We love hearing your MSP success stories, and this time – we’re talking to Jordan Butler from 2120 Networks, an IT Services Provider based out of Essex, United Kingdom. Jordan sat down with us to talk about how he came up with the idea of a Virtual IT Manager, his philosophy of pushing the best bits of Corporate IT to his SMB clients, and of course – he made us blush with what he loves about Atera!
Tell us about how you founded 2120 Networks.
I’ve been working in the IT industry for 12 years. I started out working in a computer shop, and even now those guys are like a second family to me. I was a techie but helped out with sales or whatever needed doing, and I found over time I could be really valuable to them. I knew servers, desktops, networking, online, I was an all-rounder.
Even back then, my favorite part of the job was speaking to the local business owners who came into the shop. I found I had a really natural way of communicating with them. Over the years I worked for a few different places. In 2011 headed to London to start an apprenticeship, and I worked for a while at an IT support company doing first-line support. We had clients doing the early stages of virtualization and the cloud, and I remember realizing I was forging a really broad skill set.
By 2017, I had been handling infrastructure for an Australian bank for a few years, and I was working 16/17 hour days, both employed at the bank and then filling my evenings and weekends with all manner of side hustles! I noticed a seismic change happening in the industry. Office 365 and Cloud were gaining traction, cybersecurity was in the headlines, I was getting approached all the time by small businesses looking for IT support and projects, and I thought “OK. Enough is enough. I need to do this properly.” I formed an LTD company, and that’s how 2120 Networks was born.
Do you have a philosophy for the business?
Our target market is small businesses. I have friends who work with 50-100-user companies, but I listened to the challenges of working with an in-house IT team or being let down at the last minute, or lengthy decision-making cycles and I knew that wasn’t for me. I’d rather have a dozen 5-10-user companies rather than a single 50-user client. That felt safer to me as well. There are hundreds of thousands of small businesses in London alone. They want the benefits of a good IT system, but the bigger players aren’t approaching them – so I saw that as an opportunity for 2120.
Our philosophy is about taking the best parts of corporate IT, the fundamental principles that help enterprises to thrive, and offering those too small businesses. Putting that big business mentality into the SMB.
Can you give us some examples of the principles you’re talking about?
I’ll give you three!
First, change management. I’ve found that in small businesses, customers rarely have processes in place for risk assessment and change management. There are a lot of slapdash processes going on. So, I sit with the customer and put together a plan that will detail how a change is going to occur. This could be something small like an employee borrowing a colleague’s desktop for a few days, or something larger like moving from a spreadsheet-based system to a Cloud database. The business owner often just thinks it’s like flicking a switch and they can move from one way of doing things to another, but I like to ask, “What would happen if we removed that system entirely and it was unusable?” The answer is often, the whole business would fall apart – so it’s essential to put systems and processes in place to cut out and manage risks.
The second principle I implement is the idea of continuous improvement. Here we leverage automation so that everything is always up to date for the client. Often, I see small businesses where updates haven’t been installed, there’s no data protection in place – I swear sometimes they think GDPR is the name of a new antibiotic they’re being prescribed to take! I tell my clients that they can feel confident that everything is updated every two weeks, and that with the visibility I have, I can stay on top of any issues that are occurring, with policies in place so everything happens automatically. Of course, I couldn’t do that without Atera.
Having a future-focused strategy is the final one. A corporation always knows the answer to the question, “Where will we be in 5 years?” With Atera, I can use Network Discovery to see what the gaps are and to make a plan with the customer, a roadmap for what we’re going to achieve. Internally, I live by the same rules, and I’ve found Atera helps 2120 Networks to be really future-ready, too. One example is the customer portal. Within a couple of hours, I created and branded our own customer portal. We can give customers access to that in minutes, and they can manage tickets and access Knowledge Base articles – whatever we put out there, they can benefit from. I can see how scalable this is, and how much legitimacy it gives us, seeming like a much bigger business than we are. And I can also see that as we grow, Atera will help this system to scale alongside our success.
Let’s talk about a “virtual IT manager”? What does that mean?
When you’re a small business, what you really want is someone at the end of the phone who can do everything. It sounds broad, but they just need someone that can help them when something goes wrong. They know what an IT manager is, but they can’t afford it. So, we thought, why don’t we call the top-tier service the virtual IT manager? What that means is you get direct access to me at the end of the phone.
Talking about scale, that sounds tough to scale!
The truth is, I wouldn’t have been able to do what I’ve done without Atera. A customer gets in touch and asks “can you log on?” and I’m already there before they can ask if I need TeamViewer credentials. I can respond immediately and that goes really far for the customer.
Working with so many businesses has allowed me to fine-tune how I want to run my own, and I’m all about being honest and straightforward with the client – challenging the stereotype of the typical IT guy who overcharges and acts without professionalism. I truly want to help small businesses, and Atera helps me to do that. Whether it’s the transparent, per-technician pricing, the easy remote access, or even the ability to see it all and jump in with proactive support.
I had a situation the other day where I saw that a customer’s CPU was running at 97%. I picked up the phone and said, “Is your PC running slow?” You should have heard the shock in their voice, “Oh my gosh – yes! I was about to call you!”
It sounds like customer service is another really important element of your philosophy!
Absolutely. I’ve heard horror stories from customers where their ex-IT service charged them thousands of pounds to do a simple task or locked them out of their own system when the relationship soured. When this occurs, the customer can end upheld over a barrel by one person. I never forget that as an MSP, we’re gatekeepers to a lot of sensitive and privileged information, and I don’t take that trust for granted.
Atera helps me pay back that trust to the client, tenfold. I’ve begged borrowed and bought a few other systems over the years, ConnectWise, Solarwinds, and the like, but honestly, they’ve got nothing on Atera. It’s perfectly designed for the nimble MSP. It gives us a suite of applications at a much lower cost, we use backup via Acronis, accounting via Quickbooks, Bitdefender for cybersecurity… the list goes on. And it’s like having someone working around the clock for you – a real secret weapon. Ultimately, I’m bringing more value to the customer, and I’m making more money for my own business, too.