David Strom: Were here at the Managed Service Providers Alliance annual conference. And you guys have a very interesting situation in that you are probably the most virtual of businesses. You dont have anything tangible to sell other than your wits and expertise.
Bob Longo: Yes, its a unique proposition to really hit the market with a service-level agreement rather than a tool or the traditional onsite services. So, to really talk to business decision makers about what it means to get a service level agreement out of IT. So we tout a “three-nines,” 99.9 SLA, for our partners and their customers. And really, at the end of the day, thats all they care about, is that were selling trust, that we have their back and that this SLA really means something.
Strom: So you are selling monitoring of some kind of computing systems.
Longo: Correct. We remotely manage computer networks all over the world. So through our monitoring tools we collect this data. Based on that information, we proactively resolve issues. We call it remote remediation. So this is for client networks that reside at their customer site, and we perform remote remediation tasks. We have two ways that we measure our success. One, is that if the client calls us with a problem, we have failed. The second …
Strom: Right, because you want to see a machine thats about to kick over, their memory is goofy or whatever, their disk drive is acting up.
Longo: Correct. So if they call us with a problem, we have failed. And thats a pretty bold statement.
Strom: Now this is very different for most hosting providers that actually host something on their data center. Theyve got physical possession over the clients assets, servers and what have you.
Longo: Yes, weve had a real challenge trying to rise above the image that were a data center and that …
Strom: Well, youre a data center without any data in it.
Longo: It is. It is. We offer the best of a data center management solution that is customer-premise. Yes, so we very much liken ourselves to the operation but not the physical co-location of equipment.
Strom: Now is this something that youre seeing, that theres a lot of interest from other VARs to enter this? You actually have VARs as your customers I would imagine.
Longo: Correct. We have some end users, direct clients, and we have many VARs that have signed up with us. So the value proposition is instead of them trying to build a network operation center, they could really get our service at a wholesale cost. They in turn …
b>Strom: Can use it to sell for recurring revenue streams and leverage that on top of it.
Longo: Exactly. We allow them to maintain 100 percent of the client relationship. We want to be real clear that our agreement is just with the partner and the partner maintains the end-user relationship.
Strom: So dont you think its difficult then for Clearpointe to have a clear brand or be recognized as a leader in this since youre so under the cover, so virtual, dataless, data center?
Longo: Well, yes. Brand recognition for us is near and dear. We actually copyrighted the Clearpointe name and the way that our engineers interact with the clients is that they are the network operation center (NOC) powered by Clearpointe. So it really …
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MSPs that Scale
Strom: Theres some branding then.
Longo: Yes. So it really lends itself to more as Clearpointe as a service rather than a company or a tool set.
Strom: Now, you guys are based in Little Rock, which you would not think of as the nexus for connectivity in the U.S.
Longo: Yes. Its really been amazing for us. The city is still very small in many aspects so its a very manageable city. But I think it lends itself to a market to where people – our employees feel very comfortable raising their families there. Its not a megatropolis and we have to deal with many issues that a big city would. So we kind of fly under the radar. We made sure that we had connectivity both from the East Coast through Memphis, and then down south through Dallas whenever were riding the Internet. It was real important to us to be able to demonstrate, particularly to our banking clients, that we had redundant paths to the Internet.
Strom: So what do you attempt to get out of a conference like this? You want to meet other MSPs obviously for extending your business?
Longo: Yes we do. I think part of it is to hear where the industry is at, to listen, to sit in on the sessions and hear what the message is about managed services. And then to talk with those partners particularly that have kind of gone through the evolution of, you know, starting. The first step, typically, of a managed service provider is that they want to try and offer it themselves. And theyll get a handful of clients who theyll manage very well and monitor during the day and then best effort at night.
Strom: But that doesnt scale.
Longo: It doesnt. So once they kind of hit the ceiling and mature as a partner, they understand that hey we need to build a NOC, or we at least need to partner with a NOC. Our message is really running a NOC as a separate line of business altogether. Our statement is our partners deliver managed services, we simply deliver the NOC. Managed services is going in and managing our clients in many different levels …
Strom: And understanding the applications. I mean you really dont care what the applications are. To you, a servers a server.
Longo: Exactly. Yes, we have a big push with our partners for at least quarterly meetings with our clients and move them to that kind of application level, embracing IT at the application level. Let us do the plumbing. The NOC does all the plumbing and the heavy lifting, if you will, and the partner and the clients now deal with IT at the application level. And we kind of draw that line and say, look, everything below the line is the NOV, everything above the line is the partner and the clients vision for IT. If you talk with a CEO, IT is not about patching and backups and sitting on the phone with Dell or HP to troubleshoot a hardware issue. IT is about those productivity packages that moves that business forward.