Month: June 2018

Claranet acquires Union Solutions, enhancing hosting and cloud expertise and reach in retail, legal, and financial sectors

  • The acquisition further deepens Claranet’s hosting portfolio with strong design, transition, and migration capabilities and brings unique new expertise in Azure-based solutions
  • Union Solutions customers include Mitsubishi Finance, Clyde & Co, and Kingfisher

Leading managed IT services provider Claranet has today announced the acquisition of UK-based infrastructure and cloud specialist Union Solutions. In keeping with the company’s emphasis on strategic growth, the move enables Claranet to expand its customer base and service capabilities, with Union representing the latest in a string of technology businesses to be added to the Claranet Group in recent years.

Operating out of office locations in Surrey and Kent, Union employs around 30 staff and has an annual turnover of £10m. It specialises in a range of IT infrastructure and managed service offerings, including infrastructure design, hosting, transition, and migration, with a strong emphasis on high-performing data management and security for large businesses. Union supports both large on-premise managed solutions, as well as managed solutions on Microsoft Azure Cloud. The founders of Union are staying with the business and will be working to grow Claranet’s hosting services for years to come.

Michel Robert, Managing Director at Claranet UK, said:

Claranet has acquired Union Solutions to enhance its hosting design, transition, and migration capabilities for large-scale on-premise solutions as well as additional strong Azure skills and offerings. Union has a depth of experience and capability in the design and implementation of mission-critical infrastructure, with emphasis on data storage and security. It has developed strong, long-term customer relationships in the legal, financial services, and retail verticals which will further enhance our capabilities in these important sectors.”

Union’s passion for excellence and desire to grow meant it was an ideal fit as part of our ongoing focus on rapid expansion, so we’re eagerly anticipating adding the company’s unique capabilities to our own, and using this new expertise to further enhance our market offering.”

Jason Rabbetts, Founder and Director at Union Solutions added:

We are delighted that we have now become part of the Claranet group. Union’s data management services, hyper converged platform skills, and Azure specialism – now coupled with Claranet’s public cloud and private cloud capabilities – brings an incredibly powerful hybrid transformation proposition to our customers and the general market. In today’s rapidly changing hybrid multi-cloud world, specialism in a wide spectrum of skills is essential, and that is what makes this particular union so relevant and exciting.”

For more information about Union Solutions, visit their website.

Barriers to public cloud adoption are fading, but the perils of simply ‘lifting and shifting’ servers remain, says Claranet

Regulatory hurdles may be falling, but organisations must focus on the wider benefits of public cloud if they are to maximise its potential

As public cloud continues its expansion into mainstream IT, the traditional barriers to adoption appear to be coming down, encapsulated by a recent study by McKinsey suggesting that security concerns around cloud are not as prominent as they once were. Despite this growing ease with the safety of public cloud – coupled with industry guidelines becoming more conducive to cloud adoption – organisations must not fall into the trap of thinking that ‘lifting and shifting’ their servers will see them glean the full advantages of the technology. This is according to managed services provider Claranet.

According to the McKinsey study, CISOs are now less likely to ask security questions of the big cloud providers, and are now more concerned with working out how they can make their own practices and hardware more secure. This greater faith in the security of public cloud is backed up by a growing familiarity amongst auditors of the ins and outs of the technology.

However, according to Sam Bashton, Head of Public Cloud Practice at Claranet, these developments should not obscure businesses’ judgement when it comes to addressing the challenges of public cloud adoption, and what needs to be done in order to make the most of it. Bashton said:

A big mistake that companies often make is that they believe that simply lifting their servers from private cloud to public cloud is all that needs to be done as far as migration is concerned. With regulations becoming easier to handle and old concerns such as security becoming less pressing, it can be easy for businesses to fall into this mentality.”

However, such an approach is not necessarily much cheaper than maintaining the status quo, and this puts organisations at risk of failing to make the most of the agility that public cloud can bring by utilising it in the best possible way. Instead, it’s important that businesses realise that public cloud has much more to offer than just lifting servers to an external data centre. The services that AWS, Azure and Google Cloud Platform offer encompass a much wider range of business objectives, meaning that they are important not just to server migration, but also in helping the business become more efficient and innovative in general.”

To ensure that organisations do not lose sight of public cloud’s full potential amid this growing confidence towards the technology, Bashton believes that partnering with a managed services provider (MSP) that has specialist expertise in this area can be hugely beneficial. He added:

By enlisting the support of an MSP, businesses can quickly learn the detailed advantages or disadvantages of a particular provider, and which options work best for their specific requirements and workloads. MSPs bring a joined-up approach between the cloud providers and end user, meaning that businesses receive a high level of tailored support. This ensures that adopters reap the full rewards of public cloud, going well beyond a more simple ‘lift and shift’ job.”

Public cloud adoption is getting easier and there is much less need for businesses to be apprehensive about its security or efficacy than in the past. However, these changes should not give way to complacency. For public cloud to truly be a success, organisations must realise that there are still steps that they must take to ensure that they implement a solution that increases innovation, frees up IT staff from time-consuming maintenance tasks, and makes a tangible difference to how the business is run.”

Businesses are still too reliant on manual IT processes, suggests new research from Claranet

Research indicates UK IT departments spend just 12 per cent of their time on innovation

New research commissioned by managed services provider Claranet has revealed that a failure to automate IT processes and a heavy reliance on manual intervention is hindering the ability of organisations to embrace innovation. Despite a prediction by Gartner that 75 per cent of enterprises will have more than six diverse automation technologies within their IT management portfolios by 2019, almost half of organisations still have some way to go to put this into practice.

The research, conducted by Vanson Bourne and surveying 750 IT and Digital decision-makers from a range of organisations across Europe, is summarised in Claranet’s new Beyond Digital Transformation research report. The findings reveal that infrastructure configuration at nearly half (48 per cent) of UK businesses remains mostly or heavily manual. At the other end of the scale, only 11 per cent said that their infrastructure is highly automated. This is having a direct impact on the amount of time IT teams spend on maintenance and administration tasks.

According to the survey responses, IT teams spend over half (53 per cent) of their time on operational projects, general maintenance, responding to user problems, and unplanned work, with just 12 per cent of their time focused on new approaches that can lead to real business improvement and innovation.

For Michel Robert, Managing Director at Claranet UK, these responses underline the scale of the work that needs to be done to improve the efficiency of the IT department, as well as the overall impact it has on the wider business:

Automation is a critical enabling technology that can give organisations the agility, speed, scalability, resilience and compliance they need to compete and succeed in the age of digital business.”

Unfortunately, it appears that many UK companies are struggling to adopt automation, from both an infrastructure and application perspective. This not only makes the day-to-day activity of the IT department less efficient, but also has a negative impact on the wider business, as new initiatives that are underpinned by technology cannot be leveraged to their full potential. At the same time, this lack of automation opens up the organisation to the threat of human error, and the financial and administrative impact this can have.”

In order to effectively address this low level of automation, Michel believes that businesses need to focus on making a series of organisation-wide changes to help reduce manual processes and facilitate greater efficiency. This should include taking steps to free up time for IT teams, and implementing processes to help join up various departments and responsibilities more effectively. To be a success, all of this needs steadfast support from leaders across the business.

Crucial to making automation more commonplace is a commitment by leadership to making it a reality. This means that the C-suite – whether directly involved with IT or otherwise – need to be fully aware of its benefits and work together to create and implement plans to increase the pace of automation. This includes working towards freeing IT teams of the burden of the more basic maintenance and administration tasks, and then introducing comprehensive, well-planned processes that join up everything that goes on in the IT department. Partnering with an external service provider can be an effective way of bringing these changes to fruition.”

By taking an agile approach to increasing automation which includes organisation-wide support and openness to working with third-party providers, organisations can gain the means to accelerate the move to automation across both infrastructure and applications, without diverting time and resource from the IT department. If this approach is taken, addressing the automation challenge need not be a daunting task and can be addressed in a practical manner, and IT teams can begin to think more deeply about how they can drive the needs of the wider business.”

Majority of businesses are still struggling to secure data effectively, confirms new research from Claranet

Research reveals 69 per cent of businesses are lacking in terms of proper data management, casting doubt on their ability to comply with GDPR

Keeping data secure remains a top priority for businesses, and as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into force on the 25th May 2018, there is an increased urgency to improve the way data is managed. However, despite this impending deadline and the rapidly evolving threat landscape, new research from managed services provider Claranet has found that many companies are still not managing their data as well as they could.

The research, which was conducted by Vanson Bourne who surveyed 750 IT decision-makers for Claranet’s Beyond Digital Transformation research report, identified that security is an area that many are struggling with. Worryingly, 69 per cent of respondents stated that they were not able to secure customer data effectively, with almost half (45 per cent) encountering challenges around securing customer details when trying to improve the digital user experience for customers. This points to a distinct lack of capability when it comes to managing security in a reliable manner.

Alongside this, the research found that IT teams are struggling to acquire the skills and expertise that are necessary in addressing this disparity. Four in ten (44 per cent) identified security as one of the biggest challenges facing their organisation’s IT department, the most-commonly-cited challenge by some margin, and 43 per cent stated that improving security is one of the priorities for their IT departments over the next 12 months.

Commenting on the findings, Michel Robert, Claranet’s UK Managing Director, said:

There can be little doubt that data security is the most pressing issue facing businesses today and that sound security practices are the foundation on which businesses are built, but our research confirms this is an area that most businesses are failing in. The GDPR is on our doorstep, but it is clear that many organisations have their work cut out if they are to comply with the regulation. Thinking more broadly, the fact that almost seven in ten organisations can’t guarantee the security of their customer data is particularly concerning.”

Part of the problem derives from the fact that most internal IT teams don’t have the skills, expertise or the time to keep up with the rapidly changing threat landscape as it’s not their core business. Our research has shown that organisations are very much aware of this problem, but also that they are still some way away from solving it. Businesses will need to stay alert to changes to legislation and the nature of prevailing threats, compliance and legislation as more and more data is stored and analysed, but security can slide down the list of priorities, jostling with ‘keeping the lights on’ maintenance activities and innovation.”

To address these shortcomings, European businesses are set to ramp up their investments in IT security. According to the findings, the amount of money spent on IT security by European businesses is set to increase by a third (37 per cent) over the next three years, when compared to the last three. This is an encouraging sign, but organisations need to find a way of tackling these security concerns in a way that is both quick and effective. Michel continued:

This focus on heavier investment in security bodes well for the future, and the fact that businesses are aware of where they are deficient means that they have the right mindset in place.”

However, it’s important to recognise that much still needs be done in terms of increasing cybersecurity capabilities at a pace rapid enough to ensure GDPR readiness and overall preparedness. Businesses are aware of the challenges they face, but the current level of available expertise can hold back initiatives. By working with expert third parties, businesses can rapidly gain an extra layer of cybersecurity expertise and identify vulnerabilities and priorities for improvement, which is essential for organisations looking to grow their operations without compromising security.”

Keeping the lights on is preventing IT departments from focusing on the customer experience, says Claranet

Digital transformation trends mean that businesses are focusing more heavily on their customers and are using technology to improve their experience. However, IT departments remain bogged down in day-to-day activities and the need to keep the lights on, which is preventing teams focusing on how they can help drive improvements to the customer experience. This is according to research commissioned by managed services provider Claranet, with results summarised it its 2018 Report, Beyond Digital Transformation: Reality check for European IT and Digital leaders.

In a survey of 750 IT and Digital decision-makers from organisations across Europe, market research company Vanson Bourne found that the overwhelming majority (79 per cent) feel that the IT department could be more focused on the customer experience, but that staff do not have the time to do so. More generally, almost all respondents (98 per cent) recognise that there would be some kind of benefit if they adopted a more customer-centric approach, whether this be developing products more quickly (44 per cent), greater business agility (43 per cent), or being better prepared for change (43 per cent).

Commenting on the findings, Michel Robert, Managing Director at Claranet UK, said:

As technology develops, IT departments are finding themselves with a long and growing list of responsibilities, all of which need to be carried out alongside the omnipresent challenge of keeping the lights on and making sure everything runs smoothly. Despite a tangible desire amongst respondents to adopt a more customer-centric approach, this can be difficult when IT teams have to spend a significant amount of their time on general management and maintenance tasks.”

Improving customer experience is the second most-commonly-cited challenge by European IT departments (38 per cent), only behind security. Finding the right balance between digital and human interaction was also a common struggle, with 46 per cent of respondents expressing that sentiment. For Michel, this is where the expertise of managed service providers could help to lessen the load and enable IT teams to work more readily on customer-driven projects. When asked about the main drivers behind outsourcing elements of an IT estate to third parties, 46 per cent cited more time to focus on innovation, and 48 per cent said it frees up resource for them to focus on company strategy. Michel continued:

IT and digital teams are struggling for resource in an increasingly competitive business environment, and the evidence from our survey underlines this. By entrusting the responsibility for keeping the lights on to a third-party, IT departments can relieve themselves of this time-consuming burden, while maintaining peace of mind in knowing that these tasks are in the hands of a partner with a high level of expertise in this field.”

Placing faith in a third-party supplier will allow the IT department – and the wider business in general – to focus on what really matters: an ever-improving, positive customer experience. IT innovation will be free to come to the fore, and it will become easier for the goals of the IT department to be effectively aligned with those of the rest of the organisation.”

Claranet recognised in The Sunday Times International Track 200 for second consecutive year

MSP moves up 100 places in rankings of the UK’s fastest growing privately-owned businesses in the mid-market

Managed services provider Claranet has achieved the rank of 69th in The Sunday Times International Track 200 for 2018. Published on Sunday 10th June, the league table ranks the 200 privately owned companies in Britain with the fastest-growing international sales. This placement marks a significant improvement from last year when Claranet appeared in 170th spot, and complements the company’s appearance in the Sunday Times Top Track 250 in October 2017.

In the financial year ending 30th June 2017 Claranet’s revenues grew by a further 42 per cent, driven largely by the organisation’s acquisition strategy, maintaining its position as one of the leading providers of managed services in Europe. Claranet currently delivers cloud, network, communications and security services to over 6,500 customers across seven countries in Europe and Brazil.

The company’s emphasis on rapid expansion has remained very much in full flow this year, with Claranet acquiring UK-based infrastructure and cloud specialist Union Solutions in May 2018, and revenue growth in the financial year ending 30th June 2018 expected to be close to 50 per cent. The acquisition strategy has gone a long way towards further consolidating Claranet’s presence in its established regions by significantly expanding its service portfolio and multi-cloud expertise.

Acquisitions, alongside organic growth, have seen Claranet’s revenues grow significantly, with company revenues for the 2017 fiscal year being £216.5 million, up from £152.5 million the previous year, earning the company a place among the UK’s fastest growing mid-market businesses.

Charles Nasser, founder and CEO of Claranet, commented:

The IT services industry remains one of the most vital and dynamic facets of UK business. This last year has seen us maintain our consistent growth, staying true to our philosophy of incremental development through organic expansion and strategic acquisitions. We’re delighted to have moved up the rankings in the International Track 200, which is testament to the continued progress we have made both in the UK and abroad. We work in rapidly changing fields including public cloud and security, and have worked hard to support our customers and help them get the most out of new technologies, becoming a leading expert in a wide range of IT services.

“Although we have grown in size, our focus has always remained on developing the close, trusted relationships that our customers need to succeed in the long term.”