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Ten years in the cloud

Atlas Cloud, the fast growing, Newcastle-based MSP, plans to increase its turnover by 400% over the next five years after receiving £2 million in new funding. ManagedIT finds out more from CEO Pete Watson

For the last eight years, since becoming CEO in 2012, Pete Watson has guided Newcastlebased managed service provider (MSP) Atlas Cloud through a series of funding rounds, making use of his background in sales and finance in the cloud and gaming industries to grow the business into an award-winning cloud specialist with customers throughout the UK.

Now, with £2 million of additional funding from the Northern Venture Capital Trust (VCT) Funds managed by Mercia, it is gearing up for another period of significant growth, with plans to increase turnover from £2.5 million to £10 million by 2025.

Atlas Cloud, 10 years old in June, specialises in cloud technologies, including hosted desktops and hosted applications, as well as cloud and IT consulting, bespoke cloud applications, telephony and network design and installation.

In addition, it offers a range of hosted IT services to help customers work more flexibly, productively and securely, including Microsoft Office 365, Citrix Workspace, Sage Cloud accounting, Mimecast email and web security and graphics virtualisation.

“When we started, our bread and butter was desktop as a service, virtual desktops, because the world was predominantly on-premise and looking to centralise systems and move into a datacentre,” explained Watson. “But with the growth of SaaS, we have had to evolve our strategy into Workspace because every company is now in a hybrid multi-cloud state.”

Through Citrix Workspace, Atlas Cloud can help companies and their employees cope with the complexity of such set-ups by providing a single space where users can access SaaS apps, on-premise apps, hosted and on-premise desktops and related files with single sign-on, from any device and any location, with security and control.

The company has also evolved its services offering and technology partnerships to address key customer concerns, notably around security.

“Because of the amount of cybercrime, we have had to partner with different vendors and today we do a lot of work with Mimecast around email encryption, for example. We are always looking at best of breed technology from a security and performance point of view because within our customer base we have legal and financial services and government contracts. We always make sure we are on the front foot in terms of security,” said Watson.

National presence
Atlas Cloud currently has around 130 customers throughout the UK, with about 35% of its business in the North East and more than 50% in the South East. They come from a range of industries, with particular concentrations in the legal sector, where there is a strong focus on security and cost-cutting, and in healthcare where Cloud Atlas’s expertise in graphics virtualisation is a key asset for doctors who might need to be able to access and view X-rays as they move around a hospital.

Watson says the sweet spot for managed services is companies with between 10 and 500 users. However, Atlas Cloud also offers licence sales to much larger enterprises.

“We have bids on for licence sales, so not a full managed service, for 26,000 users. One part of the business provides a full managed service for businesses, typically at the low end or mid-market. The other, the enterprise side of the business, is very much focused on consultancy services and licence sales,” he said.

A lot of larger managed service deals involve Citrix Managed Workspace, which Watson describes as the company’s ‘future technology roadmap’ and of growing interest to CIOs that are grappling with the consequences of shadow IT, in which more than a quarter of IT spend sits outside IT, making it hard to govern.

“In the IT market currently there’s a real growth in software as a service and there are growing cyber challenges. Citrix Workspace allows you to virtualise everything and secure it on-premise in a private datacentre. It also puts a security wrap around software as a service, which means it can be watermarked, controlled to a degree, with everything brought under a single sign-on, a single experience for the end user. Our business last year was all around security and delivering a high performance end user experience,” explained Watson.

Niche expertise
Atlas Cloud has been enjoying significant growth over the last three years, with an average compound annual growth rate of 52%. Much of this Watson attributes to the company’s expertise in Citrix Workspace and virtual desktops.

“Whereas in the past there would have been big managed services contracts and clients getting rid of staff in favour of small staffing groups, we are starting to see more strategic teams and IT teams in organisations and they are using a range of different suppliers – specialists rather than generalists. People are looking for MSPs that provide high value niche services to deliver strategic goals rather than someone just to manage problems they might have. Our niche is the workspace and virtual desktops – it is what we are known for, whereas a generalist MSP might struggle to differentiate itself in an extremely busy marketplace.”

Watson says the new funding will enable Atlas Cloud to ramp up sales and marketing activities targeting larger organisations that are becoming more and more interested in Citrix Workspace as a way of meeting strategic goals around mobility and flexibility, as well as cost cutting.

It will also enable the company to take on another 20 people, increasing its headcount to 55. Finding people with the right skills is not easy in the current climate but Watson believes the corporate culture at Atlas Cloud gives it an advantage.

“In the North East there is a very big tech market. You have HP, Sage, DWP, which has thousands and thousands of staff, so there is always pressure around top talent and increasing salary demands. We address this by focusing very much on culture; we have flexible working so people can work from home whenever they want; and we provide very flexible holidays, so people get a lot of time off when we are quiet. We have an unlimited holiday policy, which sounds very glamorous, but we expect a lot when we are busy and want people to spend time with their families when we are not.”

Balancing the needs of employees and the business has served Atlas Cloud well in its first decade and provides a solid foundation for another 10 years of success.

Desktop 365 www.desktop365.co.uk

In January, Atlas Cloud became the exclusive delivery partner of Desktop 365, a brand new out-of-the-box Citrix and Microsoft managed solution that enables anyone to access and work on their virtual desktop on any device, from anywhere there is an internet connection.

As well as enabling users to access the Microsoft Windows desktop they know and love, with all files and existing applications hosted securely in the cloud, Desktop 365 provides numerous productivity, security and compliance-related benefits. These include:

*Secure-by-Design, with all files/data stored centrally in one place and never transmitted to the user’s device;

*Secure Single-Sign On, so users can access approved SaaS applications with one click once logged into Desktop 365;

*Advanced Access Control to keep intellectual property within the company, including the ability to add watermarking, restrict printing/screenshotting and block users from everything, with one switch; and

*AI-powered security analytics giving insight into all user activity, even when using SaaS applications.

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2020