Enter X-IT into the cloud
How brothers Neil and Brendan McCutham's are taking their company from building systems to building service solutions
By Lee Davis, Auckland | Friday, October 05 2012
Christchurch company X-IT has discovered that providing cloud based services is easier than it seemed. The five strong company led by brothers Neil and Brendan McCutham simply built the servers themselves, housed them close to their market and voila.
Neil and founder Brendan have rolled their sleeves up to help provide Christchurch with the support it needs by making sure customers have a recovery plan that’s disaster proof.
The company employs one workshop-based technician, a road warrior and admin staff. Neil says X-IT now has a customer base of around a thousand, with about 250 core regulars.
“We do our own hosting in-house here,” Neil McCutham says. “We sort of dabbled in it before the earthquakes. It came out of frustration from our clients wanting the ability to be able to work from anywhere. We just use Microsoft servers. We’ve got about six or seven servers that we operate so we’ve got them all set up so the clients can just dial in straight to there and access their data from anywhere whether home or from their work business so pretty much their computers are just like dumb terminals that don’t hold any data. We do back ups here.”
“We’ve learnt from what happened with the earthquakes, when there’s power outages, we have back up solutions for that. We’ve got an uninterruptible power supply that’ll keep us going and we’ve got a generator that’ll keep us going any further.”
McCutham says the company has opted for an HP UPS solution but it builds its own servers from scratch. “We build our servers ourselves. Our main supplier is Dove Electronics. We would source 95 per cent of our products from there.”
He says cooling and air conditioning is not a problem so far. “We work from a residential property. So it’s sort of removed from elsewhere. It’s all in a big rack mount with all the bits and pieces with plenty of air flow so there’s no problem there.
“As far as clients go we’ve got about 12 companies on our servers and from those companies there’s just under a hundred clients using our remote servers. We don’t have it filled up, because we need them to run more efficiently, that’s why we have plenty of servers, and then it’s just a matter of keeping the customers happy all the time.”
McCutham says the key to his business model is transparency. X-IT works on a flat rate with no fixed term contracts. “We just have a flat rate fee for the clients, there’s no data limits, no email limits, just one flat fee.”
It’s the beginnings of a datacentre, he says. “Obviously it’s in its infancy. We’re always adding new clients. Our customer base is essentially Canterbury, but we do have clients who use our cloud services in Wellington, Auckland and also Australia. Their main company is based here in Christchurch but they have other branches.”
At the moment they have a VDSL link to the nearest exchange, which is only a kilometre away but they are waiting for a fibre link to replace this soon.
“There are many facets to our business; we’re not only doing cloud hosting. Our business has changed quite a bit in the last couple of years, where a lot of it was break fix, we now do sales and servicing and all the bits and pieces PC sales lap top sales and server sales. We build the servers ourselves, and we service them and put them on SLA contracts, but saying that we don’t really tie our customers in to 12 or 24 month contracts.
“We pretty much say well, ‘This is what we do. As you can see from our website. We offer a great service at a great price.”
“I think for a business to grow you have to continually changing with what’s out there and looking at new technology to try and help your business. Four years ago we would never have thought that we would be in as big a position as what we’re in now. We’re only a small fry as far the amount of people that we’re hosting but it provides us with a monthly income that allows us to carry on and do bigger and bigger things. We’re forever looking at the latest technology. The big thing for us at the moment is solid state drives. It’s just gone gangbuster, especially with the prices at the moment. If somebody wants to speed up their computer, put a solid state drive in it, 50 per cent of our new builds go out with solid state drives.”