Cloud creator

Cloud creator

Every company needs some virtual storage space these days, but where do you get it and how much do you need? Montreal’s CloudOps can help.

While the cloud sector may be maturing, there’s still one question that many companies ask themselves today: how much virtual space is needed to run a business? It’s an issue that Ian Rae has been helping companies answer for a decade.

Companies, he says, don’t want to buy too much space, as most businesses are careful with costs, but not having enough could be a problem, too, especially if they don’t have the capacity to serve a sudden crush of new users if (and hopefully when) a product or service takes off.

“It’s a rightsizing problem,” says Rae. “How do you make sure you have enough resources on an on-demand basis?”

Rae, who holds a biology degree from McGill University, is the founder of CloudOps, a Montreal-based company that sells and manages virtual storage space. While at McGill, he learned how to build computer networks. After graduating, Rae held some engineering and IT jobs, but realized, around 2004, that a lot of software companies wanted to create online products, but couldn’t find a reliable way to run their software virtually.

At around the same time, Amazon Web Services (AWS) launched its collection of cloud-computing services, which allowed companies to more easily scale their storage space up or down. Rae likens it to a taxi service for computing – something you can call on as needed, without having to buy your own vehicle.

This wasn’t necessarily competition, though. CloudOps actually used – and still uses – AWS, as well as server space from other companies, to give its clients access to public cloud space. However, it also offers private cloud space, where some resources are kept on virtual servers run by the company itself. It also offers a hybrid option, where people can store some information on a public cloud and other, more sensitive data, on a private cloud.

CloudOps also provides “multicloud” services to companies that want their data spread across services such as AWS and Microsoft. CloudOps also recently launched Cloud.ca, which caters to clients that want their information to remain in the country.

For Rae, the cloud is appealing because it allows businesses to operate without having some sort of grand plan that they have to build from day one. “What drew me to the cloud was the ability to reserve the right to not know exactly what you’re going to need in six months,” he says. “I think that’s an enormous strategic advantage and something a lot of companies don’t yet take advantage of.”

While Rae has been in business for 10 years, his company has really taken off over the last three. Since 2012, revenues and staff have tripled to about $6-million annually and 32 people. It also serves customers in countries around the world, including the United States, other parts of the Americas, Australia and Europe.

More than half of the company’s revenues are outside of Canada, which disappoints him. Many Canadian operations have been slow to adopt the cloud, he says. “It’s actually something I’m a little sad about,” he says. “It’s worrisome because, if you believe the future is the digital economy – which most of us do – then why are we so behind? I think it affects our competitiveness.”

Still, Rae doesn’t need Canadian companies to keep his business afloat. In fact, his roster has been growing so quickly that he sometimes has to turn away clients. CloudOps has been bootstrapped to this stage, but as demand for cloud space continues to grow, he’s now considering taking on financial partners to help it expand. “We are getting to that stage where, to continue growing at the same rate, we would need an influx of capital,” Rae says. And that’s one business problem that’s not bad to have.

- Brenda Bouw / Photograph by: LM Chabot