Richard talks to Mostyn Thomas about how he deals with the challenges of providing IT solutions in a small area and the tools he uses to make his Managed Service Provider (MSP), Astrix a success.
An Interview with Mostyn Thomas
Who is Mostyn Thomas and What do Astrix do?
Astrix IT Support is a pure-plan MSP (managed service provider) based in Wales. Mostyn started out providing services to schools, before moving into offering break/fix with managed services for businesses. As the market changed, the company moved to focus entirely on fully managed services.
Astrix has been going for 15 years, initially as an MSP, with a short spell in break/fix before changing to their current model. They charge a monthly or per user fee, with differing services depending on client need, which means there are no big bills or unexpected costs. Currently, only some of their clients are ‘pure MSP’ – so much per user, per month – but this is where Mostyn would like Astrix to be in a few years.
The Challenges of Working Only with Small Businesses
Mostyn explains that there’s an appetite in Wales to buy from local people first, before looking for suppliers elsewhere in the world, making them separate from the rest of the UK.
He says that South Wales also has very little large industry and is dominated by small businesses. The lack of big employers means that you have to adapt your services to those in your location, and have a number of clients rather than just three or four, as MSPs do in other parts of the country.
The majority of business owners are less likely to invest in costly equipment, and don’t invest in the top-level support services Astrix offers, so offerings need to be tailored to smaller companies.
Mostyn is keen to emphasise that people do see the value of service, particularly disaster recovery and data restoring, and it’s possible to be profitable, you have to be prepared to work in a slightly different way.
The Tools Mostyn uses to Run Astrix
Astrix is a small company, with six staff, and Mostyn takes on the management and sales responsibilities, with the technicians managing their workload out in the field. It’s therefore important to be able to do the work of a larger business, which is why they use a lot of monitoring and outsourced services.
Mostyn chooses the tools that will make them more efficient and to help leverage their position in the industry. They rely a lot on Continuum’s end to end service and monitoring, and also take advantage of their outsourced operations centre so they can access 750 technicians whenever they need to. This allows them to take on larger jobs and more complex tasks that the Continuum tasks do more often.
They also have monitoring tools to track wireless connections, and use Ubiquity to monitor hundreds of wireless services within their own servers in their data centre and get up to date statistics.
Why Mostyn Recommends a PSA
Astrix uses Autotask as their PSA (professional services automation), as Mostyn feels they give a comprehensive service. It allows him to monitor targets and SLAs, and to respond quickly to customer issues. Autotask also integrates with Continuum, generating tickets for the technicians to pick up.
Mostyn feels strongly that all MSPs should use a PSA because without one it’s harder to keep track of the flows and feeds of information and also to make sense of them. Using a PSA gives customers the quality they demand from their providers.
A PSA shows what you’re doing for your clients and provides them with all the information they need on your services. Mostyn says it shows you care and, as so much support is provided remotely, it demonstrates the value of your support.
The Value Mostyn gets from Collaboration
Mostyn is an active member of The Network Group, a national cooperative which supports resellers and IT business owners. He says that he likes the support he gets from other business owners who understand the challenges of working alone.
He gets advice from people who’ve faced similar challenges, but can also give suggestions himself. At first, he was concerned about sharing his best practices, but when everyone else is collaborating openly, he quickly saw the benefits. He also keeps up to date with industry and technology developments through the events the Group runs for its members.
Mentioned in This Episode
- The Network Group
- MSP Mentor
- Author Mark Sanborn
- Computer virus: CryptoLocker
- London Internet Exchange
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