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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.

“New revenue almost dried up but existing customer business is up 40 per cent,” says Central Networks’ Paul Beaumont

Central Networks was established nearly 30 years ago, initially providing IT infrastructure and support services and expanding this out to managed services. It turns over about £5m, with 90 customers, three quarters of which are in the housing association sector.

The company provides public, private and hybrid cloud offerings, cyber security services and virtualization. It has partnerships with VMware, Microsoft for Microsoft Azure and Microsoft 365, and with Sophos and Barracuda for cyber security. Around two-thirds of the company’s business is in managed services.

“We’ve got cloud services, traditional managed services, we’ll help people build their infrastructure and then run it going forward, security and then disaster recovery and back-up services,” says Paul Beaumont, general manager at Central Networks.

Pandemic performance

Central Networks has an office in Greater Manchester, but the company was already able to work from home before the pandemic, so Beaumont says it was an easy transition.

“We made the decision on the 20 March, which was the Friday before the government advised people to work from home, and we were able to make the decision in the morning and people packed up at night and took their belongings home and worked from home from the following Monday,” he says.

As for its customers, when the pandemic kicked in, the company didn’t see much in the way of new business.

“Like many other companies new business from new customers almost dried up, but the level we saw from our existing customers increased to the extent that right now we’re probably doing 25 to 40 per cent more business than we did previously,” says Beaumont.

Like many of the other managed services providers (MSPs) that have spoken to NS Tech recently, a lot of these new projects were focused on working from home and on collaboration tools. Beaumont explains that this then subsequently meant that customers have required cloud, cyber security, back-up and disaster recovery services too.

“We’ve seen our business expand as a result of lockdown and the need to work from home,” he says.

Housing association sector

With 75 per cent of revenue coming from the housing association sector, it’s an important part of business for Central Networks. The housing associations can require support for anything from 70 users up to 250 users, with up to 100 servers.

Organisations in the sector have been shifting to cloud computing in the last few years.

“It’s interesting for us as we have the ability to put people into the public cloud with Microsoft or Amazon, we’ve also got our own private cloud and we’re finding that people are interested in a hybrid solution, which allows them to put consistent data in the private cloud but use public cloud for the more variable data where volumes are going up and down,” says Beaumont.

The other quarter of the company’s customer base is commercial, covering the likes of manufacturing to professional services. Moving forward, Beaumont says that the strategy is to continue working in the housing sector but also to increase lead generation in the commercial sector.

“Our business is growing. It grew 12.5 per cent last year and we’re on target for greater growth this year. We’re also recruiting staff at the moment – we’ve just taken on two engineers, and we’re looking for another two,” says Beaumont.

Many of Central Networks’ customers are working from home until the new year – and for Beaumont it’s a shift that has been successful for those companies, and has helped Central Networks to grow – even in the midst of a global pandemic.