Smart Storage and Backup Enable Belgian SMBs to Work Worry-Free

HPE Storage

I used to dream of having the flexibility to work on whatever project I wanted without needing my supervisor’s approval. So, after a decade of working as a “techie” and thinking about how I could do things differently, I finally made my dream a reality and jumped into the world of independent consultancy.

This leap of faith led to the creation of my very own IT consultancy, and today, it’s my job to help Belgian companies make informed decisions about their data environments. Along with the flexibility and freedom I craved, I am now responsible for assisting clients in their quest for highly available and resilient environments.

Putting Education First: The Bitcon Legacy

My IT consultancy firm, Bitcon (not to be confused with Bitcoin!), has come a long way since I founded it in 2006. I have learned that success has a lot to do with knowledge and skill about the developments shaping the IT space.

Clients often ask, “Bart, what do I need to buy?” A growing number of IT solutions claim to make individuals and companies more efficient, but it’s not always a straight path. The cloud is a great example—despite cloud-based innovation, many legacy applications cannot move to the cloud, and environments become more complex instead of simplified. There is no single solution that will solve everyone’s issues, so you need to know enough to weed out companies who promise a silver bullet. And that’s the biggest challenge of working in IT: learning about new products and technology never stops!

The biggest challenge of working in IT is that learning about new products and technology never stops.

That is why I consider myself an evangelist of education: I want to help clients understand where they are in their digital journey so we can decide together where they need to improve—and what solutions will get them there. That learning benefits my diverse customer base, which consists of companies that operate in public and private sectors across many industries with anywhere from five to 50,000 users. Everyone’s needs are different, and I need access to a portfolio that satisfies both small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs).

For the past 25 years, I’ve evaluated dozens of different solutions for various SMBs, and HPE is the only vendor I’ve seen whose portfolio satisfies the needs of all my customers. Whether I’m serving transport companies, healthcare brands, public sector, or something in between, the mission and vision of HPE allow me to support my customers, whatever their size and wherever they are on their journey.

Transitioning to Smart Storage

Most of my customers come to Bitcon with a need for high availability and high performance. HPE MSA Storage used to be my go-to recommendation, and it was always a good fit. But as technology has improved, I’ve begun recommending HPE Alletra Storage.

The idea of smart storage is simple, but it’s different than what companies usually purchase. If a customer comes to me with a specific capacity request, I’ll say, “Okay, let’s go to the local IT store or supermarket around the corner and buy a 10 TB drive.” I’m kidding, of course, but it helps me get the point across that what they’re looking for isn’t just capacity but availability and an enterprise solution that supports their enterprise.

I also help my customers visualize smart storage by offering in-person solution demos at my personal testing lab, so decision-makers can better understand value. HPE MSA Storage allows users to see and use data as desired, but HPE Alletra Storage allows companies to use intelligent predictions to resolve problems before they ever become problems. I like to compare it to a traditional GPS compared to a smart GPS: It can describe the fastest and smartest way to get from point A to point B, and when a traffic jam or road closure appears, it’ll reroute you automatically. It's the same with storage and smart storage.

Keeping in mind that almost all my customer workloads are virtualizated, I show them that the compression and deduplication capabilities of smart storage make the price per TB of data lower than what they would pay otherwise. This is the opposite of an HPE MSA storage, which becomes more expensive per TB as you add data.

Rather than talk about price with customers, talk about value.

But I don’t like to talk about price with my customers; I prefer to talk about value. Ease of management is more than just saving upfront costs and time on installation (although that’s easy, too). Smart storage can help businesses become more efficient with their data, especially when it comes to intent-based provisioning. This AI-driven, app-centric approach to storage provisioning eliminates repetitive tasks through automation, which translates to huge cost and labor savings.

There’s lots of value with built-in intelligence, too, especially with AI solutions like HPE InfoSight. Just like a self-driving car, it helps customers get where they want to go without having to navigate the route on their own. The total cost of ownership is also much lower than other options on the market since you don’t have to spend as much time maintaining the box. And instead of being a firefighter who constantly chases fires, I can work with customers to become more proactive with infrastructure management and growth.

That last point is particularly valuable to me since I typically manage my customers’ environments. Almost everything is on-prem, and I manage everything through the HPE GreenLake edge-to-cloud platform.

Years ago, I spent many weekends performing infrastructure updates in a cold, noisy data center. I can now accomplish these updates through the HPE GreenLake platform during business hours and guarantee high performance and high availability (at least 99.9999%) for my customers. And because I don’t have to worry about updates, I can spend more time focusing on other tasks—including backup and recovery for some of Belgium’s fastest-growing companies.

The Importance of Backup and Recovery

Comparing Belgium to a country the size of the US, we have very few large enterprise brands. Most of our customers are in the SMB space but need the same data protection against ransomware, fires, flooding, and other disasters as larger enterprises. However, the size, scale, and cost of an enterprise solution doesn’t always make sense for them.

In the past, the best solution was to sell my SMB customers a tower or rack server with lots of capacity and software like Veeam or Commvault for data protection. The price—and footprint—was gigantic. When looking for a different option that was easy to set up and manage, I chose HPE GreenLake for Backup and Recovery, a SaaS solution that offers more control over data through an easy-to-use portal. It also provides data protection in 15 minutes, which is far more efficient than even some larger enterprise solutions. Customers get the same seamless experience for data protection with backup as a service. Billing is flexible and based on usage,  with built-in data reduction technology and security features, they only pay a few hundred dollars per month rather than several thousand dollars upfront—far more economical, scalable, and secure solution for Bitcon’s clients.

I’m getting great feedback from clients, especially public companies and local municipalities. In one case, Bitcon partnered with a local municipality to provide a solution that met their technical requirements. But the HPE solutions offered them something more. They told us, “There’s one thing that you gave me on top of it, and that’s peace of mind.” That’s music to my ears.

Bitcon is more than just an HPE partner; we’re also HPE customers. I’m comfortable doing the in-person demos of HPE Alletra Storage and HPE GreenLake for Backup and Recovery because I use these solutions for my business, and I know I can trust them completely. When I sell my customers something I trust and know will serve them well, I ensure the growth of their business. If they’re happy, they’ll return to Bitcon, ensuring the growth of my business, too.

The Staying Power of Good Tech and Good Business

My passport says I’m 50, but I still feel like I’m 30 and have plenty of time and energy to learn new things about the industry. As the pace of technology solutions accelerates, HPE offers my customers the greatest bang for their buck, helping me help them simplify their infrastructure and spend less time managing environments.

Giving people peace of mind is more than giving them good technology. It’s just good business.

This process is an exercise in efficiency, but also in business. Many people call me their trusted advisor, and continue to do so because I’m confident in the solutions I offer.

Giving people peace of mind is more than giving them good technology. It’s just good business. I share my learnings and expertise with SMBs so they can make more informed decisions and run their businesses as best they can.