Trend Micro Interview with Richard Fountain

In this video, Gary O’Connell – European MSP Director for Trend Micro interviews Richard Fountain CEO of ITVET

Gary O’Connell

In this case study, we have Richard Fountain of ITVET. Welcome Richard. So, to get us started, can you please give us an overview of what ITVET do and the role you play yourself in ITVET.

Richard Fountain

Sure, well hi Gary. Well, ITVET is a typical I suppose, well not typical. I shouldn’t say that. ITVET are a manager services provider and we’ve been going since 2007. So, we are proud really because a lot of what we do is taking a complete outsource from our clients. So, we cover just about a full spectrum of anything that is technical really. And, we have a depth and breadth because of being an MSP or Managed Services Provider. That enables us to do that, but we were founded really from what we saw as a gap in the market back in 2007 because although technology really in many ways was still in its infancy in 2007, certainly in terms of how businesses were adopting technology. What we saw was a bit of gap really, between technical companies and their service delivery, and if you like layman, layman on the end, not really being able to understand that and I felt that back then with my Co-Founder, there was a definite distinct gap between the technology companies and their clients. And, with respect, I don’t feel it was being delivered in a correct way that was simplistic enough for those companies to understand and to be reassured to start adopting those technologies into their business. That, and probably a lack of customer care more than anything. So, what we decided to do was found a company that actually addressed a lot of those issues. But more than anything else we didn’t go on a sort of a heavy marketing drive. We decided to use customer service, believe it or not, as our marketing tool. And touch wood, over the years, we’ve grown year on year steadily ever since, really sustainably and that’s why our reputation in the industry is fantastic and I’m pleased to say now we’ve now got hundreds of clients and thousands of end points.

Gary O’Connell

So, picking you up on your first comment, not very typical is probably the best way to describe your success so far. I mean, identifying that gap back in 2007 was as you said a key driver around the growth you guys have seen since. But if we bring it back to the beginning, you mentioned around service delivery, probably in simple terms, why MSP? Why be a Managed Service Provider?

Richard Fountain

Well because I think if you want to deliver that level of service it’s virtually impossible to do that unless you’re covering every part of a client’s technology suite. So, you know because you can’t if you have access into domain names, into all the servers, into emails and everything else. You’ll then depend on other providers which may or may not work as well as you do. So, but it’s also being able to structure that client’s IT properly, and work with them and mold it around what they do. Remember they are not IT specialists; you are and that’s what they depend on. So, the Managed Services model, you know, let’s be fair, it’s been around for quite a while and it endures, and there’s now thousands of service providers out there, and the endurance for that very reason and if you don’t have that ability to look after everything for your client, then your’e going to start struggling when it comes to you know, the unlikely event of an outage, that you’re going to find life a little bit more difficult actually.

Gary O’Connell

Just to kind of stick on the idea that Managed Services has been around for quite some time and it’s something as a vendor we’re struggling with right now. Managed Services are a SaaS model and what we’re finding within our SaaS model is that we have a lot of partners using legacy on-prem solutions through a Managed Services model because the solutions weren’t there 4, 5, 6, 7 years ago. I see you guys; you guys seem to be a very early adopter of the SaaS model. Could you just talk us through when that decision was made because even when I look back through our reports on you guys, you’re a very very early adopter in relation to MSPs we have. So that must have been a hugely brave and almost risky decision at the time.

Richard Fountain

Well it didn’t seem like it at the time. I think, you know, we’d like to feel that we keep on top of any emerging technology or ways and structures, the way to structure different services and solutions but it’s an interesting point you know, from our perspective, excuse the expression, but it was a no brainer really. We saw what was emerging, and you know even back then we were putting together solutions as a service and what they call hardware as a service, was already a solution as a service for us. And so, we would put together a complete package of all of the equipment, all of the software, all the support, and any other services that a client would need, and then price it up by the user, and then spread that payment over say a three-year contact. So, for us it was easy to mold those packages together, and again that fitted so nicely into that Managed Services model. You know, a fixed budget for all of their IT, just not part. And your’e right, the legacy software, and the legacy equipment were something that in some ways used to frustrate us a little bit because we knew how good the model was, but it was convincing clients back in 2007 and you know a few years after to actually take that leap of faith. But of course, there was a cost side to that as well, you know clients didn’t see necessarily the savings. I don’t feel back then the business was quite as switched on for the sort of sustainability side of things which they are much more receptive to that now. So yeah, we’re working with our clients to sort of save carbon, reduce their carbon footprint and obviously look at resources generally looking after our planet. So that’s a big part of what we do.

Gary O’Connell

So, if we look at your customers and I suppose take it from the security angle, obviously, you know you’ve referenced this, and I think you’ve referenced this already with your decisions you make in your organisation is driven by the demands by the customer. From a security perspective, what are the biggest threats you guys are seeing when talking to your customers today? I think today’s probably, you know it’s more important than ever in relation to what’s gone on in the last twelve months, so what are you guys seeing when you’re talking to your customers now on a daily basis?

Richard Fountain

Yeah, I think it had already started in quite a big way in terms of the sort of multi-layered networks principle. But, yeah you’re right, since the pandemic came along we were lucky that we were already set up, you know really well to sort of start working completely on a remote model quite early apart from our project teams who from a project delivery is an essential service  provider, we stayed open, but certainly from our clients the ones that if you like have held back from being fully mobile in terms of how they could work they then came to us immediately and we literally, our teams worked round the clock to sort of bring a warp speed almost to go from a lot of office bound working to the remote, the remote only model, and to cope with that. And I think it highlighted a lot to people the difference between the sort of cloud-based model to the physical office, and yes it was enforced, but it changed it completely. But I still feel there’s some way to go yet to get that message across to businesses generally that actually this traditional flat network physical site is now being expanded out to your enterprise. Your organisation, is spread around multiple endpoints that could be geographically dispersed all over the world. You know that traditional network is gone forever and whereas we might think of traditional fire rules and switches cabling, now we’re thinking about multiple devices, mobiles, laptops, workstation at home, and of course the other important thing, is the connectivity, and so you know suddenly we’ve got people working from home so much that we have now that extra consideration, and companies have to make that extra consideration, how to keep that safe? People safe and keep that security as good as if they were in their physical building. So that’s probably the key area, but of course on top of that, you know as we look at, you mentioned 2007, and how different it was back then with legacy systems, of course moving to the cloud is fantastic and having browser-based solutions is also fantastic and being able to access from anywhere in the world 24/7 is also great. But of course, you do then open up more interfaces and that then exposes risk. It doesn’t matter who the provider is, Microsoft whoever, it always enables a bit more risk and of course hackers see that as more opportunity, so there’s more interfaces to go after. So, at that point then, that’s when you have to consider at that point is that you have to look at this model differently and therefore, you’re now getting greater incidence of more concerted, more organised attacks knowing that people are working remotely, and you know the hackers move really quickly and they understand. So, for example they are using more and more text messaging which is not on a network but it’s on a user’s device but of course that user’s device then unifies the SMS network into their business network and so they click on a link which comes from a text and suddenly they’re actually then exposing their company potentially to threat. So, that’s the difference.

Gary O’Connell

So, on that idea that, which we’re only so aware of the new risks that are being opened up in relation to this, we say this fully mobile, fully kind of interconnected world that we have right now. You guys are users of our solutions around our wire-free services and solutions.  Obviously as I said, pretty much a SaaS company. Can you just give any viewers that we have, or anybody who’s listening to this, a case study of the benefits and advantages that SaaS solutions and service type purposely built to be MSP solutions bring you guys and bring your customers? 

Richard Fountain

Well, the first thing is, it’s funny when you mention the acronym MS, or Managed Services Provider, we have more or less changed that now to Managed Solutions Provider. And I think it’s about, you know stitching together various applications and services to create a package if you like, a security suite as it were and that’s part of what we do because each client is different, each industry they come from will vary in the sort of services and solutions they need and equally how they use them changes a lot so when you’re pulling together, able to piece together a solution, that becomes almost bespoke and that SaaS model again sits really nice with that. You know, they do rely on a Managed Solutions or Managed Services Provider to use their expertise, their depth and breadth skills that we carry to look at these things so for example when you talk about Trend Worry-Free we adopted that very early, I mean I think in 2007 or whatever it was that we started, we jumped on Trend at that point as you say it was SaaS already, but we were convinced that it was the only way back then to look at all of your endpoints easily, even if they weren’t necessary in building and controlled from a cloud base so that still endures but now we really see the value of that and so that’s kind of why, it’s quite an easy sale for us really to convince clients now that that’s the right way forward and the best way to protect their systems and solutions.

Gary O’Connell

Richard, if we take a step back and then focus as you guys as a company. There’s something you mentioned earlier on, I wanted to jump on it straight away, but I said I’ll hold back for a second. You mentioned around carbon footprint, which I’m assuming this is something that you guys think about and that’s quite important to you guys. Is this something that now you consciously think about as a business, a business owner, as a business leader in relation to the solutions and the way you’re working with your customers?

Richard Fountain

Very much so. I mean even before the pandemic we were, had been for years, been very active in not just the carbon side of things but also looked at the sort of corporate responsibility as well. We’ve always been very active to reach out and something that I have personally always believed in is that if you want to put back into society, if you’ve got a skill, or your’e able to deliver a service to someone free of charge, which actually your cost of delivery or purchase in that case is that much lower and that’s the way the path that you should tread. So, for example eight years ago, we installed a free public Wi-Fi service into the town of Bishop’s Stortford which is still where our head office is. We did that free of charge for the community, we maintained it and provided connectivity ever since and the idea in principle was to break down the digital divide and allow people access to online services who may not be able to access the internet so freely. So little initiatives like that, Of course, there was a cost, and the company did benefit from the PR, but the point is our cost of delivery was quite low and it was our skill set, if you like, to do that and now we’ve scaled that up. We work with many different partners; we’ve come out with a new initiative this year called FreePurposing and I don’t know if we’ve picked it up on social media but there was the laptops for schools’ campaign which we linked with the BBC for that. They were really helpful, and they featured us on BBC news and this year alone, we’ve donated over 600 laptops to schools to enable children to get online and that’s been something that taking it, take nothing away, it’s been a lot of hard work by our guys who have spent a lot of their own time doing this. And, you know they worked really really hard to do that. And we took donations from all over the U.K., but we also reached out to our clients, and some of our clients actually chipped in, with providing some hard drives to replace with brand new SSD drives for laptops. Other partners who did logistics, did deliveries for us. So, and that’s what we’re going to scale up, we’ve now threaded that in to part of our operation, so that if any company comes to us or potential client and they want to place an order for laptops, for every single laptop they buy, we’ll collect the old laptop, refurbish it, do a data destruction with clinical software, issue a certificate for them, and then they can nominate the school or charity of their choice and we’ll deliver a refurbished laptop for every one we purchase. So, and we’ve committed to do that for the long term now.

Gary O’Connell

That’s absolutely fantastic. I sometimes find with tech companies that when we look at Corporate Social Responsibility, we sometimes just take it away from the tech. What I love what you guys have done is very much, it’s almost like that digital or tech Corporate Social Responsibility. You’re using your expertise and I suppose your knowledge, in relation to what you can give back to the community. I think that’s absolutely fantastic. So, from an ITVET perspective then, if we look at you guys back as a company again, what can we expect from you guys next? If you don’t mind me saying Richard, you sound like you’re very, very clued into what’s going on in the world from a tech perspective but in the world from a Corporate Social perspective. You’ve used terms that you traditionally wouldn’t associate, if you don’t mind me saying, with a typical tech company. It’s not all business driven, it’s quite altruistic at times from the way you’re speaking. So, what can we expect from you guys next, what can your customers and potential customers expect from ITVET from the coming months and the coming years?

Richard Fountain

Well, much more of the same really. I mean you say that about the altruistic side of it and yeah, it is, it’s something we are very, very committed to, but you know again the way that we’re integrating with our business is very sustainable, it’s commercially viable for us. So, there’s still a bottom line, we appreciate that, obviously we’ve grown considerably, as I said we now have hundreds of clients and thousands of endpoints. So from the Corporate Responsibility, yeah, it is going to grow, and we are committed to do that, but it will be certainly maintainable. In terms of innovations, you know as a company we’re working on, we’re also a development company as well. We’ve got actual software applications which are also SaaS based and in fact we use microservices for all our applications that we develop, and so a lot of that now is increasing the quality of the automated systems and services we’re providing our clients and using AI a little more, self-healing systems, and also that fits in very nicely with the Worry-Free XDR as well, which is again because now we’ve got these sort of more fluid layered networks, XDR for us works perfectly in that way because something again Managed Services Providers always had the benefit of seeing activity, malicious activity kicking off in one part of an organisation’s technology suite and XDR does exactly that, and we’re very pleased that product has come along and we’re embracing it as you know and started rolling it out so we will be knocking on the door very firmly of our clients. It is a genuine thing, as I say, now we’ve got fluid networks, they need to have that and the difference is, it empowers our technicians greatly to give them answers much more quickly but it gives them a correlation between what’s going off. If you deal with say one incident on a mobile phone and that’s fine, you need of course to deal with that but if there’s an implication, you know the XDR tools actually gives them the correlations with what that might mean on a wider scale and of course again being a Managed Services Provider, we’ve got many clients, so if we see a pattern developing, XDR can highlight that pattern to us and allows us to pick it up on all of our clients and get ahead of the curve so yeah that’s kind of you know fits neatly in with what we do.

Gary O’Connell

Brilliant. Well Richard thank you so much for your time this morning, obviously from a Trend Micro perspective, best of luck with the XDR project but more importantly, best of luck with the expansion around your CSR activity as well. It was just fantastic to hear some of the stuff that you’re doing in the community and some of the stuff you’re doing with the local schools. I couldn’t propose working with you guys more, you’re just an absolute pleasure to work with from a vendor perspective. So best of luck, stay safe, stay healthy, and thank you.

Richard Fountain

Thanks very much Gary, really appreciate that, thank you.


Gary O’Connell

Take care, bye bye.