It’s nice to have an IT team on staff, but that’s not affordable for all businesses, especially small and medium businesses. That’s where managed services providers like Cbeyond come in. They offer small and medium businesses the same level of services that they would receive with on-staff IT teams at a fraction of the overall cost.
Sramana Mitra: Hi, Chris. Let’s start with some context. What do you do? Where are you going directionally? What is your personal background?
Chris Gatch: I’ll start with Cbeyond. We’re a small business–focused managed services provider. We position ourselves as technology allies to small businesses. We deliver infrastructure as a service offerings in the area of cloud and networks or cloud and communications. Our goal is to bring enterprise class services in those areas to small businesses. We’re all about leveling the playing field between the big, better capitalized, better staffed companies and the small and mid-sized businesses we serve.
SM: What is your definition of small business?
CG: It runs, for our business, from five to about 500 employees. The concentration of our customers is fewer than 100 employees. In fact, until last year when we moved our focus to a slightly larger customer set, our average customer had 12 employees.
SM: What are the services you offer?
CG: Going back to our beginning in 1999 as a startup focused on integrated voice and data services for small businesses, over time we started adding a series of productivity enhancing applications to that bundle. It started with simple things like email and Web hosting. It evolved to include services like hosted Exchange, desktop security, and even workforce mobility solutions. We added mobile to our bundle. We just kept adding as small-business owners would come to us and name the areas where they were having challenges in their businesses. Starting in 2010, we recognized the opportunity that we saw in cloud. We made an acquisition in the cloud computing space and the hosted PBX space. One company was called MaximumASP and the other Aretta, which sharpened our focus on the cloud area. In most of our opportunities, we are now leading with the cloud and using network services to complete that offering and enable it. We’ve created more ability to bring high bandwidth capabilities to customers with the idea of enabling them for cloud services.
SM: How do you recommend that a small company move to your system? What are the first few things that the business owner will buy, how does he scale his cloud infrastructure, and what would that cost?
CG: It would depend a lot on what problems he was trying to solve for his business. But for a company that’s truly virtual, meaning it is independent of any physical office location but has a distributed collection of employees working from home, the main products we have that would be useful would be our total cloud data center product and our total cloud phone system product. Both of those are cloud-based services. The total cloud data center is exactly what it sounds like, a data center in the cloud. It starts with a private networking layer to which you can add compute resources with virtual and dedicated servers. There is a firewall component that resides on top of that. All of that infrastructure rides on the environment within in our physical data centers in the United States. If you have a distributed virtual business, you can get an environment that’s the equivalent of having a physical computer room like you had in the old days when you would get a single location office.
It’s the same thing for the total cloud phone system. It’s telephony services, hosted PBX services in the cloud, so that distributed small businesses can have users in various locations around the country. They can have phone numbers local to each of their markets if they want them, but at the same time, they present to the world a single identity. A small distributed business could look like an organized company from a communications perspective. We bring a lot of value by integrating cloud services and network services. That might have less value to an owner of solely a distributed business because he doesn’t have a physical location. But one of our distinguishing characteristics is that we integrate both a robust portfolio of network services and these cloud services. So, when there is a physical location, we can control that experience end to end.