Keeping your information safe and secure
Information security is a very real concern for companies of all sizes, in all sectors. A breach of security presents a serious danger to a company's reputation and even its future viability, not to mention potentially jeopardising the precious data of customers.
But Ward Solutions, which is based in Belfast, is hoping to bring a new era of security to companies in Northern Ireland.
It's an information security consultancy, security integrations and managed security services company, originally founded in Dublin in 1999.
Ward has built an impressive customer base here over the past two years, with customers across the public and private sectors, and in manufacturing sectors such as aviation.
Co-founder and chief executive Pat Larkin told the Belfast Telegraph the company has wider ambitions for Northern Ireland - and is bringing a new offering to customers here.
It has been growing at around 20% per annum since it was founded. Its analysts, engineers and consultants can offer cyber-security testing, security solutions, managed security services and cyber-incident management.
Pat Larkin said its services can be engaged proactively. "Typically, a lot of our services would be face-to-face or on-site consulting, engaging with the business and key stakeholders on work processes and procedures. That can be around information security, infrastructure or on-site customer data, while security auditing may be done remotely.
"We help organisations protect their brand, people, assets, intellectual property and profits by identifying threats, and minimising risks."
He believes Ward provides a comprehensive service where other companies offer more fragmented services.
"I would see our unique selling point as breadth of capability. It's rare to find organisations offering complete information security services that will flow through the entire life cycle."
He added: "We employ only the highest qualified experienced people to develop professional long term client relationships, improving your security posture across your entire business. We strive to add value in everything, working to specification, time and budget."
He said the company prides itself on a face-to-face service.
"We are local to the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland - and we can engage with our customers on site, face to face - or remotely.
"There are larger enterprises that operate globally and work on a 'follow the sun' basis.
"Those types of services never really understand in detail what they are dealing with - but we understand the customers' business and the specific risks there are to it."
Earning customer loyalty is crucial, he said. "We have a 98% customer retention rate, and we know that high quality service is what every customer values. If we are with a customer at every stage of the life cycle, we can build that loyalty over time.
"We have had that customer retention since the start and many customers who joined us at the start are still with us."
The company's birth and growth have coincided with the growing dominance of the internet and digital media.
Pat Larkin said: "The biggest change since we started has been growing digital dependence. At the beginning, the people we were working with were the very early adopters, the dot.com companies born on the internet, or companies who had to urgently move to the internet, such as e-commerce or e-learning companies.
"But other categories of company have since had to embrace an online presence. Suddenly they are very exposed to the risks that digital dependency puts on them.
"Banks will have used guards in the past, and physical, armoured trucks, moving large sums of cash between their physical premises.
"But now they need to spend on their digital security."
Alan McVey, a Northern Ireland native and the company's NI business development manager, has more than a decade of experience in information security and information management.
And he said it's approaching the Northern Ireland market with confidence. "We anticipate that there's a market worth £3.5m available to us in the short to medium term, over the next three to five years.
"And we very much see Northern Ireland as opening us up into the rest of the UK market, where we also have growth ambitions. We're offering a range of new information security services that we believe are unmatched in this market, such as our ISO 27001 accreditation consultancy service, and we believe this will set us apart."
And he continued: "One of the biggest selling points to us is also the availability of talent, and that's thanks to the large numbers of cyber-security companies operating here, such as Rapid 7, WhiteHat and Proofpoint, and organisations such as the Centre for Secure Information Technologies (CSIT) at Queen's University."
For information, contact www.wardinfosec.co.uk 028 9073 0187