Lemon’s Fruit Heads for the Clouds

Christchurch web design company hairyLemon is bearing fruit - in the form of a subsidiary company.

The new company, which launches on August 1, will be called IT Team and will focus on providing IT support for small businesses.

With about 12 "decent-sized" clients already, the firm is focused on providing cloud mail and online backup systems.

IT Team general manager Connon Daly has been running the hairyLemon tech team for several years and handling IT services for hairyLemon clients but it was now a division of the business that was ready to go out on its own, he said.

It had been difficult to get new IT services clients because they considered hairyLemon primarily a web design company and did not realise it also managed networks.

The IT Team is fully owned by hairyLemon directors Sue Wilkinson and Graham Dockrill and has five full-time staff including Daly, but would likely grow to about eight "very soon", Daly said.

Launching the new company had been on the cards even before the September earthquake but the motivation increased after local businesses - including hairyLemon - realised how exposed they were to risk, Wilkinson said.

"The technology is available to ensure businesses don't need to be that vulnerable, and there are enough companies out there who now know firsthand how challenging it can be to get their systems and processes running again after a natural disaster," she said.

Cloud computing means operating with a "virtual server", meaning data is replicated across multiple servers in multiple locations, so a business's data is not lost if its building goes up in flames or an earthquake hits.

Daly said there had been an increase in demand for the services the new company offers after the February earthquake.

"People - even after the September earthquake - the response would be 'oh yeah we probably should talk about something' but it didn't happen.

"We were surprised how carefree people were about their IT.

"After the February one the companies that were still standing were a lot more comfortable talking about it and were proactive," Daly said.

The IT Team's target market will be businesses with between five and 25 to 50 staff and it will focus on providing online backup and cloud mail services.

"Working inside a web development and hosting company means that we have a strong understanding of the urgency and significance of protecting our data and online services," Daly said.

"We've been pushing cloud in several ways for a while. Now we really have pushed down that road a lot more, because of the earthquake."

Some companies had lost their mail servers in the quake and to set up a new mail server was expensive, while cloud mail and online backup were "really cheap", Daly said.

HairyLemon had heard too many stories of CBD-based businesses who were either unable to get back on their feet because all their data was on small servers inside their inaccessible premises, or those who conducted commando style raids through the cordon to rescue server hardware, Wilkinson said.

The IT Team had lost some existing clients, unable to operate after the earthquake, but the new clients the business had taken on had more than made up for those losses, Daly said.

Eventually the IT Team will leave home: when it outgrows its hairyLemon premises in Hornby, or when it needs to make room for hairyLemon's own expansion.

HairyLemon is also preparing to launch another new company to meet the needs of very small businesses after the February earthquake, which will offer similar services to IT Team but aimed at very small businesses and sole enterprises, called "Munted".