Moving with the Times: Anticipating the Needs of Scaling SMBs
Small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are at the core of thriving economies. No less important than enterprise business, their needs can be just as sophisticated—especially when it comes to technology. SMBs’ networks should never be poorly configured, unsecured, or less effective than their enterprise counterparts’, and their IT solutions should be highly efficient and allow room for growth.
Intelys was founded in the UK in 2011 and expanded to South Africa in 2013. We started off as a small niche networking and security partner with a strong focus on technical execution. Most of our clients have between 1,500–5,000 users, and they span various industries, from law firms to government to shipping and supply chain.
At Intelys, we work with a lot of SMBs with big goals. Our target market is SMBs whose network is mission critical to their operations, who have a certain amount to scale, and who have a growing reliance on technology.
Supporting the Dynamic Growth of a Focused SMB
About five years ago, we partnered with Atrax. Atrax specializes in weighing and dimensioning for the airport and logistics industries. We contracted Atrax for our own shipping and customs needs for sending equipment to our customers.
Along the way, we got to know the company better. The company’s founder, Nick, is an ambitious and driven guy who started Atrax while in high school. Today, the company is vibrant and dynamic, with a strong company culture. We liked their attitude and their approach, and we offered to help them with their IT needs as they scaled.
Atrax has a lot of internet-dependent services that need to be secured so they’re not vulnerable to attacks. That’s where we started, initially setting them up with some remote connectivity. This allowed them more security and flexibility, but they soon needed much more.
Connecting Atrax to Cisco: A Clear Fit for Secure Growth Solutions
A key part of being a technology partner is making sure we provide the right solution without overcomplicating things. Trying to throw the kitchen sink at the problem doesn’t work because SMBs are often young, with limited budgets. They want a targeted solution quickly, and can’t be held up by complications. If you overcomplicate the environment, the price goes through the roof, your support services do the same, and the process takes longer.
Because of this, SMBs are much more critical about the solutions you offer, and rightly so—most costs have a direct impact on cash flow and profits. Articulating a technical solution to a non-technical business owner is vital in these situations, because an SMB may not have an in-house IT team to handle it.
Atrax needed a way to gain control of their environment, along with intelligence that would allow them to lock down, open up, or manage their environments as necessary. They also required visibility into the devices connected to their network, including who's trying to connect, when they connect, and the type of applications being used. This increased visibility also needed to be easy for non-technical staff to see what's going on, no matter where users are located.
Given these parameters, we went straight to Cisco. Cisco was one of our first partners, so we’re very familiar with their products and services, and we know one of Cisco’s strengths is in perimeter security. We set Atrax up with Cisco switches, Meraki firewalls, Meraki MX security appliances, and Cisco Secure Email Encryption Service, Cisco Secure Endpoint, and Cisco’s VPN and Endpoint Security Clients. We also increased their switching footprint to make sure that we could add on extra warehouses as they grew.
Securing a Consistent, Scalable Cisco Environment
We did some proofs of concept (POC) to show Atrax the equipment, visibility, and reporting that would be available, and how the solutions would be managed. For Atrax, it was about being able to see, feel, and touch the solutions and understand what the new network could do for them in the actual environment.
There’s a clear benefit to sticking with one ecosystem like Cisco. If you design your network in a certain fashion for a head office, and your remote branch offices also fall under the Cisco banner, you make it easy to manage and service your ecosystem because you’re using the same management tools. It gives you visibility and control across your entire infrastructure instead of struggling to manage disparate solutions that may not even be compatible, or that have gaps you need to fill.
Those are pains that SMBs can’t afford to spend too much time or resources on. They’d rather be working on the core elements of the business than bogged down in the weeds of the backend. They’re moving fast and they just need their solutions to work.
Adapting to New Realities
This past year was particularly important for Atrax to ensure its IT and networking security was in top form. They used to be heavily office bound before the global pandemic changed their business, requiring a more flexible workforce. The Cisco solutions, in particular Cisco Secure Endpoints, have allowed them to make the technological shift to working from home almost effortlessly. Atrax embraced remote work and has given their staff the ability to work anywhere, anytime. That flexibility means that the protection and uptime factors are critical. Regardless of where anyone is located, they stay protected from malware, viruses, and ransomware around the clock.
Atrax ships parcels 24/7/365, and their network performance now aligns with their operating model. Since we've joined forces with Atrax, they've more than doubled their business. They know they can trust the Cisco brand and feel a lot more comfortable knowing their security is being handled. Their combined Cisco solutions allow Atrax to become even more agile, and provide that seamless connectivity with a consistent experience across their entire environment, regardless of whether they’re in the office or working remotely.
Business Evolution: Making Managing Services Easy
Through our managed services offering, we proactively manage Atrax’s devices remotely, including configuration, monitoring device connection, and monitoring firewalls for suspicious activity.
We draw stats and reports on their email platform, too. Atrax sends and receives a huge volume of email daily, so it made a lot of sense to lock down their email security so they don’t get spam or phishing attempts. Cisco Secure Email is a cloud-based solution that seamlessly integrates with Office 365. Since deploying Cisco Secure Email, we’ve seen a reduction in the amount of spam they receive, while reducing other risks and noise associated with business email.
We also keep an eye on their Meraki firewalls. If we notice anything out of the ordinary, we report it to Atrax and continue to proactively monitor the solution while determining a course of action. Due to Meraki's cloud-based management, we can easily facilitate remote configuration and support, without having to go on site or repeatedly interact in person. Our engineers can jump into the dashboard remotely, do the configuration test, ensure everything is working, and take it from there.
A Partner that Responds to the Needs of SMBs
Since I joined Intelys about eight years ago, our business has grown 10x. Being a Cisco partner has fueled that growth because their solutions cater to so many different businesses, no matter their industry or size. The SMBs we work with are happy with their Cisco solutions because they can rely on them today and don’t have to worry that they’ll outgrow the solution in the near future.
Cisco has invested more and more into solutions that will fit the needs of SMBs because they understand these companies are enterprises in the making. Not only are the solutions themselves flexible, but Cisco is flexible when it comes to the unique needs of this market. Cisco has made big strides in this space, and in turn, SMBs are not only getting world-class solutions, but they’re also benefiting from these advanced networking technologies.
For Cisco partners like us, it’s an opportunity to continue to expand our expertise in using, managing, and implementing additional Cisco technologies and solutions. We’re keen to explore Duo for two-factor and multi-factor authentication. We’re also interested to learn more about Umbrella, which would allow us to not only protect the end device but to also provide users with consistent protection when connecting to the internet via a cloud proxy, whether it’s in a hotel, a head office, or a home office.
The world is changing fast, and we use Cisco to support our SMB clients, no matter what stage of growth they’re in.