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Sooraj Shah

Contributing Editor

Sooraj Shah is Contributing Editor of New Statesman Tech with a focus on C-level IT leader interviews. He is also a freelance technology journalist.

‘Many businesses want to be MSPs but still see it as selling technology,’ says Calligo CEO

Calligo is Julian Box’s fifth company. He built and sold the previous four, the last of which was a cloud-based company called Virtustream, which was eventually sold to EMC. One of the reasons he left Virtustream was because he saw an opportunity in the way cloud computing was being managed.

“It was all around data and the residency of data and who had the rights to see that data,” he says.

This is why he started Calligo, as a company which would put data at the forefront of what it does.

“At the beginning of Calligo we were just an out and out infrastructure service public cloud provider, with a data-first privacy approach. This meant we focused on where the data was located, which jurisdictions and what applicable laws were there,” he says.

Over the last eight years, the company has moved more into doing managed services.

“It’s moved from being just infrastructure services to being a whole managed service around data,” he says.

That means the company has three main pillars within the business; which is a privacy-focus on its business, then a traditional managed IT technology piece.

Current MSP model is broken

Box believes that the drive to become managed services providers has been two-pronged. Firstly, resellers have wanted to get into this space as it offers them more security, and secondly because the development of technology has enabled businesses to not require their own IT teams anymore. However, he believes that the mentality of many MSPs is why the model is broken.

“A lot of businesses that want to be MSPs still see it as selling technology on a monthly basis rather than selling it as an upfront one-off purchase, so their thought process around what it is hasn’t really changed; it’s just how you charge the client has changed,” he says.

Box believes this is flawed because of the growing importance of data.

“There’s so many demands on organisations doing the right thing ethically as well as legally when it comes to data, so engaging with an MSP that doesn’t know what you can and can’t do with your data is not going to be an MSP you can engage with, and it has nothing to do with the technology you might end up using,” he says.

Calligo provides many of the same traditional technology services such as email management as other MSPs but Box claims that the company’s main differentiator is that it helps clients understand how they’re capturing data, and how that data flows through the organisation, how it is hosted, backed up and how the access to that data is given to people within their organisation and outside of their organisations.

“Ultimately we tell them whether they should be keeping all of that data and which bits need to go and when they need to go. We also explain how they optimise the value of the data – getting the insights within the data sets that we all know exist but are very hard to find,” he says.

The company also helps with the classification and cleansing of that data. All of these processes are linked to the ethical and legal requirements that Box mentioned. He says Calligo helps its clients with dealing with many of the data protection laws.

“I think that’s one area a lot of business still don’t pay enough attention to is that it’s one thing capturing data and hosting it properly on a valid platform but there’s swathes of data where once you’ve used it you’re not legally entitled to keep it anymore,” he says.

Still on an acquisition trail

Like many other businesses, Calligo is faring well considering that we are amidst a global pandemic. The company has acquired two MSPs in Ireland this year – DC Networks in January and Itomic Voice and Data in June. In the last three years, the company has made seven acquisitions in total. The company would have made another acquisition this year but Box says that tests on their claims of growth, business model, mindset, and suitability revealed serious shortcomings and exaggerations.