SKY’s the Limit for Website Development

How Anderson Technologies Helped SKY Investment Group Reach a New Audience

Have you Googled yourself recently? If you own a business or oversee the marketing of one, an internet search is the first step in evaluating your company’s online presence. Social media marketing and web search optimization can be researched and learned. Functionality and ease-of-use must be tested and refined.

First impressions are everything. What does a potential customer or client see when they discover your company? This was the question Carol Bingham, Senior Administrator of SKY Investment Group, asked herself when deciding to give her organization’s online presence a makeover after thirteen years in operation.

Telling the Right Story

Creating an updated site is different than designing a site from scratch. Making sure the new design provides clear navigation and an elevated user experience not just for first-time visitors but also for existing clients is key. Our goal is always to guide users to what they’re looking for quickly and easily.”

The investment management company based in Hartford, Connecticut, hadn’t changed its website in over ten years. The site lacked functionality, making it a challenge to attract new clients. “No mobile capabilities, improperly marketed,” Bingham describes. Beyond that, the information presented on the site was out of date. Incomplete or languishing sites are an unintended sign to search engines and potential clients that a company is stagnant.

“Our business had changed in ten years,” says Bingham. “We became much more aware of who we are.” SKY’s site was created three years into the company’s growth, and the site’s content and organization still reflected its youth. This upgrade served as a rebranding opportunity. “Three years into existence, we tried to be everything to everybody,” Bingham says. The new site not only provides a better user experience for clients but also describes how SKY has changed as a company, allowing potential clients a laser-focused view of their investment options.

When Narrative Meets Creative Vision

Bingham had a personal connection to the Andersons and their established IT company, so naturally SKY reached out to Anderson Technologies when it was time for an overhaul. Director Farica Chang, who has spearheaded many web development projects for Anderson Technologies, took charge of redesigning SKY’s site to better suit its story.

“Creating an updated site is different than designing a site from scratch,” Chang explains. “Making sure the new design provides clear navigation and an elevated user experience not just for first-time visitors but also for existing clients is key. Our goal is always to guide users to what they’re looking for quickly and easily.”

Because SKY is a financial institution, marketing had to be handled delicately. The SEC strictly regulates how investment management companies advertise themselves—namely that they directly oppose the solicitation of clients. SKY’s appeal needed to dwell in conveying services honestly and directly, rather than with flowery filler words. “Carol was instrumental in making sure the presentation did not overstep the bounds of these regulations,” Chang says.

Goals for the new website included simplicity, readability, and neatness. Bingham wanted a crisp interface with “no frills.” SKY’s vision for the site included their contact information, directions to the company’s physical location, clear layout and navigation of available services, and a warm introduction to the team. Users needed to be attracted to SKY’s character and transparency—without a sales pitch.

I wanted to create a site that helped convey this warmth and trust.”

“During the discovery process, what immediately jumped out to me were the personal stories Carol and her husband Bob shared that illustrated how they go above and beyond to serve their clients,” Chang recalls. “I wanted to create a site that helped convey this warmth and trust.” This meant creative elements like colors, structure, and photographs were imperative. They planned a new site design featuring clean, bright layouts with generous white space and gentle curves.

Photos and fonts are important design elements, but communication is the biggest component of a website development project. “Building a website is a collaborative effort between the developer and the client,” Chang says. “We bring technical experience, but no one knows your business better than you.” Strong communication between Chang and Bingham resolved every problem that presented itself, and the Anderson team always took SKY’s needs and concerns seriously. “Member security is super important to us,” Bingham says. “Farica was amazing at finding the right platform.”

The Next Chapter

After SKY’s site face lift, Bingham knew the website could no longer be once-and-done without updates and attention paid to the big changes in the internet landscape. There are still a few markers Bingham would like to reach before the site feels complete.

Building a website is a collaborative effort between the developer and the client. We bring technical experience, but no one knows your business better than you.”

One of the most valuable tools in the internet marketing tool belt is search engine optimization (SEO). The internet and its search components are always changing. Refining the text on SKY’s site—such as updating new contact information and incorporating specific search keywords—and partnering with high-domain sites for backlinks are two methods the company plans to use to rise in the ranks.

In addition to maintaining the strict guidelines for financial institutions, new web policies also warrant changes to SKY’s previous web approach. Because SKY’s clients can potentially access the site from the EU, they need to become compliant with the new GDPR law. That update is something Anderson Technologies’ web development team has implemented on many sites – including our own. Integrating a cookie consent bar and new Google analytics settings not only brings the site up to GDPR compliance but also provides a more accurate record of who accesses the site.

Though SKY Investment Group still has many design ideas to incorporate in the future, their new site tells their company’s story much more successfully. It leaves room to grow, too—and the Anderson Technologies team will be ready to take on the challenge when that time comes.

Does your website need an update? Is your web presence lackluster and preventing customers from learning what you offer? Anderson Technologies can evaluate where your company might benefit from design and marketing help. For a free consultation, call 314.394.3001 or visit our site today!

children using tin can phones voip

Ring, Ring! It’s Voice Over IP!

Is it time to modernize your phone systems?

VoIP, or Voice over Internet Protocol, uses your internet connection for phone services. Rather than transmitting a voice signal over separate analog telephone lines, a VoIP user takes advantage of your computer network and the internet already in place to make a voice or video call. You may have heard of your network having an IP address. That’s the same Internet Protocol being used here.

While VoIP has existed for years, previous iterations proved expensive and unreliable, requiring a large investment for an often poor quality service. Businesses hesitate to invest in technology that had a rocky start. So what draws businesses to VoIP today?

In the era of high-speed internet, VoIP is cost-effective, high quality, and enables advantageous features like the continuity of using the same work number while out of the office on your mobile phone. Voicemail transcription to text, mobile apps, enhanced security, and the overhead savings involved in making the switch to VoIP now convince most businesses to drop traditional phone plans.

Is VoIP The Right Solution for My Business?

The answer to this question depends on the needs of, and willingness to change within, your individual business. While VoIP is an efficient solution for most small businesses, it doesn’t meet everyone’s needs.

Signs VoIP Might Not Be Right For Your Business

Jeremy Richardson, an account executive from VoIP provider Vonage, explains, “Some businesses must have direct paging between phones, or actual ‘line’ numbers on the phones. Some of these are not available on VoIP.” If this service is integral to your business operation, there could be problems switching to VoIP.

Another reason you might not want to switch to VoIP is if the traditional system is working just fine. If the existing system is cost effective and functional, there’s very little reason to change. For example, Richardson says, “certain businesses (schools, hotels, retail stores) require a lot of phones that are rarely used.” These businesses can rely on only a few lines without business disruption. Switching to VoIP would be cost-prohibitive in these cases “because in a traditional VoIP set-up, each phone requires its own line.”

However, for a business in which the traditional model isn’t working or is too expensive, VoIP could be the answer.

What Can VoIP Offer My Business?

Investment in VoIP can establish portability, convenience, and professionalism a modest upfront investment.

Easy Transition

Richardson, who Anderson Technologies has worked with on past VoIP installations, says one of the biggest factors preventing businesses from making the switch is overthinking the setup and maintenance of a VoIP system and believing onsite support is necessary: “Many people associate using VoIP technology with having to be very tech savvy.” However, this is not necessarily the case.

VoIP phones often come pre-programmed or are easy to program on-site. “Once plugged into Ethernet,” Richardson says, “the phones and features can be easily adjusted and controlled from a user-friendly online dashboard.” After the initial set-up, the learning curve for these phone systems is far from steep. This is doable for any business, and with a managed services team, this process becomes a breeze.

Flexibility, Portability, Convenience

Using a VoIP app, your cell phone can become a switchboard for any incoming calls to your work lines. In the event of power or internet outage, VoIP keeps your business online. VoIP providers offer “business call continuity and mobile apps to combat this issue,” Richardson says. Depending on your provider, you also have the options of three-way calls, call forwarding, video, and call waiting.

A fully-integrated VoIP system allows the flexibility of communicating any time and any place that has an internet connection—ensuring your customers and employees will always be able to get in touch with you. Some VoIP options include voicemail transcriptions to email or text for when phone calls aren’t convenient. When a caller dials your office number, you’re reachable from that number even if you’re travelling. If you have multiple base camps, like offices in multiple locations, your VoIP phone system can be configured to ring all office lines simultaneously.

Lower Up-Front Cost

In the past, companies purchasing phone systems used to pay $10-25k up front for 20+ users for a PBX (Private Branch Exchange) system, then pay separately for line service. VoIP operates on a different model, eliminating the need to acquire a PBX and instead uses resources in the cloud. VoIP lines may only cost about $20 each, and the price tag usually includes long distance at a better rate than most competitors. Per-line cost often includes each headset, so there are no big, up-front investments for equipment.

High Quality

Price isn’t the only quality that’s improved over time. VoIP used to be known for dropped or poor quality calls, but as the internet becomes faster and more stable, with better network configurations, VoIP is proving itself with clearer calls than even landlines.

Quality of phone calls hinge on internet bandwidth, and setting up your network for Quality of Service (QOS), so it is important to partner with an IT services provider that can ensure your business has the optimal bandwidth for a VoIP network.

Security

While security should be a concern, especially for work on the go, VoIP shouldn’t be considered a significant risk. “Knowing that there’s risk involved with both landlines and VoIP is important,” says Luke Bragg, Senior Systems Administrator at Anderson Technologies. “Neither is ever going to be completely secure, but there isn’t any more risk with VoIP than a landline.” When choosing a VoIP provider on your own or with the help of a managed services partner, look for encryption, redundant network infrastructure, and HITRUST security compliance. These tools allow technicians to quickly identify and resolve issues if any attempted security threats arise.

That’s something every business wants to hear.

But as Mark Anderson of Anderson Technologies says, “To fully utilize the promise of your network, it’s important to invest in the proper tools.”

Does Your Business Have the Proper Tools?

Internet network speed and setup is vital to the success of a VoIP system. Richardson often asks, “Do they have enough speed to support their phones and computers? Is the internet hardwired to the building?” Richardson notes that hot spots, satellite, and microwave internet have proven too unreliable for VoIP, and asks, “Does the business have hard-lined Ethernet to each phone?” While VoIP can potentially work on a WiFi network, this is not a configuration we would recommend.

For instance, if your network isn’t configured correctly, your VoIP call quality will suffer dramatically. You’ll probably need to add bandwidth to support the extra traffic, and VoIP traffic must be prioritized. Cost for this bandwidth shouldn’t be a prohibiting factor, either. Most VoIP systems can function using-100 kbps (kilobits per second) per user, however Anderson recommends 500 kpbs to 1 Mbps (Megabits per second) per user for optimal performance. Internet bandwidth has to be sufficient for not only the phone system, but email, web usage, and streaming. A managed services team can make these adjustments to ensure that VoIP is successful for your business.

Upgrading your internet is vital for quality of service. Your firewall must be set to prioritize phone traffic to ensure that phone conversations aren’t broken up or disconnected when another user begins a major data transfer. VoIP of ten or five years ago often had a reputation for broken or disconnected calls, but with the right bandwidth and configuration, that doesn’t have to be the story for you today!

The best setup, says Anderson, involves establishing a separate subnet from the main network so the phone traffic is isolated and not interspersed with other traffic. The solution for this is a Virtual Local Area Network.

With an upgraded network, VoIP is quickly changing the standards for call quality, flexibility, mobility, and organization.

Would you like to fully utilize the potential of your network? Anderson Technologies can help ensure that you have the proper tools to not only get a VoIP system up and running, but keep it running smoothly and efficiently. Contact us today on our website or by phone at 314.394.3001!

Order of Operations: Moving and Upgrading the Local 562 Union Network

“It was meant to be.”

This is how Megan Branham, Executive Assistant at Plumbers & Pipefitters Local Union 562, describes the Union’s partnership with Anderson Technologies. The organization was in the process of planning a company-wide move to upgraded facilities and wanted to upgrade their IT at the same time.

Local 562 is split into two distinct halves: Union and Welfare Educational Fund (WEF). Branham’s focus was on the Union side of the organization, but the technology on the WEF side needed to improve as well. The two halves work hand-in-hand, so upgrading technology on both sides was a must. And since Local 562 is growing, they needed more than the one-man IT team that previously managed its systems.

“I knew from the beginning it was an enormous job,” Branham says. “We needed something different, and we needed someone to understand the situation they were walking into.”

Finding the Right Fit

An organization as large as Local 562 requires substantial deliberation when choosing a new vendor to partner with. They gathered quotes from many different managed services providers before making a decision. Many IT vendors had been recommended to various high-level employees, and narrowing down candidates wasn’t an easy process.

Branham knew from her experience troubleshooting Local 562’s day-to-day IT problems that they were looking for a partner that could tackle both the network overhaul required by the move and the everyday “What is XYZ?” questions.

One of the biggest factors was how the new IT vendor would mesh with her team. “You could say we have a lot of strong personalities,” Branham says with a laugh. Many organizations, both large and small, encounter resistance to change at some level; Local 562 was no different.

“From the time we met Mark [Anderson], he was just very calm,” she recalls. “He really understood where I was coming from.” Not all vendors Branham considered had the same presence of mind. “I didn’t get that same feeling from the other companies,” she says. “It felt more like they would have come in, done things the way they thought it should be done, and we’d have to figure it out from there. This is a big deal when you’ve got so many people who are used to doing everything a certain way.”

Anderson Technologies focuses on making its clients an active part of the planning and implementation process, especially during a project when a new partner could easily take control from Local 562’s employees. “Mark [Anderson] also knew that it was important that we were an intricate part of designing how it was going to be, not to change everything we already had,” Branham says. “I felt like every single one of the staff at Anderson [Technologies] was very responsive to that.”

I felt like every single one of the staff at Anderson [Technologies]
was very responsive.”

Managing Expectations

Once the partnership with Anderson Technologies was approved, planning for the move could proceed. The opportunity to take a fresh look at Local 562’s current technological status couldn’t be missed. Anderson Technologies and Local 562 together examined what could be improved – or completely restructured.
“I knew our security was not up to par,” Branham says. With emerging cyber security threats came the importance of an outside team to monitor Local 562’s safety. “I felt it was important to have that third party doing all that for us too; not that it’s all them, but they’re helping us find the right ways to do things.”

A study of Local 562’s dynamics helped Anderson Technologies determine the organization’s greatest needs, even when they were difficult to quantify. While each half of the Union performs some functions in conjunction, separate responsibilities needed to be divided. Branham describes it as “spreading everything apart but still making it easy to work together.” Previous IT solutions had muddled that line. Local 562’s sole business manager delegates operations to directors in the two departments. All of Local 562’s digital infrastructure was housed on one network.

The “separate-but-together” end goal split Union and WEF into their own individual server environments but consolidated all employees under one email domain—uniting the two departments. “I knew that there was a way for us to streamline all these things,” Branham says.

Moving the Operation

The physical move itself was a source of colossal stress for every employee of Local 562. “The Anderson [Technologies] team was very calm, and that’s really what we needed ,” Branham says, “because there was a lot of anxiety on the side of everyone here.” During the week-long move from a property in North St. Louis County to one that’s twenty miles west, Anderson Technologies was on-site through the weekend to create new separate domains, install new firewalls, configure the new servers, migrate user profiles, transfer server data, and put out any fires that happened to arise.

Branham describes how the Anderson Technologies team took every little problem in stride: they “kept it smooth and comfortable, and it was a good process and good flow the way everything worked. [The team was] extremely flexible and that made a big difference in the way that people accepted the change, too.”

The Anderson [Technologies] team was very calm,
and that’s really what we needed.”

Coping with the technical logistics of the move was an anticipated challenge. Branham and the rest of Local 562’s employees expected to be unable to use their computers for an extended period of time during the ten-day move. Operations were planned to resume fully the following week. “I expected we would be back up running on Monday [a week into the move] for sure, hopefully it would get done over the weekend,” Branham recalls, “and I was using my computer on Friday morning. . . . I was floored.” Reducing Local 562’s planned downtime by several days allowed them to adjust to the move and return to work faster than expected.

Anderson Technologies’ partnership with Local 562 continues with dedicated ongoing managed services. “Everything has been very strategically done in a way that I know that it was the right choice for us,” Branham says of Local’s 562’s teaming up with Anderson Technologies for the big move and beyond. “Just the other day, one of our guys was saying to one of the gentlemen from Anderson [Technologies] about how “he never remembers his passwords, etc.” so Eric gave me the name of the program to look into. Just little things like that . . . to make our lives easier.”

If your business is ready to move from outdated headquarters, technology, or methodology, contact Anderson Technologies today for a free consultation.

Cyber security managed tech services

Managed Tech Services, Band-Aids and Cyber terrorism

“Computers have gotten a lot more complicated. I know a lot about computers, but it got to the point where the staff would interrupt [me] about four times per day with something that wasn’t working, and they wanted me to come and fix it. They kept asking ‘Why does this keep happening?’ and I had no answer for them.”

That’s how Morgan Emery, DDS, described the information technology (IT) situation at Smile Station Dental in Ballwin, MO before they chose Anderson Technologies’ Managed Tech Services for IT. As a small business owner and one of the principals at Smile Station, Morgan knows she can end up wearing many hats. From Dentist to Sales Manager to HR to Director of IT, handling so much can be daunting.

Computer and network instability, technology upgrades, changing HIPAA regulations, and the increasing demands of small business ownership led Smile Station to Anderson Technologies’ Managed Services offerings. By standardizing the management of their computer infrastructure, Anderson Technologies eliminated uncertainty, implemented real solutions, and dramatically improved the reliability and uptime of their network and computer systems.

As a first step, Anderson Technologies conducted an extensive Network Stabilization effort and discovered some big gaps in the support and service Smile Station had been receiving. In the past, whenever there was an issue, their existing support company would send new hardware rather than address the actual problem. They repeatedly replaced failed server hard drives and reloaded software multiple times without properly identifying and fixing the root cause of the problem. These “solutions” never addressed frequently-occurring malfunctions, did not permanently resolve issues, and resulted in a lot of down time, wasted money, and fruitless effort.

“It’s different because when [Anderson Technologies] comes in,” Morgan explained, “they truly FIX the problem. It’s a long-term fix. It’s not a Band-Aid fix where they just slap more wires on it. They actually take the time to look at it and figure out what the actual issue is and correct the issue rather than just the symptoms of the issue. That’s a big difference from what the other companies I’ve seen do.”

In addition to the server and workstation issues, Anderson Technologies also discussed network security vulnerabilities with Smile Station. “We now have increased security. They put in a hardware firewall, which makes me feel better because there’s a lot of information in here. HIPAA is getting stricter, and there’s a lot more cyber terrorism than there used to be. There are reported incidents of dentists being targeted, so in order to prevent us from being one of them, that was one of the components [they] recommended.” With so many hats to wear, Morgan found Anderson Technologies provides peace of mind in a constantly shifting electronic landscape.

If you are a small business owner fed up with IT companies that slap Band-Aids on problems instead of truly resolving them and are tired of battling glitch after glitch, give us a call: 314.394.3001.

change pixabay

Concierge Computer Services: The Solution to “I Love New but Hate Change”

The dichotomy between computers and human behavior defies logic. Everyone wants the fastest CPU and the latest and greatest apps, but adjusting to something new is often disconcerting. We like knowing where everything is on our desktop and having our settings “just so.” While we get excited about upgrades and the prospect of “newer,” “faster” and “better,” we do not like the process of upgrading because it often wipes out our customized settings and account information. Even in a program suite as familiar as Microsoft Office, new software versions introduce seemingly minor features that make everything feel foreign.

The solution? Anderson Technologies’ Concierge Computer Services.

This service is for clients who want to implement new technology with the least impact and keep everything as close to “the same” as possible. It’s the utmost in customer care – a labor-intensive service eliminating the frustrations typically associated with an upgrade.

One of our longstanding non-profit clients recently purchased new computers for every employee in their organization. Their existing systems’ useful life had been extended for as long as possible (see related article I Need More Speed!), necessitating an upgrade. We provided them with additional services outside of our standard Managed Services package. In addition to standard new computer setup and configuration,we downloaded, installed, and customized all third-party software (several hundred apps in total); promoted local-user accounts; mapped network drives; personalized individual user environments; restored all internet browser favorites and settings; relinked email accounts; and reestablished all cloud, printer, and remote connectivity connections.

Mark Anderson explains, “Our goal was to provide each employee with a new computer platform that is so similarly configured to their original machine, the only thing they notice from the transition is how much faster everything runs.”

The client is thrilled with the new computers and  with the service provided by Anderson Technologies. The company did not want their employees struggling for weeks to get their computers back to “normal.” They saw this as an investment in employee productivity that created a seamless computing environment.Their Executive Director recently said, “They have very high standards. When you’ve worked with others that don’t seem to maintain those high standards, you know the difference. With Anderson Technologies, you’re buying technological peace of mind.”

If you are ready for an upgrade, contact us at 314.394.3001 or sales@andersontech.com.

 

Website design St. Louis

Tasteful Website Design, Quick Response, and Partnership-Style Customer Service

Pleasant View Construction is a start-to-finish construction company that develops elegant craftsman-style homes in upscale West County neighborhoods. The company was looking to attract a certain type of client, one who appreciates the special touches that make a home extraordinary but may not have the time or inclination to work through all the design details themselves.

“We really didn’t have a digital presence before Anderson Technologies built our website,” explained Peter Switzer, President of Pleasant View Construction. “All of our previous work has come through word-of-mouth, but I felt we needed a way to showcase our work and give potential clients a sense of what we could do for them.”

Anderson Technologies is blessed with an unbelievable staff of professionals who truly understand what it means to take initiative. Peter experienced Anderson Technologies’ signature responsiveness and partnership-style customer service throughout the entire development process for pleasantviewconstruction.com. “They just picked up the ball and ran with it. I showed them some other websites I admired, and they just ‘got it.’ They understood what I wanted to communicate and had great ideas for different elements to add to make it even better.”

Because the work Pleasant View Construction does is very visual, it was important to develop a portfolio-focused website design. Peter continued, “they provided three robust design options to choose from, communicated clearly throughout the process and let me know what they needed from me every step of the way.” Pleasant View Construction had a huge collection of images to choose from, and Anderson Technologies methodically sorted through hundreds of photos to find the best of the best to make the most dramatic impression on the site.

The project included many other deliverables, including logo design, marketing copy for every page of the site, and social media set-up on Facebook and Houzz. As part of these overall development activities, Anderson Technologies conducted customer interviews to ensure they captured and communicated the brand properly. Portions of these conversations were also used as content for testimonials throughout the website.

Peter was also impressed by the speed of development. “These guys are extremely responsive,” Peter noted, “and my site was up really quickly. Since it went live, I’ve been able to point people to the website so they can easily see my work. That makes a BIG difference.”

Do you have a special digital project you need help with?  Feel free to give Anderson Technologies a call!