In a post-pandemic, technological world, one pocked with data-security threats, companies need a recovery plan more than ever. And Northeast IT is doing what it can to support small businesses during this time.
“Security is coming back into focus again,” said Joel Mollison, the company’s co-founder and president. “So we’re dealing a lot with that, making sure the people have adequate backup disaster-recovery plans. They’re able to recover the data, and their operations will be in better shape because we have certain preliminary pieces in place to protect their networks. And we’re expanding our offerings in the security sector as well, to kind of cover that.”
Northeast’s focus is on growth — steady, but controlled — in a world of change. But Mollison is no stranger to that, since he walked into college as an engineering student, but quickly realized higher-end math wasn’t his cup of tea.
“I was actually working in a computer lab at the time, and I had a personal computer at my house so I could do some of the high-end design work, and then it broke,” he recalled. “I had a Staples warranty, and it took forever for me to have someone come out to the house. In fact, it took weeks for them to come out, and then they didn’t fix it. Then I had to send it out to Worcester. And it became a huge rigmarole. And I was like, ‘wow, this is really terrible.’”
So he took it upon himself to fix the computer and, in so doing, found his love for hardware and IT. He changed his degree and graduated after the dot-com bust, at a time when jobs weren’t easily available for folks who hadn’t been in the field for a decade. So Mollison started his own firm under his name, fixing things for family, friends, and small businesses.
“I think one of the differences for us is that our growth is controlled. We’re taking on the right types of clients that really value our services, and we’re creating long-term relationships with those clients.”
“I was under that name for a long period of time, and then it transformed over time,” he said. “People thought we were too small, so I couldn’t get contracts. I ended up taking on a business partner, Brian Sullivan, in 2010, and we ended up rebranding as Northeast IT. It was all the same; it was just rebranded, and we started taking on more business clients.”
Today, Northeast IT is a managed service provider. Essentially, it acts as the outsourced IT department for companies that don’t have their own internal force, or want to augment their capabilities by doing a co-managed solution — they have a basic IT tech, but Northeast IT does the ‘heavy lifting,’ such as managing the network server, security, and more. Northeast also provides clients with backup, disaster-recovery, and cloud services.
These days, Mollison and his crew serve a broad gamut of industries, anything from financial institutions and medical agencies to engineering and municipalities.
Securing the Home Field
Before COVID-19, business was steadily growing. Named a Super 60 honoree in 2018 by the Springfield Regional Chamber, Mollison told BusinessWest that business was “just kind of flying” — and then the pandemic hit early in 2020.
“I wouldn’t say things stalled completely, but there was definitely a huge pivot. All of those major projects we had in the queue, people kind of panicked, and they pulled the plug. So we went from having a lot of projects and support work to a lot of support work, and then pivoting to moving people to the remote workforce,” Mollison said. “So we spent a good period of time, I would say from March through probably June, trying to transition a lot of managed clients into that remote workforce completely and cloud services.”
Because it has municipal clients, Northeast IT was an essential business during the pandemic and never stopped operating, though it did transition the way its work was done. Social-distancing practices were established, and some employees who weren’t needed in the office worked remotely for almost a year and a half. Mollison didn’t see some of his staff for six to eight months, but they were constantly out there.
With smaller providers not being able to provide services and others closing their doors, Northeast saw an influx of work and new clients, and the continuous growth hasn’t ended. If anything, the pandemic created many wins for Northeast IT.
“I think there was a shift prior to the pandemic, and now it’s starting again because there is a renewed focus on security,” he explained. “There’s a false sense of security, and there’s a million preventable measures. When you go into more of the small-business market, the data and operations of the organization require your IT infrastructure to be completely functional and your data to be protected.
“In the past 10 years, ransomware viruses have become more and more prevalent,” he went on. “They’re attacking hospitals, schools, it’s all over the news. If they get infected with a virus, all their data becomes locked; their computers cease to function. They can’t interoperate, they can’t access software, they’re frozen.”
Post-pandemic, businesses are starting to focus again on the importance of security, and Northeast has been diligent in helping them do so, especially for clients in the insurance industry.
Underwriters specifically are getting more stringent about annual review processes, Mollison explained. Clients are being asked to fill out paperwork regarding the kind of security measures they have, and Northeast IT, in turn, sits with them and answers with ‘yes, you have this,’ or ‘no, you don’t have this.’ But Mollison has come to realize that cyber-liability space in insurance is “like the Wild West.”
“What we’ve been finding is that, while a lot of the clients have always been on the fence about when to invest in these different security methods that we have available to them, they’re starting to get forced into these because, if they’re not doing it, they’re going to receive a much higher rate on their insurance underwriting, or some of them, in some cases, may not even be insurable, depending on their industry.”
Future in Focus
With a refocusing on IT, network security, and making sure client businesses are in good condition, Mollison remains focused on strategic growth.
“I think one of the differences for us is that our growth is controlled,” he told BusinessWest. “We’re taking on the right types of clients that really value our services, and we’re creating long-term relationships with those clients.”
Kailey Houle can be reached at [email protected]