IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

Building a Rapid Response Brand

Alvaka Networks carved a unique identity through an always-on business model and peerless execution that has enabled it to go upmarket. By Oli Thordarson

IT HIT ME LIKE A TON OF BRICKS that Alvaka Networks needed its own brand identity when one of our larger clients (at the time) described me as “the 3Com guy.” How could he not know that we did so much more for his business than networking?

That day 20 years ago marked a sea change in our approach to identity and branding. I was no longer going to be “the 3Com guy”; we would be “the Alvaka team.” As such, we removed all vendor branding from our website and created our own “Worx” line of services and solutions.

We also built and staff a 24/7/365 network operations center that differentiates us from our competitors. Our engineers are not offshore; they work in our California office. Plus, they are not just “on call” after hours or on weekends; they are working a shift in the NOC (remotely now due to COVID-19).

That was really our move into the midmarket too, which was a 10-year journey to transition out our smaller clients and focus solely on businesses with $20 million to $2 billion in revenue with 200 to 5,000 seats in the healthcare, finance, manufacturing, biotech, and technology industries. These are always-on businesses and we guarantee to be there when they need us.

Every MSP has to understand what makes them different, and Alvaka Networks has carved out “three uniques” to focus on: rapid response, recovery, and prevention.

The intent, of course, is to prevent problems from happening in the first place, but if an issue does occur, we need to respond rapidly and confidently. Our ability to do so gained us new customers in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic when businesses that sent employees home to work were suddenly getting hit with ransomware because their internal IT teams did not have the experience to understand the security implications. We were taking multiple calls a week, and since we were the only ones picking up the phone at all hours and holidays, we got the business. By the time a competitor did respond to the distress call, we already had a signed contract in place.

Making the Investment

Getting the business to this point did require a significant investment to build and staff our NOC. The NOC itself requires a lot of real estate within our office to house all the working staff. In addition, there is capital investment in the hardware and software, plus it has to be maintained along with the back-end infrastructure for the services we provide.

Recruiting and hiring staff was also challenging. We had to interview a lot of folks to find the night owls. Making the decision to pay for all this staff before we had enough signed contracts in the beginning to keep them busy, however, was the biggest leap. It's expensive to have people sitting overnight and on weekends at engineer rates.

It took about three years to reach ROI, but since then the payoff has been good. Now everyone is busy during their evening and weekend shift with rolling out security patches, managing backup systems, and other tasks best done when clients have the least amount of activity going on in their systems. And these techs are available to respond to the occasional emergency.

The NOC is a great sales tool too. Before the pandemic, we’d invite local prospects into the office to get to know us and walk through the NOC with its impressive wall of displays and our engineers monitoring the screens. During the tour, we detail all the services we provide and security measures we have in place. Suddenly this intangible service feels very tangible, and customers see value paying a premium for an MSP with around-the-clock U.S.-based engineers who are focused on rapid response and executing better than everyone else.

This is true even during challenging times, and the proof is that Alvaka Networks grew revenue 14% in 2020. That’s why everything we do is focused on the Alvaka brand and the value that we deliver.


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