3 min read

Transitioning with the times

Picking the brains of its customers helped this company create a plan to build expertise in data availability, message management and disaster recovery

XSM Systems Inc. spent the first nine years of its existence as a Sun Microsystems representative in British Columbia.

Although the one-supplier exclusive relationship was fruitful for the Vancouver-based solution provider, CEO Ron Tonts felt it was time to change the direction of his 12-year-old company.

So for the last three years, XSM has been building a professional services practice concentrating on data availability, enterprise message management and business continuity.

“We decided to focus on key opportunity areas in the marketplace that allowed us to grow our services business as well as sell information technology products to address clients’ business problems,” said Tonts.

He added that regular discussions with company presidents and chief operating officers help keep XSM’s practice current and viable. “We ask them: what keeps you up at night? Do you have contingencies in place?”

Milan Martin, XSM’s business continuity and compliance manager, said the company has two different yet complementary approaches to understanding the needs of a business: zoom in and zoom out.

“The zoom out is standing back to look at the business and understand what kind of compliance and business continuity issue they need to deal with and what regulations and compliance legislation they need to meet,” said Martin.

Once that is figured out, “we zoom in and look at the technology implementation at a very low point solution level and identify missing pieces or technologies that aren’t meeting the requirements from a higher level.”

Martin added that product implementation then becomes a function of the identified business continuity and disaster recovery issues within the organization.

Some of the partners that come into play during plan implementation include Symantec, for data availability and security products, Network Appliance, for storage solutions, VMware, for virtualization and F5 Networks, “the one that makes the network seamless to the end user,” said Tonts.

Mission-critical messaging

E-mail is also an integral part of XSM’s practice, he added, since “many people transact business through e-mail, a lot of intellectual property gets passed back and forth, so making sure that it’s identified as a mission-critical application is key to a lot of companies.”

The company’s enterprise message management system, said Tonts, takes e-mail systems and puts the appropriate infrastructure and operational practices in place to make it a 24/7 service.

In the front end are security products to ward off both external and internal threats like viruses and spam. On the back end, “we partnered with Symantec on an enterprise product that allows clients to archive their data,” said Tonts.

Many solution providers can simply take these products and do an installation, but “we’ve developed our expertise in integrating the products into a business environment with minimal impact to end users while providing huge benefit operationally to the IT group and the business as a whole,” he added.

Business continuity and compliance makes up 40 per cent of XSM Systems’ revenue, but Tonts said that number is growing. “For a well-balanced business in our industry, we should have a 60/40 split where 60 per cent is services and 40 per cent is supporting products.”

With a staff of 15 full-time employees and a pool of independent contractors to assist with services work, Tonts is happy to take smaller projects and grow from there.

“Because we’re a small company, we take the time to listen and are prepared to be flexible in how we do business,” he said.

XSM’s customers include companies in health care, finance, and higher education as well as the provincial and municipal governments in B.C.

“We’re getting good traction with B.C. Crown corporations, along with municipalities, because availability of services are an issue and they’re also dealing with confidential public information.”

The company’s three-year plan will continue to involve business continuity, enterprise message management and data availability/disaster recovery, he added.

“Compliance is a huge opportunity and every business is going to need to address it in the next three to four years.”