Factoring technology onto the balance sheet
Learn how boutique accounting firm, WBM, adopted cloud services and fibre internet from Rogers Business to keep their data safe and their competitive edge sharp.
“Our parkade doubled as a swimming pool during that flood,” recalls Al-Karim Moloo, partner at WBM, a Calgary-based boutique accounting firm focused on advisory and tax services, which he also co-founded in 2009. “We’re not your cookie-cutter accounting firm,” he says. “We have a diverse client base of high-net-worth entrepreneurs who operate businesses domestically and internationally, ranging from manufacturing to hotels and development to shipping and so much more. For us, it’s not simply about filling out a balance sheet. It’s not even necessarily about our clients’ revenue; it’s about our clients’ needs and how we can advise them on the right solutions that are tailored for them. We even have a family office for them where we act as trusted advisors for personal affairs like estate and succession planning.”
Ultimately, it was that very commitment to offering bespoke solutions that led Al-Karim to Rogers Business. “We pride ourselves on being a trusted advisor to our clients,” he says, “and that’s why we want to do business with organizations that will be trusted advisors for us.”
When Calgary flooded in 2013, WBM had to shut down and move their servers, which amounted to a week’s worth of delayed work and wrestling with technical issues. “That really got me thinking about disaster recovery and contingency planning,” says Al-Karim. And unfortunately, the flood wouldn’t be the only risk to their servers over the years. A restaurant in their building fell victim to a suspected arson attack and there was streak of thefts that thankfully left their office untouched.
And then of course, COVID came along. “COVID has really redefined the way we do business,” says Al-Karim. “We’re an essential service, so we have some staff in the office, but now have some working from home, too.” The risk there being that when an employee accesses their company’s server via the internet, it can open the corporate network to more cyber threats.
“We pride ourselves on being a trusted advisor to our clients, and that’s why we want to do business with organizations that will be trusted advisors for us.”
However, despite floods, arson, thieves, and COVID, another risk emerged ironically from the business’s success. In 2015, WBM opened an office in Ontario. That new location created yet another situation where many staff would have to access the company server using the internet. “The server for both locations was housed in our Calgary office,” says Al-Karim, “creating another potential point of failure for us.”
Exhausted from narrowly dodging a barrage of slings and arrows, Al-Karim knew it was time to make a permanent change that would better safeguard not just his customers’ information, but his firm’s reputation. “The issue wasn’t really about data being unrecoverable,” he says. “Rather, it’s about the time to get back up again.” With the lost week of 2013 still fresh in his mind, Al-Karim understands well the potential harm of just one downed server. “April 30th is the deadline for filing personal tax returns. What if I miss that? What are the penalties for my clients? Many businesses have corporate year-ends in December. What if I’m late? When I think of the reputational damage that could result from that, it’s too vast for me to even put a value on it.”
“As a consumer, you want to work with people who have the same principles and values as you do.”
To find a solution, Al-Karim needed the right expertise. “It’s been quite an interesting journey starting with just one or two PCs and finding out very quickly that what you use at home and what you need for business are two totally different things,” he says. It was also important that the prospective provider be trusted nationwide. “I wanted to partner with an organization right here in Canada that was reputable from coast to coast not just so I could sleep at night, but so my clients could sleep at night.”
But there was another factor just as if not more important than reputation and national presence. “Our core values are integrity, respect and competency,” says Al-Karim. “As a consumer, you want to work with people who have the same principles and values as you do.”
With that in mind, Al-Karim wasted no time calling Imagine Wireless, a Rogers Business authorized dealer in Western Canada. “We’ve been with Imagine Wireless for about six years,” he says. “You can pick up the phone to get their advice without worrying about them trying to sell you something. It’s been a great relationship and they’ve been a one-stop shop for me.”
The advice: make the firm’s server functionalities available over the internet by moving them into the cloud, thereby eliminating anymore reliance on on-premises IT infrastructure equipment. Specifically, a virtual private cloud (VPC) environment was recommended. “It’s a significant investment, but it’s the right investment,” says Al-Karim, elaborating on why WBM went with a VPC deployment model instead of a regular public cloud. “This is our cloud. It’s private. It belongs to us,” he says. Unlike a public cloud, in which compute resources are shared among several customers and where payment is on a use-as-you-go basis, VPC, while it resides in a public cloud, is an isolated environment dedicated to a specific customer who pays for the reservation, not the usage, of compute resources. That payment model means businesses with unpredictable needs can still be cost-conscious.
Of course, cloud services are only as good as one’s internet connection to them, and it was clear that to accommodate the VPC, WBM needed to upgrade their internet as well. “I have kids, so I understand the pull on bandwidth that can happen when everyone is trying to use the internet for different reasons,” says Al-Karim. “So, with two offices logging into one location, I wanted to minimize that issue. That’s why we went with a dedicated fibre connection.”
Rogers Dedicated Internet easily provides the speed, reliability and security WBM needed to use their VPC solution to its full potential. But what Al-Karim also took into consideration was the Rogers fibre footprint in Calgary. “My understanding is that Rogers has connectivity to most places in Calgary,” he says. “So, if we were to move to a different building, we know the accessibility is there.”
Al-Karim Moloo will be participating in the Calgary Chamber's virtual Small Business Week Expo on Oct 21, 2021. For more details, visit https://www.calgarychamber.com/small-business-week-expo