Tony Simpson of Computer Solutions in Balclutha says the cloud is a hard sell to the good folk of his town because they’re a conservative bunch and they like to know exactly where their data is.
And that means being able to see the hard drive that it sits on. New technology is treated with skepticism by the locals who have a long and proud Scottish heritage. Simpson says they’ve been proved right with the likes of Megaupload losing customers’ data.
Tony Simpson, 59, started the company ten years ago after spending a great deal of his previous occupation as a teacher, taking care of the IT department and learning through a baptism of fire. Computer Solutions now boasts two technicians and an assistant, plus Simpson’s wife Sue who looks after the books and cashflow while he takes care of sales.
“We bought an old house here in Balclutha, on State Highway One, and we pretty much ripped the guts out of it and renewed everything from the floor upwards. At that stage there was only Sue and I," recalls Simpson.
He says now the bulk of his business is with contact customers but the service he offers is very much an all encompassing IT service that includes hardware supply. “We have a group of contract customers (which we limit actually) for whom we promise a minimum response time and like everyone else I suppose that group of important customers makes up the bulk of our income.
“And then because we’re a small town we become pretty much everything to everybody, and so we have to fix everything from quite large networks right through to spyware on Aunt Mary’s computer. So we’ve become a Jack of all Trades," he adds.
Tony says the hardware side is not easy because of the offers that larger retailers can publicise, but it’s still an important part of his service. “We try to sell hardware," says Simpson. "Obviously in terms of home users we have great difficulty competing with the advertising and the marketing dollar of the bigger suppliers in Dunedin, but certainly our local contract business customers generally just say to us, ‘Just buy what we need Tony,’ and we work so closely with them that we know what they need and we just get what they need."
Over the years, Simpson's favourites have become HP along with Canon printers with TP Link Wireless routers. Computer Solutions also builds its own home PCs, through a company that Simpson owns in Dunedin called Pro South.
Simpson and his wife also run a Kip Mcgrath education institute in Balclutha offering additional tutoring for local kids and children from the wider South Otago area.
He says the future of Computer Solutions in Balclutha is looking very strong. “We seem to have plenty of work, and obviously we like to be expanding and we’re open to working with others. We work quite closely with one of the local internet providers, Yrless, and we also contract quite a bit of work from Datacom. So, for instance, if a Lotto machine goes down, they email us and we head away with spare parts and go and replaced the broken parts of a Lotto machine," he says.
Simpson has yet to see a demand for any form of cloud services. “We find that our local community is very conservative. And they just like having their stuff on their computer. The movement to cloud services from our point of view is quite slow. For example, lots of local businesses won’t lease hardware. And yet from what I’m led to believe leasing hardware is easily accommodated through the North, but local people like to own their own stuff.”
He jokes that it’s down to the Scottish nature of Balclutha. “My dad was a Scot so yeah, they are well known to have gorse in their pockets. They much prefer to have their own computer with their own software on it and their own data. So therefore the cloud is quite difficult. But we do have customers that are moving on to the cloud. We have a local vetinary practice operating off the cloud and two retailers.”
When it comes to a DR solution, he says that what the company does is "put them on their own backup system like portable hard drives, just the old traditional backups if you like. We have no trouble selling a backup like that but doing one for the cloud..."
“The other thing we’re very conservative about is the security on the cloud. A number of local businesses find it hard to come to terms with the fact that their data is somewhere ad they don’t know where it is and they can’t actually guarantee its security themselves. This Kim Dotcom thing hasn’t helped."
He says Balclutha is a fine place to live, neither too small nor too big, and both safe and friendly. In between computer fixing, you'll often find him fishing for both brown trout and salmon down the Clutha river.