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The channel is changing. ‘Digital transformation’ is no longer just a buzzword, and clients are now demanding cloud-first technologies within their business.

But Vapour has been cloud-first since our inception in 2013. In fact, our company is built on four cornerstones of cloud-first excellence – voice, video, networks and storage. It’s all we know.

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Becoming a managed service provider – the journey of Vapour Cloud

Tim Mercer, Vapour Cloud’s CEO, was recently interviewed by Comms Dealer, where he discussed the key factors behind Vapour’s progress as an evolving MSP. If you missed it, catch up on Tim’s thoughts, here…..

“It was always the ambition,” comments Tim Mercer, founder and CEO of Vapour Cloud. “I’d identified what – I hoped – was a gap in the market and sold everything I owned to start making the bold vision a reality. I wanted Vapour to deliver an end-to-end solution.

“In truth, it was even harder than I’d anticipated, largely because in 2013 the market wasn’t ready – on the whole – for a cloud-first proposition. We knew we were early adopters, and I think many people looked at us and thought we were crazy, especially because we ploughed a significant amount of our £4m investment into building and advancing our own network. But the creation of this secure network was in fact the first step towards ultimately becoming a managed service provider (MSP).”

Providing voice alone would have been easy, believes Tim. But then where was the company’s differential in an already-crowded channel?

“We combined the build of our own network with the fostering of SIP, tier one carrier interconnects, and the appointment of some of the most high-level technical resource in the industry. We knew these three additional components were also crucial to a managed service proposition, and they helped cement our position as a true cloud specialist along the way.”

Two years into the company’s journey in 2015, Tim acquired cloud services provider EveryCloud, in a move which didn’t just amplify the size of Vapour and its customer base – it also strengthened the company’s offering and provided access to some of the most advanced cloud skill-sets in the North of England.

“By this stage we could deliver not just straightforward cloud voice but also call recording, backup, storage, connectivity and so much more. And I genuinely believe we had – and continue to have – some of the best people in the game. Month by month, more IT companies wanted to work with us.

“Our proposition advanced further still over time, with us making the decision to bring in our own session border controls (SBCs) for example. This is such a critical part of the VoIP infrastructure stack but it’s complex, so even some of the biggest players choose not to get involved with it.

“However, our ‘techies’ know what they’re talking about, and have a hunger to own as much as they can of what we do. So, we made the move.”

Voice has always been a sensitive market, believes Tim, and despite how exciting VoIP is as a product, it has still attracted a bad reputation among many organisations.

“This is exactly why I wanted us to have sight of everything from the handset to delivery,” he explains. “I knew that if we could see the whole length of the traffic, we could provide a consistent, defined and trusted service level. People pay more for this specialism, and it is at long last paying off.”

Over the past few months, the Vapour team has been finalising the biggest managed service deal in the company’s history. But getting to this point has been years in the making.

“We haven’t just laid the foundations I’ve already explained,” comments Tim. “In 2015, we also pivoted the business and decided to concentrate solely on partnering with VARs, rather than going after end users.

“As a result, we can truly collaborate rather than compete with these resellers. We don’t want to offer IT support or hardware – we can’t! We leave that to them, while we concentrate on what we’re good at – something that is usually a gap in their proposition.

“We therefore create genuine partnerships in the truest sense and – because we have our own marketing automation engine – we can even sit inside these businesses and talk to/nurture opportunities within their own base. Everyone benefits, including, most importantly, customers.”

Vapour now offers eight classes of service across two private, ultra-resilient SD-WAN-ready networks, spanning five data centres throughout the UK. And Tim believes that remains one of the most compelling reasons why partners want to work with Vapour, especially on larger, more complex contracts.

“Our network has cost us millions, in terms of time, money, ongoing resource and support – our engineering alone continues to cost hundreds of thousands per year,” he admits. “We’ve got to keep it constantly up to date to maintain the resilience we want to deliver, when we’re powering connectivity for business-critical applications.

“But a network that is owned, run and managed by our own incredibly talented engineers is what ultimately ensures optimum robustness with a single, defined SLA.”

It’s not the first time he has mentioned the people within the business, and they are equally as paramount, Tim says.

“At board level we’ve had a shared vision and a clear strategy on what we want to achieve. This has cascaded down to our committed workforce who push boundaries every day for the partners we support. Their knowledge – and passion – really does contribute to our ability to be agile in the face of problems. We try to embrace every customer challenge, however complex.

“Looking past any short-term wins in favour of the ultimate MSP goal has also meant we’ve set milestones that really matter, and we’ve concentrated solely on the part of the market we really want to work with – VARs.”

So, what’s next for this MSP?

“Vapour grew by 51% last year, at the start of 2019 we were hailed as one of Avaya’s fastest-growing mid-market voice partners in the UK, and we have achieved a net recurring revenue rate of 96%,” Tim reflects. “But we’re really gathering pace now. We’ve had our eye on the long game since the beginning, and now things are getting really exciting!”


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