Virtual Offis shows maturity in the Big Blue House

Virtual Offis shows maturity in the Big Blue House

Managed service provider Virtual Offis is happy to be all grown up in a sector that is still in the stages of "juvenile delinquency". Founder and CEO Craig Allen believes the market has been hurt in the past by backyard operators who don't have the infrastructure or manpower in place to service their customers.

"We are still in our juvenile delinquency stage," he said, adding that Virtual Offis was in the fortunate position of being relatively experienced. "I think over the next 12 years you will see this part of the market mature."

Allen founded Virtual Offis in 1997 because he saw a need to provide customers with the ongoing support and infrastructure of managed services. "A lot of developers are fantastic at building applications, but six months down the track they are out the door and the customer is left with a system. These managed services give customers access to infrastructure they can only dream about."

Virtual Offis is a working example of a Blue House -- all its systems are standardised on IBM technology. A former IBM employee himself, Allen 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 it 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."

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