Data pro­tec­tion pays off as cy­ber se­cu­rity in­ten­si­fies

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Business & Appointments - - FRONT PAGE -

re­spon­si­bil­i­ties within a com­pany.

Act­ing as a type of whole­sale arm for th­ese global brands, Data­so­lu­tions sells to IT re­sellers which in turn sell to their end users. Among their own many re­seller cus­tomers are lead­ing IT firms such as In­tegrity 360, Zinopy, PFH, Ergo, Evros and Novosco.

It’s an im­pres­sive achieve­ment, made even more so by the fact that Michael did not start his ca­reer in IT but as an ac­coun­tant.

Hav­ing grown up in an en­tre­pre­neur­ial en­vi­ron­ment in Gra­nard, Co Long­ford, where his fam­ily ran a lo­cal bar and gro­cery as well as a farm, Michael went on to study busi­ness and ac­coun­tancy in both the Gal­way-mayo In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy and Athlone In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy be­fore go­ing on to sit his ACCA ac­count­ing ex­ams.

He then joined a small Dublin ac­count­ing prac­tice be­fore mov­ing onto Far­rell Grant Sparks where he spe­cialised mostly in au­dit­ing. Dur­ing his time there, he was reg­u­larly sent out on sec­ond­ment as act­ing fi­nan­cial con­troller for a num­ber of IT firms.

“One of th­ese was a com­pany called Data Code Elec­tron­ics. Af­ter about eight months there I was en­joy­ing the role that much that I re­alised that I wanted to get out of prac­tice and into busi­ness,” ex­plains Michael.

“Au­dit was en­joy­able but it is re­ally about look­ing back and analysing your past per­for­mance and what has al­ready hap­pened while busi­ness is about look­ing to the fu­ture. I learned that I found the un­pre­dictabil­ity of busi­ness more ex­cit­ing and the idea of max­imis­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties more ap­peal­ing,” he adds.

In 1993, Michael joined the com­pany as fi­nan­cial di­rec­tor. Over time he bought out other share­hold­ers, leav­ing just him­self and Fran­cis O’haire as own­ers.

“At the time the com­pany was a dis­trib­u­tor for modems and had built a strong rep­u­ta­tion for de­liv­er­ing cut­ting edge tech­nol­ogy matched with ex­cel­lent cus­tomer service. This was a time when most pc users in com­pa­nies had a screen, key­board and a CPU (cen­tral pro­cess­ing unit) at their desk. How­ever in 1995, things changed for us when we be­came the dis­trib­u­tors for Ire­land of Citrix sys­tems.

“Th­ese sys­tems freed up users to only need a screen and key­board at their desks be­cause the data pro­cess­ing could now be done by a shared server ei­ther in a cen­tral lo­ca­tion within the com­pany’s own premises or re­motely in an off­site in­de­pen­dent ded­i­cated data cen­tre site. And be­cause there was nowhere for users to plug in floppy discs and key fobs, it also had the added ben­e­fit of help­ing to re­duce the risks as­so­ci­ated with viruses and data theft,” ex­plains Michael.

“In ad­di­tion, th­ese so­lu­tions meant that any up­grades to soft­ware could now be loaded di­rectly onto the cen­tral server in­stead of hav­ing to be loaded onto each in­di­vid­ual PC/CPU. This devel­op­ment re­ally helped our own busi­ness to grow.”

In 2001, and with con­cerns about se­cu­rity of data be­com­ing more im­por­tant than ever, the com­pany took on a num­ber of new ven­dors of se­cu­rity soft­ware, set up a new spe­cialised divi­sion and ex­panded its team to ex­ploit the gap that was emerg­ing in the mar­ket.

Fur­ther growth fol­lowed as a re­sult with the com­pany’s rev­enue now com­ing equally from both of th­ese di­vi­sions.

Hav­ing es­tab­lished a strong foothold in the Ir­ish mar­ket, Michael de­cided to ex­pand fur­ther and opened an of­fice in the UK.

“My chal­lenge is to bal­ance run­ning an es­tab­lished busi­ness in Ire­land and a new, al­most startup-like busi­ness in the UK,” ad­mits Michael. “We have built a great team who are re­ally key to our suc­cess. Our goal now is to grow the over­all busi­ness from its cur­rent level of turnover of €35m to €80m in the next three years, ” he adds en­thu­si­as­ti­cally.

As he re­flects on his move from ac­count­ing to busi­ness, Michael is glad he made the switch.

“I get a greater kick from be­ing at the coal­face of busi­ness rather than just look­ing at the num­bers. I par­tic­u­larly en­joy the chal­lenge of grow­ing the busi­ness.

“While the prod­ucts and ser­vices are con­tin­u­ously chang­ing, our job is to an­tic­i­pate what’s com­ing around the cor­ner and be able to bring th­ese so­lu­tions to our cus­tomers to help them and their cus­tomers im­prove their pro­duc­tiv­ity, se­cu­rity and ul­ti­mate prof­itabil­ity. That’s where I get my great­est sat­is­fac­tion.”

Michael O Hara could eas­ily have set­tled for a sta­ble and fi­nan­cially re­ward­ing ca­reer as an ac­coun­tant and au­di­tor.

How­ever, like most en­trepreneurs, he found the draw of run­ning his own busi­ness a more ap­peal­ing propo­si­tion.

With a grow­ing cus­tomer base in both Ire­land and the UK, the risk of tak­ing the road less trav­elled seems to have paid off. data­so­lu­

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