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Dragon Interview: James Butler – Microsoft Award Winner

Published on: 13 Oct, 2012
Updated on: 13 Oct, 2012

Behind a modest blue door on North Street, next to a furniture shop, a young Guildford IT company has suddenly found itself the subject of huge international recognition and praise. ‘Cloud Business,’ headed by local entrepreneur James Butler, has won the 2012 Microsoft Office 365 Commercial Partner of the Year Award, beating off more than 100 international competitors.

The man behind this small but fast-expanding company told Guildford Dragon about its journey from being a single rented desk to an internationally renowned business.

James Butler CEO Cloud Business

By Flora Windebank

FW: Did you expect the company to win this award?

James: I really didn’t expect Cloud Business to win it at all. There were lots of large international corporations going for it, and we were a relatively new company. That’s a really positive aspect of Microsoft though; they have faith in small companies to be able to bring out new technology and ideas. We were actually told by Microsoft that we are the best in the world at what we do.

FW: For those of us who are not very tech-savvy, tell us a bit about Cloud services and what you do?

James: The concept of Cloud IT is not too complicated to understand. We provide normal IT services, but deliver them over the internet. Whether you are putting up photos or running an email system, those are all Cloud services. Some good examples are Hotmail and Gmail. People think Cloud services are new but people have been using them for a long time. What our company does is simply deliver and manage those systems for the companies that want to use them. We don’t actually make the products though, Microsoft does.

FW: So what benefits would a company enjoy if they used Cloud services?

James: Companies who choose to use Cloud services don’t have to buy their own servers for their business, or have an IT company to look after it. As well as that, if anything goes wrong for that company, there’s a whole team of people here on standby to help them solve the problem. When a business moves over to Cloud Services, its data is a lot more secure than systems which rely on an office server that needs to be backed up. It really comes into its own for instances when travel is disrupted, like snow days, or for people who need to work from home. The company’s data will be accessible from anywhere. People think security is a big problem for Cloud services, but it’s actually one of the biggest advantages to transferring. It’s also very easy for companies to get used to; there are only a few features that will be new to them.

FW: So the company is certainly doing very well at the moment! But was it a struggle to get to this point?

James: Oh yes, definitely. In 2009 I quit my job at Microsoft, which I had for six and a half years. I literally started up my new company the next day. At first it was just me, my laptop and a rented desk. There were no customers and no sales to start with, but having no income made me very motivated to succeed!

“There’s a huge amount of IT talent in Guildford”

FW: How long did it take for the company to really start to grow?

James: It took a good 18 months for things to really start rolling and it was six months before I could even persuade our first employee, Matt [Matthew Garrett, who is now the Technical Director], to join.  I think this was because we embarked on dealing with Cloud services when most people didn’t know what they were. People were uncertain at first about getting involved, whereas now they are very comfortable. Pearl and Dean was the first big client we had, and after that it got a lot easier. ASOS, Vodafone, Pret, The Carbon Trust and more  followed on from that. The company has grown steadily now to eleven employees.

FW: Do you hope the company will continue to expand?

James: We hope to grow to be a medium sized company. At the moment the company is doubling each year. However it is really important to us to keep the quality and atmosphere of a small company, as that is what our company relies on very much. We are also planning to take on our second apprentice. To be an apprentice here you don’t need to be a ‘techie’, you just need to have good common sense! We actually prefer to hire people who haven’t got a technical background, because they haven’t yet developed any ‘bad habits’.

FW: Will the company stay based in Guildford, now it has grown so much?

James: Definitely. There’s a huge amount of IT talent in Guildford, it’s the second best place in the country to hire people for this business. There’s a lot of electronic games companies here and a good output of graduates from Surrey University. It’s also close to my home. I live in Cranleigh now, but I grew up here and went to St Peters School. Most of my friends are still here and I wouldn’t really want to move away. However we are thinking of creating a new branch in London, as it is close to where many of our clients are based.

FW: What are the best and worst parts about owning your own company?

James: The best part is definitely the freedom.  You have a lot more control over your destiny than you do as part of a corporation. However, this comes at the price of a huge responsibility towards everything: employees and customers, as well as a degree of risk. It’s up to you to make sure everything is still going.

To find out more about Cloud Business and the services they provide, you can visit their website:

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