriate steps to prepare for it, which makes the situation even more worrying. Therefore, with the GDPR start date quickly approaching, it’s vital that SMEs review their processes and see that the cloud can offer a cost effective, fast track to compliance.
Netmetix has been awarded two further Gold Competency certifications from Microsoft. Gold Competencies recognise the highest levels of achievement in specific technical areas.
The new Gold certifications are for:
Gold Application Integration
Netmetix already has two Gold Competency certifications for:
Gold Cloud Platform
Gold Midmarket Solution provider
giving us four in total and distinguishes Netmetix as a leading provider of Microsoft Cloud solutions and services.
Netmetix becomes a Business Wish Warrior for Alex’s Wish
Netmetix is proud to announce that we have partnered with local charity Alex’s Wish, to support it in raising money for a cause that is close to all of our hearts.
Alex’s Wish was set up in 2012 to eradicate Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy; one of the most common fatal genetic disorders diagnosed in children. Caused by a fault in the dystrophin gene, it triggers every skeletal muscle to deteriorate as muscle fibres break down and are replaced by fibrous fatty tissue. Primarily affecting boys, the disorder has a 100% fatality rate with most not surviving beyond their twenties.
There is no cure and currently no treatments that will help all boys, which is why it’s the charity’s wish to help find a cure to Duchenne. Anyone with a family, whether young or grown up, can understand that it’s a parent’s worst fear to find out that your child has a life-threatening condition, so Netmetix is determined to support Alex’s Wish as much as possible to work towards achieving its goal with this devastating disease.
The partnership was launched in September 2017 after we met with Emma Hallam, Alex’s Mum and Co-Founder/Director of Alex’s Wish. Emma gave an in-depth and thought-provoking presentation to our team explaining all about their cause, the amazing work that they’ve done so far in raising money and awareness, and how we can help support them with much needed funding.
There was no question on whether we would support Alex’s Wish but we wanted to go further, in a way that would ensure that the donations continue to grow in size and that we are able to provide the charity with regular contributions. We decided that we would make a monthly recurring £10 donation to Alex’s Wish for every new cloud server that we deploy, so that every successive month will build on the previous month ensuring growing contributions for the charity.
Emma Hallam from Alex’s Wish comments: “I was really impressed that after our initial presentation, the support from Netmetix was given immediately. The whole business is really behind our cause and I think it’s only going to lead to really good things in the future. We’ll be working with Netmetix very closely to make sure we explore more fundraising opportunities and make the most of a really exciting partnership.”
Paul Blore, Managing Director at Netmetix adds: “We’re keen to help raise the profile of the charity as much as possible so in addition to regular donations, we’re also looking at getting involved in some of the charity’s events and putting together some exciting ideas of our own for all our staff to engage with the project. So, watch this space for news of forthcoming charitable events from Netmetix!”
For more information on Alex’s Wish, please visit www.alexswish.co.uk and click here to see the charity’s latest video about all their vital work to help tackle Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy disease.
Can you go into detail about your role at Netmetix?
Primarily, as Technical Manager, I am the overall technical lead at Netmetix, responsible for all technical output of the business, from complex design to more hands on tasks.
I manage a team of System Administrators, System Analysts and Technical Support employees to ensure our support operation goals are achieved and the processes run smoothly.
I also oversee the development, design, and implementation of both new and existing customer systems; this involves ascertaining project objectives and expectations, of which I develop strategic plans and implement accordingly.
Due to the current climate regarding cyber security, it’s my job to ensure that the security of the information systems, communication lines and equipment of all our internal system and our customers’ systems. Part of this process includes identifying emerging information technologies to be assimilated, integrated and introduced within the IT infrastructure.
I’d describe myself as an innovative IT leader and solutions architect with a passion for using technology to solve problems, improve processes and drive business forward.
Can you share some of your experience prior to working with Netmetix?
After working my way through the helpdesk tiers, I went on to own a similar sized IT support organisation and worked at various blue chip businesses in senior roles.
I have brought a wealth of both technical and management experience to Netmetix, backed up by a track record of successful project delivery in fast paced and demanding environments.
With experience across a variety of industries including distribution, finance, insurance, journal fulfilment, manufacturing, utilities and call centres, I have the ability to quickly understand a variety of businesses and this coupled with a technical background enables me to help delivery solutions that are both advantageous to the bottom line and technically robust.
Why did you join Netmetix?
I had heard good things about Netmetix so the initial reputation was a factor. After taking a short break from work, friends in the industry relayed positive things regarding the business and what it was achieving in the industry and I thought my proactive style would fit in really well here — especially in this particular role.
Is there anything in particular that stood out as attractive at Netmetix from an employee point of view?
The people working in the business, the atmosphere and the working ethos came across very well and I knew from meeting the owner and senior management that this would be a good fit for me.