Q&A: Mixing cloud and on-premise to benefit SMEs

Nick East

It’s nearly seven years to the day since the sale of Cramer to Amdocs. How has your experience working at both those companies helped you in setting up Zynstra?

It’s helped enormously. It means we’ve been through the process of building software straight from the beginning before. The experience of growing Cramer to such a successful degree and being part of a much larger organisation has helped massively.

Building relationships with customers and partners along the way is also beneficial now. There are people much more receptive to our ideas.

This is about levelling the IT playing field for SMEs. So what disadvantages do they currently face from the IT industry?

SMEs have to compromise and either have everything on-premise or off-premise on a cloud platform. What SMEs don’t really have is the option to outsource high value, high grade IT solutions that someone else develops for them.

What there is available is built a little bit piecemeal and as a result they don’t necessarily deliver the same service capability as in a big company and don’t work as reliably.

A large organisation can put time and effort into building something enabling their staff to work very efficiently. SMEs often don’t have that luxury.

You’re advocating a hybrid cloud system for businesses, so you don’t think the cloud on its own is the way to go. What risks does pure cloud computing present to SMEs?

We’re very pro cloud but it can work even better if you have options. Most businesses want to have a choice. What do they want to have inside their corporate firewall and what do they want stored in a multi-tenant environment?

Typical enterprises’ attitudes are towards security, performance and control. Every company has to choose and regularly look at the cloud services provider and see how concerned they are about the data living on a system if suddenly the cloud provider isn’t around anymore.

There’s clouds that provide excellent security but knowing your data is living behind your firewall is very reassuring.

Also, if you’re not careful the cloud can offer you the lowest common denominator of performance, whereas in the office it will run really, really quickly. We want to provide that flexibility.

You’ve said this isn’t simply a scaled-down ‘hand me down’ to suit SMEs, so how does Zynstra’s hybrid offering differ to those available to larger companies?

Products tend to be built for larger enterprises which have the IT skills available to manage those. We’ve designed ours from the ground up for SMEs. We looked at the key requirements of an SME that depends on IT and we’ve built those into the platform from day one.

It scales up and down so if you increase the number of people in your organisation you can add another box and the cloud just grows on that box. A lot of SMEs have a trusting relationship with a local IT service provider, so our whole offering is being delivered by the channel.

Some firms using hybrid cloud systems simply archive old data on the cloud and use their hardware for current and relevant data. Could this system be construed as quite restrictive then, in terms of preventing companies from experimenting with things like BYOD, which rely on cloud computing?

BYOD and working from home can still be done using a hybrid solution. The proportion of the workers in your business who work from home or on the road will influence the choices you make in terms of how you store data. Centralising your IT in a cloud service makes total sense if you have mobile workers.

The product launches this week, but what else can people expect to see from Zynstra in the next few years? Will hybrid remain the future of IT for businesses?

At our heart we’re experienced software technologists. There will be multiple releases coming out in due course. We’re interested in providing more capabilities and more applications that can be added to the platform very straightforwardly.

Most people are operating in a hybrid environment today. The question is will they keep that environment? Will they change that and move all their IT away, or will they mix it up and have private and public clouds?

And regarding the company itself, it’s raised $2.4m in its first round of angel funding. Are there any further funding rounds coming up? When do you anticipate becoming profitable?

Regarding profitability, that’s not something I can really talk about, but in terms of funding we have some extremely good investors who came in in that round and clearly something we will look at is adding another investment round.

We have every confidence with our track record and with the investors on board that we will be able to get the capital we need when we need it.

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