"There certainly are situations when an out-of-the-box solution is the best fit" - Interview with Steve Cox, COO at Technology Services Group (TSG)


Hello Folks! 

How are you doing today?

We had a chance to talk with Steve Cox, COO at Technology Services Group (TSG), about current trends in cyber security. We talked about last breaches in big companies and how to strengthen your security to prevent such situation. The importance of customers and their influence on improvement of security - take a read! 

[Hakin9 Magazine]: Hello Steve, could you introduce yourself and your company to our readers?

[Steve Cox]: TSG (Technology Services Group) is a total IT solutions provider.  We offer IT services, business solutions, connectivity and IT security, specific to individual business requirements.  We then ensure everything works together in such a way that technology is helping their strategic growth plans, and provide ongoing proactive support.

TSG is a leading provider of CRM software, cloud computing and specialist services such as Microsoft Dynamics NAV, SharePoint, Sage Software and Pegasus business software.  We’re highly accredited within the industry and are one of Microsoft’s most trusted specialists in the UK. We are one of just two UK based resellers who sit on their Global Partner Advisory Council and we currently hold seven Microsoft Partner Gold Competencies.

As a main board director for TSG and Chief Operating Officer, I carry budget responsibility and people management for all aspects of our IT service, delivery, support and research and development teams.

[H9]: On your site, we can read about different areas you work with, e.g. telecoms, CRM, SharePpoint. Are they really different from each other or can you implement the same basic solutions everywhere?

[SC]: We do offer a wide spectrum of products and services across the IT space, but we are genuinely experts in everything we sell.  If we’re not an expert in it, we don’t sell it. So we know how to make SharePoint increase employees’ collaboration and knowledge. We know how CRM can sit at the heart of operations, rather than just being a sales or marketing tool. The reason why we cover everything, from the applications that drive businesses to the infrastructure (both virtual and physical) that underpins it, is that we know that millions are wasted every year on fragmented technology. If you make sure that your systems are talking to each other, that’s when you see the most return on investment. We also feel it’s really important for our customers that we have great relationships with the vendors of these products so that we can influence their roadmap and bring them customer feedback directly. Can you implement the same basic solutions everywhere? There certainly are situations when an out-of-the-box solution is the best fit. But our approach is to ask our customers what they want to do better. Based on that, we can tell them how technology can help them to grow.  And that’s not the same for everyone.

[H9]: Do you think companies are conscious of how secure IT solutions are important nowadays?

[SC]:  I think, much like a lot of things, companies are influenced by the consumer. As consumers, we’re reading about major hacks like TalkTalk, Sony, etc., and we begin to question our own security procedures in our businesses as a result.  It often takes big companies to be featured in the news about their data breaches in order to get our attention, but the truth is that over two thirds of the businesses that were attacked last year by hackers were small businesses.  So I think we’re conscious certainly, it’s what we’re doing about it that matters.  And sadly we’re not doing enough to keep up with the sophisticated and well researched types of attacks we’re seeing today.

[H9]: Your company has grown particularly fast. Have you thought about expanding, maybe into other countries in Europe?

[SC]: We do have UK based customers who have a global presence, and there are people using our products all around the world, but at the same time we can see tonnes of opportunities within the UK. Businesses here are really opening their eyes to the competitive advantage technology can give them, and the efficiency savings they can make with the right technology strategy.

[H9]: What trends can you observe in building technology environments? How about in securing them?

[SC]: The way in which we secure technology has seen massive curve balls over time. In the past, we kept all our data on the mainframe. So in essence, we worked on ‘dumb terminals’ with a screen, keyboard and mouse. So it was just the mainframe that needed protecting. We then started to use applications like Word, Excel and PowerPoint, and we kept the data where we shouldn’t – locally on our computers, making them highly insecure and vulnerable to data loss. With the Cloud, all our data and apps are accessed via a web browser.  The security challenge here is that more and more devices (tablets, phones, even watches) are connecting to our networks and using that data.  So it’s about controlling these devices and dealing with the fact that security is becoming more and more complex.

[H9]: What is the biggest challenge that your company is facing right now?

[SC]: Because the IT industry is so filled with jargon and buzzwords, many businesses view IT as a complicated nightmare.  I’ve heard it being compared to ‘going to the dentist’ – a necessary evil.  Our people live, breathe, eat, drink and sleep technology and have a sheer tenacity and endless appetite for problem solving.  The challenge is always being able to get across that IT should be viewed as a crucial part of any business’ strategy, rather than a bugbear.  But I think we’re breaking those barriers down more and more.

[H9]: Your motto says “Big enough to cope, small enough to care“. Do you think it is important to find that balance, in the IT industry in particular?

[SC]: It’s all about the customer experience. Our ultimate aim is to help our customers get the most out of their businesses using the most appropriate technologies. We really need to understand our customers’ businesses in order to ensure that technology brings a genuine return on investment – and it should certainly be viewed as an investment.  The great thing is that we’ve worked with thousands of businesses so we’ve got a great understanding of best practice. For us, it’s about leveraging our size and scale with our vendors to bring competitive solutions to our customers.

[H9]: You provide comprehensive IT support to your clients. Where on the priority list would you place security?  

[SC]:  Security has got to be right at the top.  If you don’t have the right security practices in place, both your people and your customers are at risk. The important thing to remember, is that there’s lots to remember when it comes to IT Security. And that’s because it affects your entire infrastructure. Security isn’t just one thing – having a firewall (protecting the gateway) and putting endpoint protection when in and out of the business are just two of at least ten things you should be doing.  However, a good starting place is your people, and your data - work out what needs to be encrypted, and how, and then go from there.

[H9]: Do you sometimes find that your clients don’t understand the importance of security and, if given a choice, would prefer less secure but more convenient solutions?

[SC]: In some cases, yes - people don’t always understand the importance of IT Security.  Within businesses, it’s crucial that it starts at the top.  If the Owner or Managing Director doesn’t care about the sensitivity of data, then it shouldn’t come as a surprise when their employees are using unsecure tools to send company information.  Or putting ‘for your eyes only’ information on memory sticks and leaving it on a train. The key is to not ignore IT Security or bury your head in the sand, hoping you’ll be OK. At the very least you need to understand the threats to your data, and how it might impact your business.

[H9]: You provide IT Support, Business Software and Technical and Telecoms. From your point of view, which one is met with the highest demand?

[SC]: Every business needs infrastructure – whether that’s Cloud or on premise.  And every business needs to support the devices that run their data.  So demand, in that respect, is always going to be high. When it comes to business software, there are hundreds and hundreds of different types of business applications.  We concentrate on a few (Microsoft, Sage and Pegasus) and have dedicated experts in each to make sure our customers get the right solution for them. Because there is a lot of choice in the business software market, it’s so important to plan ahead and make the right investment in technology, to drive improvements in your business.

[H9]: Do you have any thoughts or experiences you would like to share with our audience? Any good advice?

[SC]: Probably the most important thing I’d encourage people to do is, if you haven’t already, make sure you build a roadmap for your IT in line with your business plans.  IT and technology shouldn’t sit outside of these – if you get IT right, it can bring improved profitability, competitive advantage, and enable you to give an exceptional customer experience.  We have many examples of customers who’ve been able to do that with technology.  But they all have one thing in common: they don’t have a fragmented system.  It’s all part of a wider strategy. Another area is to watch out for the Internet of Things.  At the moment it’s still in the ‘fad’ territory – smart fridges that know when you’re running out of milk and order some more from your local supermarket.  However, we are connecting more and more devices to the internet.  It’s expected that by 2020 there will be 50 billion connected devices.  How these devices are connected to Wi-Fi or networks is so important – one unsecure device could be the equivalent of the Death Star’s unshielded exhaust port; a tiny, overlooked flaw that could leave a business wide open to destruction from opportunistic hackers wanting to gain access to your network and steal your data.

[H9]: Thank you!


Steve Cox, COO at Technology Services Group (TSG)

Author - Steve Cox (1)Steve Cox began his career in IT services was with Ford Motor Company, building, installing and managing the internal communications system across their European network. From there, he moved on to Top 5 accountancy firm Moore Stephens where he sat on their IT committee, looked after the partners and managed the transition from IBM OS2 to Windows, providing support for offices throughout the UK. His next move took him into the world of financial services, and after sitting FSA exams, he provided desktop support at International Finance Data Services for four years before taking on the role of client relations manager working with major global institutions including Barclays Capital, State Street and Jupiter. It was during this time that he really began to understand business and focus on how technology can be applied to create real impact in a business context.  Prior to joining TSG in 2009, Cox spent five years getting to grips with the very different challenge of applying technology solutions within SMEs for a London-based reseller and IT services company, where he took on both operational responsibility and drove strategic direction. With TSG, he is translating what he learned working at an enterprise level in a corporate environment for the benefit of small and medium sized businesses. As chief operating officer he has end-to-end responsibility for R & D through to TSG’s comprehensive range of managed services and solutions with a particular focus on customer experience.


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Hakin9 TEAM
Hakin9 is a monthly magazine dedicated to hacking and cybersecurity. In every edition, we try to focus on different approaches to show various techniques - defensive and offensive. This knowledge will help you understand how most popular attacks are performed and how to protect your data from them. Our tutorials, case studies and online courses will prepare you for the upcoming, potential threats in the cyber security world. We collaborate with many individuals and universities and public institutions, but also with companies such as Xento Systems, CATO Networks, EY, CIPHER Intelligence LAB, redBorder, TSG, and others.
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