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Virtual Offis locks into the Big Blue House

Virtual Offis locks into the Big Blue House

Managed service provider Virtual Offis has standardised on one vendor partner and claims such specialisation makes it more reliable than the many "backyard operations" branding themselves as MSPs.

Virtual Offis is a working example of a Blue House - all its systems are standardised on IBM technology. Founder and CEO Craig Allen, a former IBM employee himself, initially decided to use competing technology, but the mission-critical aspect of managed services left no leeway for delay of any kind.

"They [the competing vendor] had a return-to-base, warranty-replacement policy, which meant we had to send a mission-critical box to Singapore. We were writing service-level agreements and IBM was the only company that could meet those agreements. I mean, we have had engineers out at 3am on 60 minutes notice.

"You need to give security, backup, bandwidth, virus scanning, 24-hour support and a host of other services. What we are saying to the medium enterprise market is that we can deliver a full Blue House solution."

The advantage of the Blue House concept is that the company also gets to test technology ahead of the market. For example, Virtual Offis is currently implementing blade servers at a time when most other organisations are only just coming to terms with the technology.

"IBM is one of the few providers that covers every facet of IT," Allen said. "We pick three or four products and put them through the ringer. If they survive the stress test, we say, ‘this is the model'."

The MSP has partnered with distributor Avnet, which holds stock for the company and helps take the Blue House concept to the market.

"Unless you are working with a supplier who is committed to backing your service levels, you are barking up the wrong tree," Allen said. "Our motto is ‘to exceed customer expectation' so we need a supplier who is willing to invest in that."

That expectation can be pretty high. The company recently had its largest downtime ever - all of 12 seconds. "In the last 18 months, we have been down for a total of 17 seconds," Allen said.


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