A lot can happen in two decades, and as tech experts ITPS move into their 20th year of trading, managing director Garry Sheriff highlights how digital transformation has changed the business environment and put cyber security at the top of the agenda.
“Anyone who has been in business for 20 years will understand the massive changes that have taken place in that time,” he said.
“There has been a transformational shift in the way technology is delivered. Back in 2000 an average IT infrastructure meant having to invest large amounts of capital in buying hardware and software, housing it on your own premises in an expensively kitted out environment, and then spending a lot of time, money and manpower on running it.
It’s widely understood that the world’s data now doubles every two years, and society’s reliance on increasingly complex technology and a data-driven approach, has seen our core activities of providing managed IT solutions and services gradually evolve into the role of educators too.
We’re now a business approaching £20m turnover, with a 140-strong team. Strange as it may sound, we don’t focus our efforts on selling our services. Instead we set out to educate and inform, helping organisations understand the myriad of choices out there, and the long term implications of those choices. Our ethos is that if you don’t really understand something you can’t make an informed choice about it.”
While the business’s headquarters are in Gateshead, it services a worldwide client base and has built up an enviable profile among the IT community over the years, as Garry explains: “It’s gratifying to be recognised as leading technical experts by our customers. As our ambassadors, they are a big factor in selling ourselves to new clients.
Like any other business we keep our finger on the pulse of what’s happening in and outside our industry, constantly monitoring emerging trends and planning our strategic growth around them. Over the last decade we have expanded our cloud offering, established our own £4m data centre, and consolidated our reputation as cyber security experts. All of which has helped us to take the business in exactly the right direction, which is to continue to deliver effective services for our customers.
One of the big factors in any organisation’s success is its ability to listen. The more we understand a client’s priorities and plans, the better we can advise them. There is so much choice around the best way to structure a cost effective, future-proof ICT infrastructure, and those choices can be bewildering, particularly if an organisation lacks a high level of in-house IT expertise. Often businesses are driven down a route based solely on cost, which whilst delivering potential savings, may be the wrong solution. Ironically this can be an expensive mistake to rectify.
In recent years the growth of cloud – in other words internet-based services – has been a real game-changer. It has transformed IT into a service-based model where clients can shape the size and scope of the service they need, which ultimately delivers much more business confidence and better value for money.
There are as many models as there are organisations. For instance we have clients who range from start-up businesses needing a simple 24/7 support arrangement, through to large corporates and financial institutions that opt for a full on or off site managed service.
The growth in the managed services market can be put down to the client retaining control, even while we assume responsibility for everything from creating the strategy through to implementation and support. The aim is to become embedded as part of the client’s team, removing the headache and cost of creating and maintaining a state of the art infrastructure and in-house staff with the required expertise.”
The rapid rise in data centre services has also played its part in ITPS’s growth. Around 40,000 square metres of data centre space is now added in the UK every year, making it Europe’s largest third party data centre market.
ITPS was ahead of the curve when it announced its own £4m North East data centre in 2014, with a raft of clients lined up and waiting to house their ICT infrastructures there. Such was the demand, a second data hall was created in 2018 and data hall 3 is already on the cards. “Our data centre is unique in that as well as our constant investment in a highly secure, high speed communications network with direct links to the UK’s main communications hubs, it has a 230-seat fully equipped workspace recovery facility that can be used to house staff in the face of business interruption, or used as extra project space when needed,” says Garry.
“From the client’s point of view all the risk and the necessary investment in IT rests on our shoulders rather than on theirs, which gives them a real degree of confidence that their systems and data are in safe hands.”
In the past business interruption meant fire, flood and accidents but increasingly the threat is cyber-based. Security and the risk of cyberattack now rank as the biggest concern among businesses across Europe, North America and Asia, and the growth in cloud services has only increased the risk. Every organisation is under constant attack, and as users become more mobile the risk increases and the threats get smarter.
Cybercrime has been transformed from an IT issue to a strategic risk issue that directors and senior managers cannot afford to ignore. A startling amount of organisations don’t see it that way until they are attacked, and their systems and data are locked and held to ransom for many thousands of pounds.
“At our popular cyber security briefings there regularly comes a lightbulb moment when we physically show someone how 500 online attacks a day are being made on their business,” adds Garry.
“The old traditional security solutions are not enough to protect today’s organisations. Business owners need to be constantly asking questions about security and making sure all the latest tools and current expertise are being applied to defend their interests. Awareness and education is key, ignorance is the enemy.
Experts forecast that by 2025, data will double every 12 hours. When big data combines with poor security, a business can be on its knees within minutes.
While ITPS will continue to be the team people turn to when no one else can help, we would far rather work alongside them to prevent and mitigate disastrous situations.
As the saying goes, ‘An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.'” It’s an old adage that has served this North East business well, and will no doubt continue to underpin its growth as it looks to a bright future.