The North East’s Tech Renaissance: Innovation, growth and security

In the interconnected world we live in, where data flows freely and business operations span the digital landscape, cybersecurity has become crucial for ensuring the safety and continuity of businesses. The evolving landscape of cyber threats has forced companies to rethink their security strategies to protect their valuable assets.

Knowledge is power, and the world of cyber criminals earns billions of pounds a year exploiting businesses to the full.

In 2008 tech enthusiast Dan Kitchen launched a business in his bedroom to support and manage IT for businesses around the region.

Since then, razorblue has grown rapidly alongside the developments in global technology with 180 staff, offices around the UK and a client base of over 500 businesses.

They have also gone on to manage much more than standard IT, and provides services in cloud, connectivity, business applications, bespoke software and much more. The firm has also expanded its cybersecurity division, with plans to increase this further very soon.

Headed up by technical solutions director Jonathan Anderson who has been a part of the company’s growth since its inception years. His expertise and dedication have played a vital role in razorblue’s journey from bedroom start-up to a prominent player in the IT and cybersecurity industry.

“Our growth reflects the growth in technology,” says Jonathan. “And we have always focussed on a tech-first approach with all our clients to find the right solutions for them. That has really helped with our organic growth, our client retention is excellent and the referrals we get from them are excellent.”

One of the biggest changes over the past five years, according to Jonathan, is that everyone is now a target, not just large companies being held to ransom over data.

“The things cybercriminals can get up to nowadays are serious and they think of it as a business. They see cybercrime as being victimless, but what they don’t realise is the reputational damage it causes businesses.

“It has become a volume business for them, a lot more planned and measured, using social engineering and profiling of the people they are targeting to get them to fall for their tricks,” Jonathan says. “So one of the most important aspects of our operations is keeping our clients protected and informed, and we have invested a lot of time, consideration and resource into how to best protect them.”

razorblue uses ISO 27001 and 9001 standards as the basic building blocks, then goes above and beyond to ensure clients have the most secure solutions to their individual business needs. Its team of experts manage the whole process, identifying the challenges and risks and then designing and implementing multi-layered protection that is constantly evolving and responding to changes in criminal activity.

“Technology changes rapidly, as do the approaches of cybercriminals, so we are constantly evaluating what we are doing to stay ahead of the game,” says Jonathan. “We help clients understand the issues and the cost benefits of solutions based on risk. There is always that feeling of ‘it could never happen to me’, but if it does businesses and their reputations can very quickly become flattened.”

It is time for business leaders to challenge the conventional notions of trust and embrace a paradigm that demands nothing less than constant vigilance – the Zero Trust approach to cybersecurity.

razorblue helps clients develop bespoke air-gapped data protection and private networks to transmit data securely. As well as this, they help clients formulate disaster recovery plans to minimise the impact of any attack.

razorblue has also developed its own bespoke security operations centre, which looks at trends and patterns, triggering and analysing alerts, after picking up unusual activity, providing clients with an extra level of service.

“It might turn out to be a false alarm, or it could be that a password has become vulnerable for some reason. We still have an engineer there to check anything that is flagged, as its better to be safe than sorry,” says Jonathan.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is the latest technology to pique interest on both sides of the law. “One of the most important elements is understanding how it can add value to business, to understand the context and content and how to apply this to your knowledge base,” says Jonathan.

“One of the things you can do with AI, if you have a big dataset, is to train it using that data and historic outcomes. For example we have a helpdesk management system that receives thousands and thousands of cases, and we have utilised AI to triage and direct these cases to the right engineer or team, which is a lot more efficient for our customer,” says Jonathan.

“We are also using Sentiment Analysis, AI tools which detect the tone of our communications with clients. Email is clunky and can be misinterpreted. This latest technology can pick up whether clients are becoming frustrated or whether we are missing their point. We are using AI to identify security trends and enhance the skills of our staff. With the continual growth of the tech sector there will always be a place for humans.”

The North East is well-placed to contribute and cash in on the continual development of technology, according to Jonathan. “We have some really good people and institutions, but since the pandemic and the growth of remote working now we have to compete with the likes of Manchester, Leeds and London,” he says.

“To overcome this, we are working with the universities and colleges and investing in apprenticeships and placements. We want local people to stay. It’s not just a job it’s a long-term opportunity. The universities are turning out great people and are very active in finding out what employers need. There is something culturally in the North East where people want to work together to achieve the next stage. We also work with a number of other organisations and we do find they listen. The North East is trying to become the best, but we could do with more government-led investment so companies make it their base.”

If they did they would find the future is bright. “We have had another good year and are looking at bringing in a combination of further acquisition and expanded services particularly around security,” says Jonathan. “The aim is to continue investing in people and buildings to contribute to the economic prosperity of the North East.”