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Steve Cole

Steve Cole on getting IT right for business

By Steve Cole

Managing Director, Net Primates Ltd.

Providing the systems, technology, and security that businesses depend upon has become a specialism of Steve Cole and his IT support business Net Primates.

Over two decades, the company has evolved with the dynamic sector within which it works, and Steve’s reputation as a dependable problem solver in his spheres has led the fan of Formula One to work on a diverse range of IT projects.

During a time where business IT is exponentially evolving, and cybersecurity has never been more compromised, Steve explains the landscape of an ever-adapting field.

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What challenges have the increase in remote working brought to cybersecurity for businesses?

March last year was our busiest month in terms of tickets; everybody needed to work from home straight away. Some businesses were set up and had already been working on a hybrid working model. But we had some clients who were very much fixed in their office so we had to give them remote access to their desktops securely and quickly.

Even now, nearly two years on, some people still use their home devices, and from a cybersecurity point of view they're just lining themselves up for some sort of issue. Reputation takes years to build, but seconds to destroy: cyber-attacks can take a business out.

What is your approach to cybersecurity?

We use a layered approach of different toolsets. We've got some clients who have got everything, and others who have got particular areas that they're protecting. You can put all of the measures in place but ultimately the weakest link is the person and it doesn't have to be malicious, it can be accidental.

We use endpoint protection, the likes of antivirus and malware protection on the physical device. We can scan emails in and out; there are people trying to manipulate and socially engineer people into capturing information or clicking on links. There's education such as phishing training. It's a constant battle and a constantly evolving subject.
It’s about taking a measured approach and finding the key items that you want to protect and to safeguard that person's business, assets, and livelihoods.

"What we're seeing around technology is more evolution and integration into customers’ businesses, and smarter working especially with the recent notifications about more homeworking."

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What measures can you take if a cyberattack happens?

It depends on what protections they’ve already got in place and what kind of attack it is. Even with all the layers of protection, attacks can still happen.

If somebody gets a ransomware attack and they’ve got endpoint protection, that can mitigate and sometimes will stop it in theory. But when it comes to certain attacks, depending on the severity of the event, you have to involve the insurance company first because you can’t start remediating the incident until the insurance companies have assessed it.

Are there any new business IT support technologies on the horizon?

The advance of Office 365, even in the last 12 months, has been exponential. Prior to the pandemic, Teams was an application on most people’s devices that was often asked to be uninstalled. If you’re in the Microsoft ecosystem, there’s more coming out every day around making your business work smarter.

What we’re seeing around technology is more evolution and integration into customers’ businesses, and smarter working especially with the recent notifications about more homeworking. There’s a tool within Microsoft that enables automation. It’s just going to get better and better and enable people to be able to work smarter and more globally and not have to be tied to that desk.

"Reputation takes years to build, but seconds to destroy: cyber-attacks can take a business out."

Steve Cole - Managing Director, Net Primates Ltd.

In the fast-paced technology sector, how do you stay ahead of the game?

We’re part of a peer group of about 80 similar businesses in the UK; we talk a lot and we share a lot of intel with each other. It’s useful understanding what other people are doing and what tools they’re using.

We get information and resources from our suppliers as well: from our vendors around security and from Microsoft.

We learn from each project and apply those learnings, methodologies, and processes with our other clients. We aim to become our clients’ trusted advisors. We try and aim to do a technology business review for our clients every quarter at least, where we’re not just talking about their IT but understanding where they’re at and where they want to be.

Are there any projects that you’ve worked on which you’re particularly proud of?

We’ve been involved with so many fun projects. We’ve done a lot for Royal Caribbean; we did a project in Southampton docks where we put Wi-Fi into most of the cruise terminals. Shortly after that, one of the newest cruise ships in the world came into Southampton and was having some technical issues that we were able to help with. As a result of that, I ended up providing shoreside support for Quantum of the Seas, Anthem of the Seas, Ovation of the Seas, and Harmony of the Seas as well as a full Wi-Fi project for the naming ceremony for MSC Bellissima.

I also did some work for Tesla last year around Wi-Fi projects and receiving their cars into the UK, and I’ve done things for Formula One around hospitality.

What are you currently listening to, reading, or watching?

I’ve got a soft spot for Disney and my young daughter enjoys it too. We did the Disney Cruise this year from Southampton.

There are two podcasts I’m listening to at the moment. One, which isn’t particularly business-related, is Shagged. Married. Annoyed. with Chris and Rosie Ramsey; there’s a lot of swearing but it’s funny, real, and great escapism.

I also listen to a cybersecurity podcast, with real-life stories from around the world, it’s thought-provoking in ways that we can protect our clients. It’s useful to be able to give real, rather than theoretical, examples to clients around why they need cybersecurity.

Steve Cole