In 1991, Liong Eng told his pregnant wife he wanted to take the leap and start a business, and if it didn’t work out, he would just apply for another job.
Thirty years on, his passion for running Perth-based Silverfern IT has transcended time. As he pointed out, it has been an eventful journey as he witnessed the transformation from hardware to software and from one-off deals to recurring income models.
However, one thing has remained consistent: Eng's razor-sharp focus on technical capabilities.
“When you set up a business, especially at the very beginning, you're very much in a survival mode,” he said. “The key here is about managing our own expectation, our ability and knowing the type of business that you know you want [to build].
“It slowly worked out for the first five years or so, but like running any business, it's never plain sailing. There will be uptime and downtime.
“When you are passionate and enjoy what you do, suddenly time is no longer a concern. When you work with a good bunch of people and you’re happy, suddenly you realise 10, 20, 30 years have passed.”
The decision to steer the business through its own transformation began to take shape about four years ago, Eng said, to strongly focus on security — something he recognised as one of “the best decisions I ever made” — but despite presenting an abundance of opportunities, finding the right talent was key.
During FY22, Eng expects the cyber security business will provide a significant return on investment as it embarks on setting up its own security operations centre (SOC). This will bring enterprise services using IBM Security for the small to medium business sector.
Silverfern is an IBM Security Gold partner and works closely with them on opportunities in state government agencies and larger commercial organisations. The business also has relationships with Rapid7, Fortinet, WatchGuard, Trend Micro and Webroot.
Recently, Silverfern and IBM Security scored one of its largest security projects with a Western Australia state government agency.
“To be able to lead such a big project within a state government agency, it gives us the confidence that we are being recognised as a serious security service provider in the state,” Eng said.
“In the last 12 months, we have also had a few other successful engagements with other government agencies in terms of providing better monitoring tools to give them clarity on what's happening within the department and their data.”
In September, Silverfern also secured a deal with diversified mining services provider Mineral Resources to further enhance its security posture, featuring the IBM QRadar SIEM, Resilient SOAR and QRadar Advisor with Watson cognitive artificial intelligence software.
Eng said the business must ensure its own internal resources are capable of doing the job at hand as most vendors are based along the eastern seaboard in a different time zone, so being self-sufficient is a priority.
“We have been very fortunate during the pandemic where people are a lot more aware that they must do something about protecting their customer information, data and making sure when staff are operating devices or applications remotely, it must be in a safe manner,” he said.
As a result, Eng said Silverfern was taking the opportunity to grow its security presence, hiring additional security analysts and also kicking off a new program to entice university graduates.
“There’s a wonderful opportunity to train people that are very hungry and you can train them to fit in with the organisation,” he said.
“We are a small boutique-sized company with less than 20 people, but we’re a highly technically focused organisation. So far, that model has worked well for us."