IT services company:
In a rural community, you need to be forward-thinking with your IT

For rural communities across the UK, home, lone and distributed working was the norm well before the pandemic. This requires clever IT that’s ahead of the curve. One managed services provider in Lancashire has been leading the way since 1996 – with the help of Fasthosts.

Richard runs a business providing IT services in the North West. As he sits down for his next video call, there’s a gorgeous virtual background on his screen showing a deep red sun-set over hills and trees.That’s the field behind my house, he says. It’s beautiful, but working in a rural location brings challenges for businesses. You have to be clever about how you set up and manage your IT.

Based in Lancashire, Richard’s team specialises in helping small businesses from the area. Rather than have a specialism for a particular sector, his focus comes from the land – and how to connect to the modern economy from it. He currently has about 100 retained customers, many of which are small firms, although his team also works with companies with up to 100 staff.

We’ve been helping small and micro businesses deal with all elements of their IT since we refocussed the company in about 2010, Richard continues. They need to operate in the office, at home, in remote locations or on the road. That requires having business systems in the cloud and a managed service.

This isn’t anything new, but for Richard’s clients, it’s been a must for far longer than others. In winter people can get snowed in quite easily,” he explains. They need to be able to work wherever they are and we’ve been responding to that for longer than most IT service providers.

To achieve this, Richard ran his own data centre for clients well before the advent of large-scale cloud computing. Customers could host their data and software on his servers and he would manage it, plus hardware, networking and phones.

A good example of a customer is a care home in north Lancashire. The owner works from a home office, with staff needing access to bespoke software on site. It’s in an old stone building with a number of internet lines in and difficulties with wifi. We manage everything for them, across locations.

Another client is a charity dealing with vulnerable people at different locations in the county. Their work is community-based and dispersed across eight sites. And because they deal with people at risk, security is incredibly important. We help them achieve that with highly secure managed services.

It’s clear Richard is dedicated to clients in his region with a very specific need. In April 2020 when the pandemic hit, two firms told us they’d cancelled all their outgoings except our support. It was the one critical thing they needed to keep going. He’s also keen to point out that he and his team of five are like a family and trusted by customers. In fact, Richard sits as an informal non-executive director for IT on some clients’ boards.

Supporting all this is Fasthosts, from where Richard originally started buying domain names and doing some webhosting about 10 years go. Then he noticed the CloudNX cloud platform and realised it could replace his own data centre servers. He moved from his own hardware to Fasthosts. Some of the space he uses is ‘bare metal’ meaning it’s a fixed size, suitable for businesses that have steady needs. He also uses the Flex servers, which can be scaled up at the press of a button.

We know that some clients will have a fixed number of staff and operations will not grow significantly over time, Richard explains. Others will need to scale up and down according to what they’re doing. An example is a software provider working with the NHS. Once a month, the software is used for a specific task, leading to a huge peak in demand. At other times, it’s minimal. Flex helps Richard deal with this and only pay for what is used.

When asked why he uses Fasthosts, Richard is quick to say, service and quality. We not only help to keep a rural economy running whatever happens, but we work with charities and care services that need assurance their IT will work. We can’t have downtime or interruptions – it can’t be flaky. That’s why we use Fasthosts.

Richard says there has only ever been one moment of downtime. It was only for a couple of minutes and on that occasion, the communication was excellent. They were up-front, open, helpful and explained what had happened and why it wouldn’t happen again. No one is perfect, but you can have a perfect response to a challenging situation.

“The account management is also excellent, he continues. Our account manager is always there and helpful. You don’t often get that level of service in an online world.”

As Richard prepares for the future, he expects more people to move to a managed service and believes Fasthosts can be trusted to help him deliver that to businesses across Lancashire. Cloud used to be interesting. Now it’s important. he says with a serious tone. People realise that to work anywhere you really need it. And CloudNX is the way we deliver it.

With such as loyal base of customers who rely on Richard to keep their businesses operational in remote locations, he’ll be keeping his eye on the latest innovations to support rural firms. As he does so, Fasthosts will be at his side.

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