Two disruptive cloud tech firms – both headquartered in Yorkshire – have announced an industry collaboration to supercharge the digital transformation solutions delivered to clients.

Managed IT specialist CloudCoCo, based in Leeds, will strengthen the cybersecurity offering provided by us here at Vapour. And in return, we will enhance CloudCoCo’s infrastructure with the addition of security-first SD-WAN connectivity – a cost-effective, scalable cloud technology that integrates network and user security, with ease, for high performance remote working.

The alliance signals the latest in a series of strategic partnerships for us – as an organisation that has never shied away from joining forces with the industry’s brightest talent, when approaching customers’ digital transformation projects.

“Organisations – certainly in the larger SME market and above – don’t expect or want a vendor to be a ‘jack of all trades’ anymore,” explained CEO Tim Mercer. “They seek to place their trust in a small number of proven experts who will listen carefully to the brief and deliver exactly what the business needs. Partnerships, in this environment, are therefore key. But they have to be carefully formed, between specialists whose technologies, standards, and cultures, are on a par, with no exceptions.”

With both companies closely aligned with enterprise cybersecurity giant Fortinet, the credibility of the two brands was clear when discussions to partner first began.

“We’re here to demystify cloud technologies to make the impossible, possible,” Tim added. “You can only do that by remaining straight-talking and customer focused at all times, and sometimes going against the grain. We’re not afraid to do that, and neither is CloudCoCo. I think both companies – and the teams within them – are respected for their honesty, so we’re a good fit when it comes to devising solutions, together.”

Like Tim, Mark Halpin’s cloud-first vision was also dismissed when he too left the corporate world to set up CloudCoCo. Fast forward three years, and the business now has more than 1,000 customers, £27m turnover, and has recently acquired managed service provider IDE Connect and Nimoveri IT Support.

“I was told I was cloud cuckoo for believing the managed IT sector had become slow, unresponsive, boring and broken, so in April 2018 I left my long-term job and built a company of agile, fiercely passionate, and supremely talented cloud, cybersecurity, connectivity, hardware and hosted voice professionals,” explained Mark.

“Tim and I share a similar back story and many values too – not least a passion for delighting customers with the help of progressive people and powerful technology that doesn’t have to be complicated. This partnership could mean great things for both our respective teams. CloudCoco has an unlimited ambition in terms of growth, so the future starts now.”

Vapour is also forecasting 25% revenue growth by the end of the financial year.

Application performance, Borne, and consolidations… it’s been such a busy quarter for Vapour boss Tim Mercer, he could probably get through an A-Z of musings! But here are his highlights from the last three months…

Well, it’s the quarter when the world usually slows to a different pace because of the summer holidays, but with face-to-face contact resuming and the final Covid restrictions being lifted, there’s been a different energy in the business environment over the last three months.

We’ve had more ‘real life’ interaction with customers, and each other, since the start of July, and our charity golf day provided a fantastic opportunity to get together in a different setting, and catch up while raising a few pounds for Borne - £6385 to be precise!

I headed to Technology Live earlier this week too, and was pleased to see such a buzz about the place. Because of course, as CEO of a tech firm, I welcome the use of applications and platforms to help us do business, but you still can’t beat in-person dialogue, for certain types of interaction, such as this.

I sat on a panel which debated the topic of collaboration and diversification - two themes which have been core to Vapour’s evolution over the years.

There are different trains of thought on this topic, of course, which goes some way to explaining the sheer amount of ongoing M&A activity in the space right now. I don’t think this will slow any time soon, either. Many organisations are encountering challenges because they haven’t ‘kept up’, so their customer base alone presents an attractive opportunity for other firms. There are also pioneering innovators who are extremely hot right now, and the value of some of the deals being done reflects just how critical their engineering is to the future of workplace tech.

In terms of tech capabilities, generally, we’re seeing an increasing amount of interest at board level, surrounding what cloud products and services can now do. Where senior decision makers maybe wouldn’t have given tech procurement such a great degree of thought previously - beyond the size of the investment perhaps - they now want to be far more involved in the conversation. I think this reflects the fact that perceptions have changed, and people realise just how much of an enabler tech is (not to mention just how catastrophic a security flaw could be if remote working put sensitive data at risk, for instance!)

The customer experience (CX) is dominating strategic agendas - particularly in crowded industries - and the benefits that tech can leverage, could prove a key differential in this respect, for many businesses.

In terms of the tech that’s proving hot for Vapour, of course we’re still providing services like circuits and helping customers with some simple backup needs. But demand is also growing for solutions such as TeamsLink, which better leverages the communications capabilities of Microsoft users; SD-WAN which gives network control back to IT teams regardless of employee location; and application performance management which helps show organisations the true root cause of their bandwidth issues.

Such technologies - and the findings that often emerge from the projects that these solutions influence - aren’t just driving ICT related change. They’re being used to overhaul how entire business processes are managed - even how organisations are run. This is the power of the cloud, and it’s great to see minds being opened up on a broader scale, as to the role it plays in company resilience, as well as connectedness and compliance.

There’s a definite shift in the market towards true cloud players who understand this narrative - who come at a problem with a desire to fix it, not simply push a specific piece of kit. There’s an apparent desire to consolidate the number of suppliers that businesses rely on too - a trend which will no doubt continue, especially when the providers can grow to feel like an extension of organisations’ own teams.

In terms of the team dynamic within organisations, this quarter has continued to prove an interesting one. I spoke to Prolific North recently - about what I’ve learnt throughout my career, not just the last 18 months - and one of the points we explored was the level of understanding in the workplace.

I think, as a society, we have become more open and empathic towards other people, especially regarding mental health and wellbeing. I think sadly it was secondary for many businesses previously - with some organisations merely paying lip service to it. Now, ignorance or carelessness on the subject will not be tolerated, which is important. 

I elaborated on the fact that employees generally have more of a voice too - they’re no longer comfortable with being dictated to. This should make organisations better, more authentic employers, who live and die by their values, rather than simply posting them on their website because they sound good.

The challenge is to establish an approach that suits all - and values that ring true to those concerned - as people are individuals and no two companies are the same. There cannot be a linear top down or bottom-up approach either - the respect must be shared in all directions.

Let’s see what the next quarter brings…

Cloud technology disruptor Vapour has launched an SD-WAN solution – powered by Gartner Magic Quadrant leader Fortinet – to integrate endpoint and network security for the hybrid workplace.

Deployed as a software licence – with three levels of support available on a ‘price per user per month’ basis – the solution facilitates endpoint visibility and management, secure remote access for employees irrespective of location, and automated threat intelligence and response.

Mindful that IT leaders are seeking zero-touch provisioning, this technology is even simpler to roll out, as no hardware installation is required. The service has been 12 months in the planning.

With transparent visibility to each endpoint, the solution gives IT teams full control over individual compliance, and ensures that endpoint-borne risks such as firewall weaknesses or unsecure home routers will not pose a threat to corporate networks.

Security workflows are automated for proactive ongoing management, and dynamic controls mean the SD-WAN technology ‘fixes itself’, based on colleagues’ security posture, and the speed, performance, and traffic on the network at a given point in time. Potential security threats are also raised, and incidents contained almost instantly.

Commenting on the timeliness of the launch, Vapour’s CEO Tim Mercer said: “We all know that the traditional 9-5 is long gone, with employees seeking increasing flexibility from their working day –especially when it comes to location. Many people are keen to remain at home, some are hungry to return to the workplace, and others want the fluidity to decide from one day to the next.

“Hybrid working is definitely the future, but this isn’t the easiest to manage from a network security perspective. This is exactly why we’ve launched this solution – it’s powerful technology designed to liberate businesses, as they move forward in a post-Covid world.”

Vapour’s market research revealed that most organisations are reliant on VPNs only, but the cost and time associated with managing this approach to network security means the solution is usually available for a limited number of senior colleagues alone.

Vapour’s senior network engineer Salim Ramzan added: “The beauty of our software-focused solution to secure hybrid working, is that it is technically brilliant, but operationally effortless. Even the ‘Lite’ version of the licence includes functionality that I predict 40% of IT leaders don’t currently have.

“That’s the benefit of investing in a security-first cloud architecture – security lies at the heart of it, rather than it being an afterthought. For example, a sandbox feature automatically identifies potentially malicious inbound content, sends it to Fortinet and explores its validity, in seconds, before allowing it to land in the recipient’s inbox. If the sandbox is dissatisfied with the outcome, the content is held and the IT director is alerted so that they can investigate it further, in a secure environment, if they wish.”

Further information on Vapour’s Lite, Premium and Pro licences, can be found at vapourcloud.com/SD-WAN-hybrid-working

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