This edition of IT in the spotlight is heading down under! We’re so excited to be speaking with James Clowes, IT Manager at Dynamic Bradview Roofing and Orakor in Brisbane, Australia. Some of you might remember James from MSP Minds #3: The Starters Guide to IT Automation! Today, he’s back in the spotlight, and talking to us about how he got started in the IT services business, tips for success in managing a corporate IT environment, and providing some essential best practices that he’s learned from 12 years in the IT business!
So James, how did it all begin?
I started out working in sales, selling men’s fashion believe it or not! I was hired by an MSP for my customer service skills, and I started out as a junior helpdesk assistant, before climbing the ranks quickly over 3 years. After a few more years as an SDM, the opportunity presented itself to go to internal IT, and I made that transition. I’ve worked both sides of the track, so I think I’m well-placed to talk about the relationship and dynamics between the two!
Tell us more!
I think it’s fair to say that a lot of MSPs would rather dislodge or displace internal IT than work with them, and they see internal IT as a challenge that they need to overcome if they want to be successful. However, traditional MSPs can’t compete with a strong internal IT function. However good they are at their job, they’re seen as a salesperson, selling services, while I see myself more as the leader of higher-level tasks, the network manager, the person improving those services rather than just letting them drag along.
An external MSP also can’t access the knowledge that internal IT has about the business. We might have an MSP come in and tell us how we can store our data in the cloud for example, but for us, it’s not necessarily about the data itself – it’s more about the availability. I see this a lot where there’s an assumption on the MSP side, but the knowledge is on the internal IT side. If an MSP wants to be successful working with internal IT, they need to stop trying to sell an idea, make it less about a dictatorship and more about collaboration. I always listen to what the MSPs say and then as internal IT I process all my options and decide on the best course of action, with my deeper knowledge of the business in mind.
Do you have any advice for people who are running internal IT?
You definitely want to collaborate with MSPs where you need additional capacity or for one-off projects. For your own day-to-day running of the business, however, you want to find technologies like Atera which means you don’t need to be paying a consultancy between 150 and 300 dollars a month per seat just to keep your machines patched and monitor the storage quotient. I always say “Run your internal IT like an MSP – but the best kind of MSP!” A lot of traditional managed IT services can add bloat to the process, they charge you extra for what they label premium services. This can be something as simple as maximizing your Office 365 deployment where I see this as something you should be skilled enough with to manage internally. Especially when it comes to things like Security and Compliance policies. On top of that, if there’s a problem, your users have to go through 2 or 3 levels of support before they can get the fix they need, which could be as basic as “I can’t get into my emails.” You want this dealt with in 2 minutes, and that means cutting out a lot of the fat. If you can leverage a pay-per-technician model for internal IT like I have, then it’s just you to 250 staff, people can call you directly, you’re not managing a huge ticket queue, and with intelligent automation, it’s a manageable workload. Even if you have 100 jobs a day, you’re able to reply to and resolve issues quickly. Of course, this saves the business money, they’re paying for your role instead of each monitored device across the organization, but it also allows the business to work better and provides employees with the excellent turn-around times and support they need.
So, our readers should look to run their internal IT like an MSP?
Yes, exactly. If you run your team like a pay-per-technician MSP you cut out a lot of the fat, all that excess that internal IT has a negative reputation for. There’s often one person monitoring servers or networks for 8-hour days, multiple junior helpdesk staff who are triaging and sending tickets to the right person who can provide a fix. It’s slow. With Atera, I can get things done a lot faster, I have a single transparent and consistent cost, the ability to automate daily tasks, alerts for when issues are starting to appear, and then critical alerts for when things really go wrong. This means that a lot of concerns are taken off my plate.
Can you give us some examples?
I don’t have to worry about updating PCs for example, or making sure hard disks have storage left. At our company, most users have PCs with 256GB SSD, and 150 GB of that is suddenly taken over with email. Atera helps me to identify that early, take away shared inboxes or make other proactive changes. I started with Atera just to patch PCs, but the product has come so far since then. Now the new features and updates come out almost faster than I can deploy and use them! I use Atera across three companies, I set up one business with threshold profiles, and I can see a copy of the alerts too, so I can stay up to date with what’s happening there. Another uses Atera for RMM and also benefits from the Antivirus integration plus we’re currently implementing the helpdesk through the PSA component with the business rapidly growing.
At Dynamic Bradview, we now use Atera for a lot more in terms of our remote monitoring, we’re looking at event logs, backups, we’re using automation for tasks like disk cleanup, and it’s made deploying new PCs a whole lot easier. I used to install the agent and then manually install all the software, but now it’s a single click to install a whole software bundle. With offices spread across the entire eastern seaboard of Australia as well as overseas this single feature release from Atera has simplified my deployment and removed any need for additional 3rd party applications. The only thing I need to sign in for now is domain join, which let’s be honest – I could probably automate too, especially if I got some help from the geniuses in the Atera community!
Ah, you mean our growing Shared Script and SNMP Libraries?
Those are definitely amazing resources. I’ve also found that Atera is a community in so many ways. There’s the great Facebook group that is really active, and individual Aterans are happy to help with any challenges. Recently I was tasked by management to look at tools to assist them with their job. All of my searchings led to posts by ITP’s who seemed to suffer from the “God complex” which was very frustrating. The standard copy and paste response were “Stop using tech to solve a management issue!” But as the world has changed over the last 18 months, so must we. I reached out to a fellow Ateran, and he had clients experiencing the same problems. He recommended some software that was ideal for our needs, fit within our price point, and so on. I began a trial immediately given the trusted recommendation from a fellow Ateran and found the software to fit our needs perfectly. This saved me what would have been days of trialing software to find what worked for our needs. Being able to leverage community support is a real value add.
Want to learn more about using Atera to add automation to your corporate IT environment? Schedule a call with one of our team.