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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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View from the channel – Vapour hits Tech Reseller headlines

It's one of our favourite magazines in the industry, and last month, our CEO Tim Mercer was a key interviewee within Tech Reseller, sharing his 'view from the channel'. If you missed the write up, you can read it in full here...

Q. How’s business? Better or worse than 12 months ago? And how confident are you about the future?

We are better placed for the future after having invested heavily in cloud technology services in 2019.

Our network has cost us millions – in terms of time, money, ongoing resource and support – and our engineering alone continues to cost hundreds of thousands per year. But by maintaining the level of resilience we set out to deliver – on 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.

This has been key to us developing our reputation as a trusted, agile, cloud-first Managed Service Provider, and I’m now confident that our thoughts on the market are coming to fruition. We’ve got a 96% recurring revenue rate which shows how the channel is responding.

Q. In what areas (product or market sector) are you experiencing strongest demand?

Without a doubt, cloud voice, underpinned by secure networks and security. At the start of 2019, Avaya hailed us as one of the fastest-growth mid-market voice partners in the UK.

Our clients – VARs and Avaya partners – are looking for cloud specialists, not jacks of all trades, and the fact that we came into this space before the market was ready for cloud, means we’ve now earned our stripes in this respect.

There is also a definite shift into partnerships, which is entirely what our ‘collaborate not compete’ business model is here to support – we don’t go after end user business.

Q. Where is business proving most difficult (product or market)?

It’s about education for me – there’s a very mixed picture when it comes to the market’s understanding of products and services. This is why I strongly believe collaboration between specialists and non-specialists is the key.

Look at SD WAN for example. There is a lot of information out there – much of it wrong. Therefore, players like us have an obligation to educate the channel, who can in turn educate their clients, so that businesses buy the correct services.

Q. How have you changed/are you changing business operations to exploit new opportunities?

As I eluded to above, being an MSP has long been one of our key strengths. That’s why many years ago, 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. But we’ve really ramped up our comms on this, over the past 12 months, in response to market demand.

Take voice – by having sight of everything from handset to delivery, we can see the whole length of the traffic, and provide a consistent, defined and trusted service level, which people are prepared to pay more for. We’re currently in the process of finalising the biggest managed service deal in our company’s history, which is proof that years of effort are paying off.

We are also always looking at new technologies that complement the services we deliver and support. We’ve seen some huge advancements in our video portfolio over the last 12 months for instance, and we’re still only touching the tip of the iceberg.

That said, technology is changing so fast and while our partners seek confidence that their investment is future-proofed, they also don’t want to be the guinea pigs of new tech that hasn’t been tried and tested. That’s why we spend vast amounts of time, money and development resource in beta phases. We also have to upskill with people and processes that can support every new innovation we implement.

Q. What do you see as the biggest challenges facing channel businesses today?

The channel feels like it is becoming smaller, with an increasing number of mergers and acquisitions, particularly involving traditional hardware telcos on the hunt for recurring revenues. There is also a change in larger American players offering master agent models, which I don’t believe always work with the diversity of our channel, especially in voice and video.

There is currently so much choice too, meaning the channel also has to be the training ground for salespeople and clients alike. I think there is still, sadly, a tendency among many firms, to overpromise on things they don’t fully understand, just to get the sale. This needs to change – hence my recurring point about collaboration.

Q. Could vendors and distributors do more to help you overcome them? And, if so, what?

I think it’s a tough call. Non-cloud specialists, for example, are all fighting for the share of the market that is relevant to them. If a customer expresses a cloud need that the VAR can’t satisfy, the threat from competition increases massively, so they do what they can to protect the relationship. I genuinely believe partnerships, rather than fake promises, are the key to this. 

I go back to education, which I think the distributors are getting much better at. Utilising technology to help the channel – whether harnessing video, webinars or other online apps – will help to continually foster channel-wide relationships by driving that all-important ongoing communication and learning.

Q. Are customers becoming more demanding, and, if so, in what ways?

Customers are becoming more switched on. Technology is appearing in their inboxes or on social media and they are asking questions as to how it could work within their businesses. They’re questioning – could it save time, efficiencies, make more profit, or generally help us win more work? This can only be a good thing – inquisitiveness and innovation go hand in hand, as long as the right people have a voice at the table.

Q. If you could change one aspect of your job, what would it be and why?

I’d like more time.

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