Cyber Symphony: The St. Louis Children’s Choirs Sings IT Praises

Everyday reliability keeps your business running smoothly. But sometimes situations arise that require an extra layer of dependability. When an important client is visiting or you’re preparing for a major event, the last thing you want to see is the “No Internet Connection” notification at the bottom of your computer. A downed server, network, or website can bring your entire operation to a standstill.

Such was the case with The St. Louis Children’s Choirs (SLCC), a non-profit organization serving around 500 students in the metropolitan area. “We have six different ensembles for students grades one through twelve,” explains Choir Director Dan Mayo. “Based on a combination of age and where a student might be in terms of their musical development, we’ll place them in the best fit ensemble.” SLCC presents four major concerts each year, giving aspiring choral students the opportunity to sing for their communities in settings both small and large, including Powell Hall, the home of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra.

2018 is an important anniversary year for the organization, so extra fundraising pushes, coordination with alumni, additional concerts, and the milestone 40th-anniversary gala meant more promotion and web traffic than ever. “It’s been a crazy year,” Mayo says. But juggling all the duties associated with a significant anniversary becomes much more difficult if your tools keep breaking.

“We were having issues with server and internet downtime, a lot of phone downtime as well,” Mayo explains. Acting Chief Operating Officer Pam Jones knew Mark and Amy Anderson through a relative and was subscribed to the IT TechWatch newsletter. When SLCC decided to upgrade their IT vendor, Anderson Technologies was a clear contender.

“I was grateful that Mark didn’t come in and just try to sell us on the hype,” Mayo says. “Mark was just an honest guy who came in and told us what he thought we needed to address, and we just got a great vibe from him.” The team’s knowledge and reliability spoke for itself as well. Our managed services experts have tackled all of SLCC’s problem areas with other clients, leaving a track record of success and innovation.

“We felt really confident in the level of work that [Anderson Technologies does],” Mayo recalls. “We just had a feeling that we were going to be in very good hands.” SLCC officially signed on for managed IT services in February 2018.

Learning to Site Read

The most important project Anderson Technologies completed with SLCC was a situation no one expected. When SLCC’s website was hacked in early 2018, Anderson stepped in to mitigate the damage.

Mayo describes the situation as an emergency. “I think somebody got into the back end of the site. So we were like, ‘Once we get our board approval and everything we’re going to go with [Anderson Technologies], but in the interim can you please fix this?’”

SLCC’s previous IT vendor was unable to recover the site from a malware attack, leaving our team to migrate the site to our own hosting servers and restore a backup copy. Anderson Technologies Director, Farica Chang, who has years of experience implementing website security and mitigating malware problems, addressed the attack immediately. Several plugins, pages, and custom icons had been deleted, requiring a piecemeal approach to return the site to its original state.

“[Anderson Technologies] was super responsive,” Mayo says, “really quick on it … turned over every rock, crossed every t, dotted every i to make sure we could get back up to functionality as quickly as possible. That was yet another reason why we were confident to present our board with the information and say, ‘This is going to be a really great pairing.’”

Harmonizing Hardware

What kind of music do you expect to make when your instruments are out of sync and out of tune? SLCC knew it was time for hardware upgrades, but they weren’t sure where to start.

“We needed some new equipment, and we needed some people to think outside of the box a little bit,” Mayo says. “It just didn’t seem to be a priority for the group we worked with previously.” When seeking a new managed services provider, SLCC made hardware innovation a priority.

One aspect in particular SLCC needed updated was their storage methods. “At the time we were keeping large physical hard drives here on site and not really backing them up,” Mayo says. SLCC required a way to store massive media server files and student information in a failsafe, secure way.

Anderson Technologies outfitted the organization with a new backup methodology involving both local and cloud based storage. Two storage methods ensure files are safe in the event of a disaster. “In case we have things like a fire that melts the whole place down, we can actually recover from that type of situation,” Mayo says. “It’s a much better solution.”

Wi-Fi Signal from Flat to Fortissimo

Network reliability is another area of improvement SLCC wanted to focus on. Mayo in particular struggled with the wireless connection in the rehearsal room, an area that also houses his daily office. Spotty internet service and wireless coverage led to big problems like losing valuable work time or dropping calls over their VoIP phone system.

Anderson Technologies installed a Meraki firewall and new wireless access points to extend the range and security of SLCC’s wireless internet. “That’s worked like a dream,” Mayo says. “It’s been great to have [internet and phones] working reliably every day so that we don’t get any situations where we have to shut down the whole office for the whole day.”

Keeping Tempo for 40 More Years

There is nothing more important to SLCC than reliability during their important anniversary year, and Anderson Technologies firmly guaranteed that their system would ease those worries. “You know, ‘The phones are all down, the internet’s down, why are we even here?’ It would all happen at once,” Mayo says. “Part of it is just we were cobbling together some older and/or cheaper pieces of technology to make it work, but we had some weak links in the chain.”

A concise assessment of SLCC’s IT needs combined with a clear timeline of solutions allowed the organization a smooth delivery of their anniversary events without any major hang-ups. Anderson Technologies’ continued partnership with SLCC provides them with the freedom and peace of mind to continue serving St. Louis’s young choral aficionados for another 40 years. “We’ve had the much more stable setup that [Anderson Technologies] promised us,” Mayo states. “It’s definitely worked as advertised.”

For more information about how Anderson Technologies can tune your IT to make sure every note is perfect, contact us here or call 314.394.3001.

3 Key Ingredients of Our Managed Services “Secret Sauce”

Over the past 20-plus years, Anderson Technologies has seen what works really well in the IT industry and what should be avoided. Simply completing a project is the bare minimum needed from your IT partner and shouldn’t be where managed services ends. Along with technical knowledge and skill, three key traits improve the relationship between client and IT team more than any other – excellent communication, logical systemization, and earned trust.

Technical Knowledge and Skill

One of the primary reasons you hire a managed services team is for their technical expertise and they should be capable of handling most any technical challenge you face. This really isn’t a secret! Additionally, dedication to maintaining a high level of technological skill should be key for any IT firm.

It can be difficult to determine if a managed services provider prioritizes technical skills, especially for a small business owner who isn’t familiar with the technology industry, but there are a few clues for the layperson. In addition to checking their history and references, information like certifications, education, and satisfied customers can reveal much about a managed services provider, even before they’re hired.

Fixing what’s broken is the fundamental requirement for any managed services team but when building the Anderson Technologies team, technical knowledge and skill is only the first ingredient we look for, and just the beginning of the “secret sauce” of IT services.

  1. Communication

A huge part of managed services is acting as an interpreter.

Every industry has its own language, whether it’s attorneys, dentists, non-profits, finance, manufacturing, engineering, etc. It’s probably easy to remember an incident when communication was a barrier rather than a bridge. The best managed services providers can explain a problem and its solution in laymen’s terms as well as industry-specific vernacular, and easily translate between the two for clients. Poor communication between system administrator and client makes gathering accurate information and completing a project successfully unnecessarily difficult.

Clear communication is vital to not only providing clients the best service but helping them understand what needs to be done and why it is important.

Hand-in-hand with excellent communication are the systems and processes a managed services provider follows to deliver truly excellent service.

  1. Logical Systemization

A huge part of systemization is establishing ideal methodologies and creating processes and specialized documentation designed to produce consistent, repeatable results. Taking the time to develop these best practices and build a structure around them can be easily overlooked by busy entrepreneurs. Members of an effective managed services team should be enthusiastic about combining technical and communication skills into this vital process documentation. Keeping accurate and detailed records not only helps you, the client, but maintains a consistent level of service throughout the team and ensures requests are resolved quickly and correctly.

Systemization and record keeping aren’t incidental to the best managed IT services teams – it should be built into their approach from the beginning. Included in Anderson Technologies’ managed services plans are an extensive client onboarding process, regularly scheduled proactive maintenance designed to prevent breakdown, periodic audits of client infrastructure, systems for tracking project progress and responding to user support calls.

Process documentation and customized methodologies enhance the performance of managed services providers, and, even more important, the performance of the client.

  1. Earned Trust

For some IT firms, an individual’s technical ability trumps everything else. But the system and network administrators hired to interact with your most confidential data and technological vulnerabilities should be a team you can implicitly trust.

When building our managed services team, Anderson Technologies seeks those who align with our core values: Integrity, Respect, Dedication, Team-Oriented, Dependability, Initiative, and Client Focused.

These qualities are the most important ingredients in our “secret sauce.”  They define our organization’s character, which has been developing over two decades.  It is who we are as a team and what we represent and strive for every day as a company.

The best managed services firm goes beyond that skill to provide service on another level. Excellent communication, logical systemization, and earned trust combine to make the secret sauce that comprises an IT managed service that truly shines.

Anderson Technologies looks forward to sharing our “secret sauce” of managed IT services with you. If you need assistance, call 314.394.3001 or email info@andersontech.com.