Lee Harper is the model of the modern Microsoft reseller and managing director of PC Media, a small South Island company that beat out much larger contenders, Datacom and Provoke Solutions, to be named Microsoft’s New Zealand Cloud computing partner of the year.
“We’re only eight full-timers and four part-timers so to win a national Microsoft award is very special for us,” Harper said.
He thinks what swung the award was work PC Media did for a health sector customer in Christchurch that occupied a building similar to the ill-fated CTV structure in which 115 people died in the February 2011 earthquake.
“There was concern about the organisation’s disaster planning so when its servers came up for renewal, we looked at providing it with a total Cloud solution.”
Harper says non-sensitive data went into the public Cloud and a highly secure private Cloud service was supplied for the rest.
“It’s gone from having a couple of servers to having everything Cloud-based, saving $40,000 over three years in the process.”
Harper is in Houston this week at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference.“The event is amazing - there are about 15,000 partners here. That’s the whole of Blenheim turning up.”
In fact, Harper’s out by about 50 per cent. The town in Marlborough where PC Media was set up 20 years ago has a population of about 30,000.
In the beginning ...
The company’s name gives a clue to its origins: it started out selling floppy disks. It then became a PC and server assembler before evolving in the past couple of years into a Cloud computing company. “What we’re doing is going away from selling boxes to being consultants,” Harper said. “Our private Cloud is based on IP we’ve developed for deploying services.”
As Cloud services have become more than half of PC Media’s business, Harper said its profit margin has also grown, in line with research by analyst IDC that was released at the Houston conference.
Harper assures resellers nervous about making the transition that Cloud services draw customers close. “If they’re using Cloud services based on your IP, that locks them into you more than previously.”
Microsoft chief executive, Steve Ballmer, was the star turn of the conference’s first day. He disclosed that the company has more than 3 million users of cloud-based Office 365 and gave Dynamics CRM and Azure, two other components of the Microsoft cloud, a push.
But selling the Azure platform is an uphill battle in this part of the world, Harper said, because unlike Singapore-hosted Office 365, it is served from the US.
Quite apart from latency issues when accessing data stored half the world away, Harper saif New Zealand customers are disinclined to meet US federal government requirements for access to their information on security grounds.
“Kim Dotcom is the prime reason in a lot of people’s heads as to why they don’t want their data hosted in the US," he said.
Harper is, however, “picking up vibes” of Azure coming part way to New Zealand, which should relieve both network lag and data sovereignty concerns.
“There are murmurings of nodes appearing in Australia, which could work very well — people vaguely trust Australia,” he said.