Every system your business uses needs tweaking over time. Employees come and go, technology advances, and you may find yourself facing unexpected issues as you balance your business’s vision with the changing technological tides.
Such was the case for a residential retirement community in St. Louis and one of our managed services clients since January 2018. This retirement center has grown tremendously from its start over 50 years ago as a nonprofit affordable housing community for Jewish residents of University City.
“Our main mission is independent living for seniors,” says T. D., Office Manager at the retirement community. “Over the last couple of years, it’s really evolved to be a community center.” The center is an activity hub for more than just its residents. “People in the community can come here and take an exercise class, eat in the café, or take an art class. There’s always people going on trips, people doing gardening,” she explains. “It’s really a dynamic place to be!”
The influx of activities and participants meant that the retirement center relied more than ever on its online means of communication. Reaching a larger group of people required strong cyber security and reliable hardware and connections. It was time to reevaluate their previous approach to IT.
Choosing an IT Company
Before the retirement center partnered with Anderson Technologies, they’d been with the same company for ten years. “I think our needs evolved over time,” T. D. says, “and we found they weren’t meeting our needs anymore.”
The retirement center’s server and firewall weren’t being updated, which can create network security holes on top of reducing hardware functionality. Their IT support line offered help when necessary, but the retirement center needed more than just a break/fix approach. They started looking for someone who would take ownership over their infrastructure.
“We took a pretty long time to decide which company to go with,” T. D. admits. After narrowing the proposals down to six companies (Anderson Technologies included), it was difficult to compare them and decide which would be the best fit for them. “While I did that, Mark [Anderson] had called me a few times just to check in…. He wasn’t being a pest or anything but wanted to see if we needed any other information. That was helpful.”
But how Anderson Technologies really impressed the retirement community was through proactivity. By offering to conduct a thorough infrastructure audit “Anderson did something that no other company did,” T. D. says. “It gave us a lot of good information about the status of our security and how our backups are working and the hardware, our remote access.” Offering an infrastructure audit with no strings attached—and making sure the retirement center fully understood their technology needs—made Anderson Technologies the clear choice for IT support.
Bolstering the Firewall
The first project on the to-do list was tackling the retirement center’s outdated firewall. Firewalls are a business’s first line of defense, but many users fail to realize they need to be monitored, maintained, and updated in order to work most effectively. The firewall established by their previous IT support company hadn’t been regularly updated, wasn’t running any type of internet content filtering, and didn’t provide the granular reporting data necessary to quickly detect network activity. This left any machine with internet access more vulnerable to malicious sites and programs.
Also, the team was unfamiliar with the firewall manufacturer. “I was a little concerned because they said they had never heard of it,” T. D. says. “You know most of the tech people all use the same equipment, or they at least know the name of it.”
Anderson recommended a new Meraki firewall, a trusted name in enterprise-grade security. This cloud-based management system makes maintaining cyber security and providing IT support easier for our managed services team. “Now that we’re getting updates as they’re released by Meraki, we’re not worried about any security issues,” T. D. says. “We know that they’re watching.”
Reconnecting with Wireless
The retirement center officially became an Anderson Technologies client at the beginning of the year, which meant tax season was approaching. This made their connection issues that much more urgent. “Every year,” T. D. explains, “we have about six to eight people from AARP that come here to do taxes. They do taxes for the community and for our residents. Every year, they have connection issues.” Each AARP representative used their own computers, all with varying operating systems and update schedules.
Anderson sent in reinforcements to help during this time. Joseph Baker, Anderson Technologies’ System Administrator, spent a couple of days at Crown Center providing onsite IT support for the visitors from AARP. Dattilo was grateful to see their connection issues finally resolved: “I had someone who was going to take care of these people instead of them all just looking at me saying ‘I can’t get the internet.’”
Since then, Anderson replaced the center’s Wi-Fi networking equipment with four new wireless access points that provide reliable connections for the entire facility. They gratefully acknowledged our onsite IT support in their time of need. “It really gave me a sense that these people are being taken care of, we’re being taken care of, and that our partnership with AARP was important, and the community members who signed up to get their taxes done were able to get them done,” says T. D.
Sprucing Up Hardware and Software
One technological issue that often catches our clients by surprise is how quickly hardware and software become obsolete. Many organizations budget for equipment upgrades but struggle to know when and where to implement those changes. “Each year we replace about three to five computers,” T. D. says. Even though she keeps an updated spreadsheet of the staff’s machine specs, it’s not always easy to know which computers take priority.
Taking into account their budget and planning, Anderson Technologies put in place a system to replace a portion of the facility’s computers every year as a part of the managed services contract. “That’s a great feature,” says T. D.. “That way we have new technology, and nobody’s computer is going to be more than five years old.” She’s currently working with Senior System Administrator Eric Dischert to decide the best placement for their new hardware for this year.
Along with complete IT support, St. Louis’s Anderson Technologies experts are always scouting out current tech news so our clients can benefit from technological advances as soon as possible. The retirement center had always purchased their software licenses from a retailer that offered discounted rates for nonprofit organizations. However, when the center applied to upgrade their computers from Microsoft Office 2010 to Office 2016, Microsoft had changed their volume license qualification criteria and denied their application.
Software licenses are an expensive investment for most organizations. “We worked every angle we thought we could work,” T. D. recalls. “That’s been a tricky thing to navigate.” To provide the staff with up-to-date software on a reasonable budget, Dischert worked to acquire five licenses and found an alternate solution.
The Best IT Support St. Louis Has to Offer
Anderson Technologies remains committed to the retirement center’s mission and priorities as it continues to cross projects off their checklist. This approach to IT called for a managed services provider that would hold themselves accountable for balancing innovation with functionality and budget. “We’re never going to be the first organization to try a new technology, but we don’t want to be the last one either,” reflects T. D. “I’d say we’d like to see what the early adopters discover, let the bugs get ironed out, and then we would jump in and start to have one or two people try something new.”
Recognizing this, Anderson Technologies’ focus has been and continues to be engaged, proactive service. Projects like hosting the retirement center’s website allow staff to focus on the community instead of worrying about what happens if their online communication becomes unreachable.
T. D. has always been the go-to staff member for issues like these, so the convenience of both on-site and remote IT support alleviates her role as the tech support middleman. “Before if people contacted me I would be the contact with our old IT company because we had so many hours a month that we were charged for,” T. D. explains. “I wanted to make sure that we were [only] charged for important issues. Now if there’s an issue I have them call you guys because there’s a record of it, and I don’t have to be the contact anymore. It’s very helpful.”
Not only does the retirement center’s nonprofit mission enrich the lives of the 300+ families they serve—it satisfies a need for engagement in St. Louis’s community. Anderson Technologies is proud to play a part in this organization’s important service. “You guys have brought some good technology to the table,” T. D. says, “and we’re glad to be one of your clients.”