When Dave Glass started Computer Systems Plus in 1984, he could have never imagined how it would evolve. For more than 20 years, the Knoxville, Tenn.-based company has served its clients, typically small businesses, using the break/fix service model.
The fee-for-service method of providing IT services to customers did well for Computer Systems Plus (CSP). However, by the time Glass handed over the reins to his son, Rob, about five years ago, the IT landscape, and its customers’ needs, had changed.
These realities meant that CSP needed to find better ways to manage risk and predict its monthly revenue. The same was true for CSPs’ clients: Long-time customers and newer clients preferred the idea of a managed service model paid for through a monthly subscription. The choice became clear: CSP would transition from a break/fix IT services shop to a managed services provider (MSP).
“I knew something had to change and saw that this is where the industry was going,” Rob Glass said. “It’s been a good change. There is no more dickering about where the retainer money goes or invoicing clients on a one-off basis. We each understand the expectations of the other, and our relationships with customers are better.”
For its transition to an MSP, the company had to expand beyond traditional break/fix services to cloud services, data protection, and improved uptime. CSP also had to reevaluate how it provided backup and disaster recovery for its customers.
Challenges Faced With Datto Backup and Disaster Recovery
CSP had upgraded its approach to backup and disaster recovery multiple times over its 38 years in business. About 10 years ago, the company developed its own backup and disaster recovery service from scratch, hosted on racks and servers in its own Knoxville data center. While clients and CSP staff liked the service, the do-it-yourself approach became unmanageable.
It was time to get onboard with a commercial backup and disaster recovery provider. After a search, the company settled on Datto (which was acquired by Kaseya Corp. in 2022). While Datto’s offerings worked well and met all compliance requirements, the CSP team soon encountered issues that hadn’t come up during the migration.
Datto’s model was siloed, which meant that each of CSP’s clients had independent service agreements with Datto. If one client contracted for 1TB of capacity to support its 200G of onsite data, CSP couldn’t apportion that unused amount of capacity to other clients. As a result, CSP was forced to charge its customers higher fees. When a customer’s data requirements grew, CSP would have to upgrade the service, even mid-contract.
Because data grows so fast, Rob Glass said these service upgrades kept happening over and over. What’s more, CSP was beholden to Datto, so even if the client left, CSP was still on the hook for the bill.
Datto’s offerings also included a hardware component that had to be installed on-premises at each customer. Glass knew that hardware would eventually have to be replaced. “We had hundreds of thousands of dollars invested in the hardware,” he said. “Looking out at Years 6 and 7, we knew we’d have to make that investment again. We didn’t want to put another $200,000 on the table to keep the devices running.”
Finally, using Datto’s offering required CSP to issue two different sets of bills to clients and use two different management screens, one for backing up customers’ on-premise equipment and a second for backing up data from SaaS applications like Office 365.
Another Switch – From Datto to Redstor
By Year 3 of its five-year contract, Glass said he’d have to think about switching backup and disaster recovery providers again. Glass’s list of requirements was long but necessary: no hardware, cloud-based, easy to use across clients, efficient, scalable, a single centralized management console, and a collaborative vendor that could support CSP from both a technical and marketing standpoint.
That’s when luck hit. As Glass was walking the floors at a telecom conference in Las Vegas, he came across a Redstor booth. He immediately saw that Redstor was at the wrong event – it was a backup and recovery services company at a telecom expo. Since the booth wasn’t busy, he took the opportunity to ask the Redstor reps a lot of questions. Everything clicked into place after that.
“I liked that [Redstor] could support our customers as they are going to SaaS solutions like Office 365, Xero, and Salesforce and that Redstor was constantly working on a roadmap,” Glass said.
To test the waters, CSP performed a gradual migration of its clients’ Office 365 backup and recovery to Redstor in the early summer of 2022. When the pilot proved successful, CSP decided to move customers’ infrastructure backup to Redstor, as well.
CSP Looks to Further Simplify IT for Clients
Today, as CSP finishes migrating all customer infrastructure to Redstor, Glass said that he appreciates the large pool of billable storage it can apportion to customers as needed. He has also come to appreciate Redstor’s “Instant Restore” feature, which rapidly creates an image or likeness of data in the case of a crashed server or downed service. Redstor even has spare servers ready to ship, which enables CSP to offer temporary hardware to customers delivered within hours.
As CSP moves forward, Glass expects to focus on eliminating complexity for its customers and helping them navigate the IT landscape by creating a “virtual CIO” relationship.
“My father founded [CSP] on the concept that the customer doesn’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” Glass said. “These are new ways we can show clients how we care – by coming alongside them and helping them with complex IT issues.”