Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

TNT Cloud Migration: Cost Savings and Challenges

Posted on: October 6th, 2017 by Jessica Diehl No Comments

No story convinces like a personal one.  As president of The Network Team, I knew that my leadership was contingent on practicing what I preach and what I ask our team to preach.  Here is our story of our cloud migration.  Since the story isn’t done, it represents a great, real time dialog and I want to connect with some of the fears that nearly everyone has when they think about giving up control.  This is a case study that isn’t finished.

TNT is a sub-20 employee IT Services Provider.  We sell other people’s boxes and software, and we do a lot of work to optimize and customize the offering for each of our customers.  We operate as a virtual, non-brick-and-mortar (NBAM) company and our motto is, “work is a thing you do, not a place you go.”

TOOLS WE USE:

We created technology for internal use that allowed us to efficiently operate.  We had Citrix for application delivery of all our killer business applications.  We had a Microsoft Exchange Server, setup to synchronize with all our IP phones and tablet devices, so email was portable.  We used a pure Cisco Unified Communications Platform (the same one we sell and maintain for our customers) and we had a backup appliance that kept our data safe.  We had a firewall, a voice router, a couple of switches, a couple of servers (all running Microsoft Products, of course), a Storage Area Network, and a LOT of programs, most of them used once in a blue moon.

COST BEFORE CLOUD MIGRATION:

  • We purchased our equipment at a huge discount, and we kept our boxes up and running always by paying ~$1000 a month to a data center provider in Charlotte, NC.
  • We used approximately $500 a month in backup and disaster recovery services.
  • We paid $300 a month for telecom services for our voice technology, in addition to $600 a month for cell phone services for our team.
  • We spent $35,000 on a custom piece of software that integrated quoting, project management, time and billing and reporting, and it ran on a Citrix platform that everyone accessed.  Although the software was free for us as partners, it required approximately 3-man weeks to build it and debug it, and it still requires a few man days a year to maintain.
  • Occasionally, we purchased maintenance contracts for our equipment, but typically avoided this until we HAD to.  We used spare boxes in the event of failures.  The total cost of these contracts amounts to $1000 a year.
  • We had a cloud CRM system to creating and tracking our sales and marketing efforts, and this product was a rental service that cost us $5000 a year.  It also required about 2 weeks a year (this is a guess) of our marketing director’s time to learn to use and debug issues as they came up.  It was proprietary and didn’t integrate with our other tools.
  • Finally, we have a subscription to a service that keeps our SharePoint file structure available, pain free, as a shared drive, and that costs $720 a year.

THE JOURNEY of our Cloud migration

The first technology we dumped in our cloud migration was email.  We moved all our mailboxes and associated services (archiving, backup, spam filtering, et al), to Office 365.  The monthly cost for us, as a Microsoft Partner?  $0.

The second item we dumped was our internal time tracking system.  Although we had no real ongoing costs with the product after the initial outlay, it required multiple man weeks a year of effort to maintain.  In addition, it wasn’t consistent in operating as it was designed.  Since it was proprietary code, there was no support package that we could buy to help us when things broke.  We replaced it with ConnectWise.  ConnectWise was and is most attractive to us, in that it integrated with all of the other tools that we have come to know.  ConnectWise costs us $500 a month for all our user fees, and I imagine that will go up, incrementally, as more users are added to the system and our company grows. That said, there is no server or data center to maintain, no backup to message, no upgrades to perform.

We moved the two remaining applications that we require (Quickbooks for Accounting and Quotewerks for quoting) into the Microsoft Azure Cloud.  Although these are still software packages that we buy (less than $1000 a year for both), the hardware and operating systems that they run on are now someone else’s problem.  We run both on one server that we can expand as needed, and we back it up, in real time, inside of Azure.  This saves us the $500 a month in backup services, as well as removing any time required for TNT engineers to abandon work at a customer’s location to maintain our network.  As a partner, we get Azure credits to offset our usage.  Last month, the bill was $27 for the server and all the apps running on it.  I anticipate that number will stay steady at less than $50 a month for the foreseeable future.

ConnectWise will also double as our CRM platform and our primary marketing platform. The incremental cost of this is $50 per month.  This cuts the $5000 a year number down to zero.  Our monthly ConnectWise bill will go up by $50, though.

We can also decrease the size of our data center, as now we will only be hosting our Cisco Powered voice network that we use internally and resell to our customers.  The currently best quote we have is $414 a month, and we will probably take that.

We will keep our SIP trunk provider and their $300 a month number, as we are still under contract with them.  They have historically provided us with good service…even though our main number is down, even as I type this.

We will migrate all our file services to the cloud.

The Difference:

Our hard costs will go from $26,820 a year to $25, 768 as part of this cloud migration.  That is only a $1000 difference (~3%)  However, our soft cost in terms of time spent on internal tools goes from $21,800 a year to $2,600 a year.  When I combine the total “before” cost of $48,620 a year to the after cost of $28,368 a year, the picture justification becomes more palatable.

In Summary:

We remain at the mercy of the public Internet in either model, as do our customers.  We also have the one-time cost associated with the migration and the internal loss of time that each employee will experience as they learn the modern technologies.  That said, we encourage our customers to consider a cloud migration, so it is only logical that we demand it and expect it of ourselves in the process.

I will be using these savings to pay employees addition compensation (they have earned it!) and grow the business.


For Further Reading:

5 Considerations before moving servers to the cloudcloud migration

Do You Trust Leadership You Work For and With?

Posted on: August 9th, 2017 by Jessica Diehl No Comments

Can you trust leadership in the businesses you work for?  Can you trust the businesses you work with?

Trust in the marketplace always points back to the trustworthiness of those that lead them.  Look at the patterns that are emerging below.

Trust Leadership

The above report published by Edelman in their recent Trust Barometer paper represents their latest findings for the first half of 2017.  At the most basic of levels, you can see that people want to work with salespeople who are most like themselves.  Those who are most likely to tell them, “no,” or “you can’t do that,” are the least likely to be trusted.

This points to the value of relationships and connecting with those who are in front of us.

TNT Leadership Goals

At TNT, our leadership is thoughtful and engaged in the world outside of their hours working at TNT.  To combat the sentiment tracked above, it seems appropriate to share with everyone what leadership at TNT does to “lead.”

Dan Whitt - Sales Manager

Dan Whitt runs the sales side of TNT.  Dan is also an ordained minister and has rooted a ministry in East Africa, where he and his wife visit every few years.  Dan leads church services and weekly home fellowships and has recently had a radio call in program where he answers questions that others have about faith.  Dan is trusted by his congregation with matters much graver than any difficulties associated with IT Services.  Not trusting Dan is the same as not trusting your pastor.

Mike Wilson - Project Manager

Mike Wilson runs the engineering side of TNT.  Mike has 6 children and when asked, he thinks that he and his wife are not yet done having children.  Mike leads engineering projects during the day, recently finished a Masters in Information security, and handles a van full of children each evening and weekend, shuttling them around between events and activities.  The role of father and husband are serious matters to Mike.   Some of us cringe at the thought of 6 children and a full-time job.  Mike thrives under those conditions.  He has recently bought a 15 passenger van to accommodate their family and the anticipated needs.

Jessica Diehl - Marketing Director

Jessica Diehl does marketing, making sure that what people see about TNT matches what TNT actually does.  In addition to performing all marketing efforts for TNT, Jessica is an active member of The Union County Chamber of Commerce.  An avid supporter of local businesses, she serves as an ambassador, volunteering to help new Chamber members get acclimated to the Chamber, as well as serving at Chamber events and Luncheons. Jessica is also co-chair of the Young Professionals of the Chamber, helping to plan and execute professional networking events for young professionals.

Jeff Gaura - President

Jeff Gaura is the president of the company.  As is documented elsewhere, Jeff is a scoutmaster in a local scout troop, responsible for High Adventure Programming.  He has led boys and other adults to Central Canada, New Mexico and, in 2018, to remote Alaska.  He is a TeamUSA athlete and travels, speaking about the tribulations and joys of representing our country on the International stage.  Jeff’s heart is in Nepal, where he served as a Peace Corps Volunteer and has helped raise money and build 5 schools in the Dang Valley near the Himalayas.  Jeff enjoys talking to Nepali folks about Jesus.

As you can see, the drive to be engaged outside of the working world of TNT runs deep in our leadership, and throughout the company as well.  In the future, we’ll have more blogs that will help you get to know our Engineers and Sales team better.

Ransomware Attacks growing

Posted on: July 5th, 2017 by Jessica Diehl No Comments

Ransomware attacks are hitting countries across the world again, just weeks after TNT posted about the ransomware attack known as WannaCry on our website.

Ransomware Attacks on the rise

While camping recently with a friend who is a police officer in Charlotte, we discussed stolen vehicles.  My friend shared that when he gets a call to investigate a stolen car, nearly all the time, his first level investigations reveal that the owner of the car either was not in possession of his keys or he didn’t lock the vehicle.  The monologue goes something like this.

“Officer, I just went in the store for a minute to buy a cup of coffee.  It was so cold outside that I figured I could just leave the car running for 90 seconds without worrying about anything.”  Then, there is no car.

Or, this story happens.  “Look, I just went right into the school to pick up my son like I always do.  I have done this 100 times before with no worries.  Now, my car is gone.”

In each instance, the driver assumed that the protection required was minimal, since they had not yet experienced the loss.  However, once the loss occurs, they reel; especially when they come clean with their failure to do their part to prevent the theft.

My officer friend thinks the fix is easy.  As soon as insurance stops paying for claims for lost vehicles, the word will spread that if you don’t lock the car, it is your fault, with no exceptions allowed.

What makes the response to ransomware so fascinating is the ongoing failure to take the threat very seriously.  The FBI is not successful at either capturing or stopping the perpetrators from future attacks, and the number of businesses and people who get hurt continues to rise.  That said, you would think people would “get with the program” and address security using a recommended multi-tier approach that includes education, security hardware and software and company policy to prevent it from hitting them.

TNT can help.  President Jeff Gaura personally teaches classes to employees who use computers to help them understand the threat.  He shares strategies to help protect them and their employers from these attacks.  TNT sells both products and services in the form of monthly subscriptions to keep your business safe from this ever-changing threat.

Do you think you are safe?  Most car drivers do.

As a good first step, have your security checked.  We have a one-time fee associated with a network security test and penetration test.  It is inexpensive and auditors as well as business owners love “knowing” what their actual status is without having to rely on some IT person’s opinion.

Learn more about the growing threat of ransomware by clicking on the image below.

Ransomware

Managed IT Services Relieve Frustrations at Monroe, NC Non-Profit

Posted on: April 6th, 2017 by Jessica Diehl No Comments

“The best way to explain TNT and their work is that they exceed expectations…in ability, intelligence, dedication, customer care, responsiveness, etc.” Ashely Lantz, Turning Point Executive Director of TNT's managed IT services

Turning Point is a non-profit based in Monroe, NC that aims to end domestic and sexual assault.  Executive director Ashley Lantz approached The Network Team after receiving less than ideal experience with the current IT provider.  This included frequent disruptions in service that adversely affected the ability of employees to do their jobs effectively. The current managed IT services provider was not meeting expectations with regards to responsiveness and on-site support.

The Network Team performed a migration project that enabled Turning Point’s technology environment to be better equipped in serving its business needs. This included moving Turning Point’s server from their old MSP’s cloud to on-premises, ensuring better up-time availability and simplifying the setup, as well as migrating Turning Point’s e-mail services to the Microsoft Office 365 cloud. TNT also installed Cisco Meraki access points, switching, and a firewall for better WiFi coverage, faster connection speeds, and more reliable security. Referencing the project, Lantz noted that

“TNT has provided the BEST customer service and dedication to our needs that I have ever had. They have consistently exceeded my expectations in response time and grit to get the transition completed successfully. Any issues that have occurred have been corrected. The engineers worked through the night to have us ready to work the next day.”

TNT will continue to proactively manage the IT environment of Turning Point, providing help desk support via e-mail, phone, ticketing system, chat and on-site support.  TNT will also proactively monitor the server, switches, firewall and wireless access points, and maintain continuous IT security.

“I have nothing but great things to say about our transition from our old IT provider to The Network Team (TNT). They worked diligently to make sure that everything was taken care of. We met from the start to decide what was needed and they worked with ourold provider to make sure that everything was moved over correctly. IT transitions are always scary, but TNT made sure to answer all of our questions and worked around the clock to make sure that we weren’t down during this time,” said Lantz.

Wondering if Managed IT Services can help your business?  Learn more by downloading our free E-Book, "Should Your Company Outsource IT?"

Managed IT Services

The Network Team