Derek Brotherston

Derek is essentially your IT GP. You can go to him with any IT problem and he’ll know what to do. He has the rare ability to get tech to  make sense to the non-technically minded. After working in corporate IT support and management for over thirty years, Derek now specialises in helping small businesses and home offices to get the very most from their computer and software investment. He can also assist with your AV design, installation and configuration.

Tell us a little bit about what you do, Derek… 

We provide computer and IT equipment support to small businesses and home users covering everything from simple hardware breakdowns, through to full a network installation service.  Alongside this we also provide Domain name, Website and Email hosting services through our partnership with both Google and Microsoft.

The average week starts with an ‘administration’ Monday morning where I work with our administrator who looks after service renewals and client invoicing of our re-sold products ( Anti-Virus, Emails, Domains, Software products, Webspace etc). The remainder of the week tends to be split around 50/50 between installation work and computer ‘fixes’.

How did you get into IT? Was it an area you were always interested in? 

I have always had a very enquiring technical mind and was introduced to computers and electronics whilst at secondary school in the 70s. I have always needed to know ( and still do) how things work and this drives me to explore and discover solutions. As computers and IT systems have developed and improved over the years, I have continued to learn something new nearly every day.

What IT problems do you find small businesses are usually facing when they contact you? What common mistakes do you see?

Most small businesses have computer systems that have grown and evolved with them and in most if the new clients that get in touch do so because they have reached the point where they know that need some help to get things in order. There are two main issues that I tend to see in these situations. Firstly an over complication of what they really need as a result of a build-up of ideas and systems that have been introduced in a fairly haphazard way, often put in place by ‘the person that knows about IT’ in the firm. Secondly, the use of very old equipment that has become slow and troublesome, IT equipment has improved massively over the past 10 years and will continue to do so, kit is frustrating to meet people who are stuck with old and badly performing equipment when at a relatively low cost they could have their IT experience transformed.

Why is it important for a company to take their IT seriously?

These days, all companies rely on their IT equipment for everyday tasks. When this is working well, it disappears into the fabric of their operation like the other products and services they use… but when it is troublesome, it becomes a daily/hourly challenge that staff have to get through. With regards to data and security, it is essential that businesses have a backup-plan to cover them in the event of a hardware failure or rogue employee. The GDPR rules that were introduced in 2018 made people look more carefully at these areas and I do believe they are being taken more seriously now.

What have some of your career highlights been? 

From leaving school up until I set up Active Connexions in 2010, I spent my working life in fairly large businesses holding middle management positions. My most varied was with a Field Service Management System Company where I was responsible for the implementation and delivery of our product over the majority or Europe, travelling and meeting business owners from most of our European neighbours. My last ‘corporate’ position was with BT where I had responsibility for over 130 field engineers providing IT support and services across the south of the UK through 4 regional managers and a back-office support team. However looking at highlights of my career, it has to be the setting up of my current business as this has enabled me to meet such a fantastic range of great people as clients who have come to rely on me for all of their IT needs. Their continued appreciation is hard to beat!

How have you seen the IT industry change over the last few years?

Originally all IT systems were provided and supported by the large manufacturers; the products were very expensive and nobody knew how anything worked and therefore relied on these companies to keep the systems working. The introduction of the desktop PC in the early ’80s started to change this and companies would buy the products in. Over time they developed in-house resources to look after them (‘the IT guys’!). These departments became expensive and this saw the rise of the outsourced IT model where external companies offered to provide support. I worked for these types of companies for the majority of my career. The problem, in my view, is that individuals regardless of the size of company they work in, need individual support tailored to their particular needs. This is very hard to provide as an external body and as a result most users had a worse experience from the outsourced model.

I was determined to ensure that providing a personal service tailored to each client would be the backbone of my new company.

What’s the best bit of business advice you’ve been given?

“Give it a go now – otherwise when you finally do, you will wish you had earlier.”

What do you think your industry will look like in 10 years’ time?

Everything will be Cloud-based with very little data held on people’s own systems. This will allow people to have more than one system on the go at a time with everything they need on all of them. The traditional desktop PC with one user assigned is already becoming less and less important. This will mean that IT support will be focussed on accessibility to this data resource and helping people to work this way. If a piece of hardware fails, it will simply be replaced by another low cost unit.

Want to find out more?