What Makes a Good Managed Services Provider

February 7, 2011

Sure, you know you need managed IT services, but how closely are your technical needs monitored? 

The relationship between a business and its IT provider is critical to the success of the organization. Business owners have other tasks to worry about without needing to be concerned with the daily happenings of their IT providers.

Many IT companies provide dedicated account managers to serve their clients. These managers stay on top of their clients’ needs through regular communication, offering feedback and documentation to ensure their clients feel confident that their IT needs are being handled.

Empowerment. Having dedicated account managers empower you with an understanding of how IT services impact your business. These IT professionals see IT from both the technical and business sides. These account managers aren’t salespeople. Their role is to understand your business and your technical needs, and support you throughout.

Familiarity. Dedicated account managers will know your account inside and out, making for smooth transitions when it’s time for upgrades or technical questions. You will know your contact person, and s/he will know you.

Regularity. These dedicated representatives will proactively schedule regular assessment meetings and educate your technical users. This way, your users have fewer questions and you experience fewer interruptions. By regularly updating your staff and assessing the daily health of your network, we reduce the risk of technical support issues.

IT Solutions is a Managed Services Provider Serving the Philadelphia Area.


How to Pick a Reliable Cloud Provider

February 3, 2011

The small to medium-sized business market is beginning to heat up, with more and more companies touting the title “cloud provider. And since the technology and its delivery are so new, universal regulations for cloud computing compliance and security simply do not exist.  There are no governing bodies over the cloud computing industry as a whole like there are over accounting or food processing for example. So how do you know which are the trustworthy companies? How do you know your data is not in the basement of someone’s home? How can you know their passwords aren’t the same for every account they service?

Making the jump to cloud computing can be a daunting task, with many things to consider. So we want to help you identify the trustworthy cloud provider.  A few questions to ask as you’re considering providers:

  • Where is the information stored? Ask about their data centers. Where the information is physically stored is a big deal. A typical office building can’t ensure the type of security and environmental controls needed to safely house your data. In addition, some so called data centers are nothing more than dressed up commercial office space, with little thought given to redundancy and security.
  • Who can access the system? Someone will be accessing it, but are they trustworthy? How a company screens potential employees is a crucial element in maintaining your security. Does ex-con Uncle Fester get a seat at the help desk?
  • What they can access?  Ask for specifics about how they tier their access. Everyone shouldn’t be able to see everything- only the right people. Choose an IT provider like you choose a friend: Do you trust them? Do they understand your needs and concerns? Do they have your best interest at heart or are they looking to make a quick buck?
  • Is the access appropriate? Access to underlying infrastructure should parallel that person’s job role. Examine the provider’s corporate policies in line with the “who, what and why” of data security.
  • Do they have a third party audit for security and processes? Ask your prospective provider about the SAS 70 Type II audit. In a cloud context, the Statement of Auditing Standards No. 70 is a report by an external auditor verifying that the appropriate controls, processes, and provisions are in place to effectively maintain your data security. 

They may not come up on the putting green, but you should include “compliance” and “security” in your IT vocabulary. The ramifications of poorly secured data and applications are huge. Your company’s credibility depends on your IT provider’s ability to develop and adhere to specific compliance standards.

Claris Networks is a Cloud Provider serving the Knoxville and Chattanooga areas in Tennessee.

Attention Physicians: Join the Paperless Revolution

December 3, 2010

How much time is wasted in your office chasing down charts, filing charts, and trying to decipher chicken scratch in charts? Save time and frustration by implementing Electronic Medical Records. Your staff will thank you.

3 S’s of EMR:

Speed. The days of searching for paper charts have long gone. With EMR software, all the information you need is at your fingertips in seconds. The streamlined process of gloStream gives you instant access to charts and other vital information.

Safety. Patient safety improves with the implementation of EMR. Physicians have instant access to information, no matter where the chart is or who is looking at it at that time. Lab results, x-rays and scans become available instantly. Physicians can also have a more meaningful relationship with their patients

Space. Once you’re rid of the rows and rows of filing cabinets, take the opportunity to remodel. Expand your waiting area. Give your staff a break room.

Contact Thinsolutions today to learn more about gloEMR software and our IT Services.

We Are Thinsolutions….Meet Larry Mellgren

October 21, 2010

I grew up in Spokane, Washington.   I graduated from WSU with a BS in Forest Management , a BA in Business Administration and a commission in the U.S. Army.

I went to Ft Belvoir for Engineer Officer Basic and Ft Benning for Airborne school. I then went Germany and was a Combat Engineer Company Commander in the Third Armored Division fighting the “Cold War”. I came off active duty as a Captain and returned to Spokane. I was a Hot Rolling Forman at Kaiser for two years and commanded the 623 Engineer Company in Hillyard.

I then moved to Boston and worked in the Graphic Arts Industry. I started as a sales rep and wound up as World Wide Accessories Marketing manager for Compugraphic, a manufacturer of phototypesetters. I spent 220 days a year outside the country for about ten years. I would start in Helsinki and wind up in Istanbul, Turkey.

Militarily I stayed in the Reserves and commanded a Battalion in Boston. I then went to work in the Pentagon. I worked in Plans and Operations. I worked on Grenada, Panama and wound up being called up for the first Gulf War. I ran the night shift in the war room. I retired as a Lt Col.

I then moved to Florida to become National Sales Manager for Visual Graphics. After a year I started a company selling billing systems to Doctor’s offices. We merged with a couple of other companies and eventually I went to work for Web MD and now I work for Thinsolutions  selling IT Services and EMR Software.

I am married and I have one son, one daughter and a step daughter  who is a dentist.

I live in Tamarac, Florida on a golf course so I play golf.   I also fly airplanes.  My wife and I enjoy cruising and have been on about 20 cruises.

Partly Cloudy

July 27, 2010

There is a lot of chatter about the movement of software applications to the cloud so I wanted to weigh in with my thoughts on the topic. First off, what is the cloud? In its most basic form, a client is using the cloud when they have their software hosted by another party off-site. For a very boring but much more official definition, check out this link: http://tinyurl.com/ygdppnh.
There are several factors driving the push to the cloud but the some of the most important seem to be:
• Down Economy – Pushing capital outlay and IT management costs to the Cloud provider
• Peace of Mind – Clients can focus on their business because experts are maintaining the network
• Location Independence – Ability to work from any location with Internet access
• Upgrade-Proof – No more life cycle issues with hardware & software
• Flexibility – Reduced user counts results in immediate reduced IT costs and also allow for fast expansion

Research groups are coming out with some striking numbers related to the proliferation of the cloud. Gartner’s research indicates that 1/5th of all businesses will own NO IT assets whatsoever in 2012. A survey by The Sand Hill Group found that 70% of IT Manager respondents currently spend less than 3% of their IT budgets in the cloud, while by 2013, 80% expect to spend between 7% to 30%.

Thinsolutions has had a Cloud offering since 2000, so we’ve obviously believed in the benefits of the Cloud long before the general marketplace did. Seeing the market catch up to us is exciting but has also caused some concern as behemoth players like Google, Microsoft and others are entering the space with varied offerings. Once Microsoft made the strategic decision to deliver its software via the web, everyone knew that the cloud model had won because Microsoft is probably the last company that wanted to move in that direction.

Minimal Savings
I have two major thoughts about the cloud as it relates to the Small-Medium Business segment. For one, although the cloud is often sold as a cost savings mechanism, it rarely is for the small business customer. I think some savings can be realized by using a specific apps like salesforce.com instead of customizing and managing your own CRM package, but for the typical client who wants to save money by pushing their infrastructure, administration and support to the cloud, there is minimal savings. In fact most of the savings is associated wtih management no longer having to hold meetings to discuss whether or not they are using the right backup solution, security, etc. Combine these soft costs with the savings that go along with a more highly available, secure and disaster proof solution and there is still plenty of reason to move to the cloud route.

Local Cloud
My other observation on this topic is that there will always be a place for local Cloud players like Thinsolutions vs global Cloud players like Microsoft. I’ve heard a lot of IT analysts say that in the very near future clients won’t care where a server sits or what brand it is, they will just care that it’s providing adequate services at a reasonable cost. Although there is some real truth to this theory, I still believe that clients appreciate a local “neck to wring” when they inevitably have issues or want customizations to their Cloud. And therein lies the key:, companies like Thinsolutions can and do provide customized cloud solutions with responsive and flexible service offerings. We already have examples of clients who have tried the cloud route for example with Google Mail. A particular client needed some custom integration of Google’s Mail to Outlook. It took 21 days to get a response about the issue. Although the behemoth cloud players will likely improve this level of service over time, the reality is they can never be organized to be as flexible and responsive as a local company like Thinsolutions is to its clients.

Thank you to our clients

July 15, 2010

Where would Thinsolutions be without its loyal clients?  These are the clients who trust us to run their IT systems.   They’ve given us the opportunity to partner with them to ensure their systems run efficiently and smoothly.  On many occasions, they have told their business clients about our services and sent us additional business.  Referrals like that are highest form of praise a client can give us because they show they trust us enough to recommend us to others.  Our business depends on the relationships we have with our clients. 

Through open, and constant, communication we are able to determine the needs of our clients.  This allows us to use technology efficiently to address the business challenges they face.   We’ve been able to build trust with our clients because they understand that their best interests are our best interests!   We look at the relationship we have with our clients as a partnership whereby we help them to achieve their business goals.  It gives them peace of mind knowing that their IT systems are being maintained and monitored without them needing to worry about it.

Through my years of working with our clients, I’ve developed a sense of the importance of our client relationships.  I’ve also come to appreciate how good our clients are! (Maybe I’m a little biased). Our clients have a loyalty to us that is humbling.  They rely on us to provide them with the IT solutions they need.  We work every day to live up to this trust by exceeding their expectations.  Their loyalty only fuels our desire to provide them with excellent service and support. 

I would like to thank our clients for choosing Thinsolutions and continuing to let us be their one source for IT services.  We look forward to working with you to achieve your future goals.   It continues to be a privilege for me personally to work with you.  I’m motivated to continue the Thinsolutions tradition of excellent customer relationships.  Thank you for entrusting us with such an important part of your company, your technology.  

– Luke C. Neuman

Anyone want to talk about backups?

April 15, 2010

Backups.  Not the first topic businesses want to discuss but something that can have serious consequences if not addressed.  Because businesses today, almost without exception, depend on their data to continue in business, a complete backup and disaster recovery solution is essential. Whether it’s a natural disaster such as a tornado, hurricane (hopefully not this year!) fire or an accidental file deletion, the need for a backup plan is real.   Most businesses agree that there is a need for a backup and disaster recovery plan, but how to go about accomplishing this can be very confusing.  The type of backup and disaster recovery solution you choose will depend upon several issues: 

  • How long can you afford to be without your data and services?
  • What data and services are essential for business during a disaster?
  • How quickly does the data not necessary during a disaster need to be available after a disaster?

The answers to these questions will determine the disaster solution that should be implemented. 

Tape drives have been the standard backup solution for many years.   Tape technology has greatly improved over the years and there are tape drive solutions that will provide a reliable backup.  Tapes do give you the option of taking data offsite as well as providing unlimited retention.  However, a tape drive does not provide a good solution for a business that needs to be quickly restored after a disaster or server hardware failure.  A server would need to be ordered and setup and then the tapes would have to be restored.  This could take a few days.

Disk backup is becoming the most popular backup choice because of the relatively low cost of disk space and its reliability.  The downside of recover time (ordering a server and recovering the data) applies to a disk backup solution.  An additional downside is not being able to take backups offsite, but that can be offset by means of an offsite backup solution that backs up data over the Internet.

An Internet based backup solution takes care of the need for having data offsite in case of a disaster.  If this is the only backup, however, it does mean that the restore will require an Internet connection as well as the time it takes to transfer the data over the Internet.   In addition a server would need to be ordered and the data recovered.

Thinsolutions offers a backup and disaster recovery solution which addresses of all these requirements.  Our solution consists of a local backup as well as an offsite backup.  We will setup a backup device which backs up all of your servers and data, and then sends the data securely offsite to a data center.  This data is then replicated to two other data centers in different geographical locations.  The backups are taken in snapshots every 15 minutes, allowing for very time -specific restores.  In the case of a server failure the BDR (backup and disaster recovery) device is able to bring the server online virtually so that users can connect to it and continue working until a new server can be setup.  In case of a true disaster where all of the servers are destroyed including the BDR device, a new BDR device will be shipped and the servers can still run virtually.  This is truly a complete backup and disaster recovery solution.

It’s important to clearly define your up time and recovery time requirements before a disaster or server failure occurs.  Thinsolutions can guide you through the process of answering these questions and assist you in developing a backup and disaster recovery solution that meets your specific needs.

– Luke C. Neuman