Kids Central relies on Verteks for IT monitoring, management and support, and access to a full team of technology experts.
Smaller organizations rely on technology as much as their larger counterparts but typically don’t have in-house expertise across the full spectrum of IT disciplines. In fact, it often falls to one or two individuals to handle everything from end-user support to network troubleshooting to major implementation projects.
That was the dilemma facing Kids Central, a nonprofit organization that coordinates a community-based system of care for abused, neglected and abandoned children, and provides a wide range of services for expectant mothers, babies, children and young adults. Serving Citrus, Hernando, Lake, Marion and Sumter counties in Central Florida, Kids Central has 130 employees plus a network of agency partners that provide quality child welfare services.
Steve Lovely, Director of IT for Kids Central, is responsible for maintaining the organization’s IT environment and supporting up to 350 end-users with help from two in-house technicians. Behind the scenes, Verteks Voice & Data Networks provides around-the-clock monitoring and management along with access to experienced engineers.
“When you work in IT, people tend to think that you’re an expert in everything, but you only know what you know,” Lovely said. “It costs a lot of money to hire a network expert and a server expert and an expert in Microsoft Exchange. Verteks has all that talent and expertise in-house so it makes sense to have them take care of all of those things for us.
“It has worked out very well and we’ve been very happy with them.”
Ocala-based Verteks has been providing IT solutions and services to organizations throughout Central and North Florida since 1996. While Verteks has the skills and capacity to serve the needs of large enterprises, the company is also a source of focused expertise for smaller businesses, nonprofits and government agencies. Verteks can serve as an organization’s “virtual IT department” or work in partnership with in-house IT staff.
“They make it so simple,” said Lovely. “It’s just more cost-effective and less of a headache to use Verteks rather than hiring IT staff. And they’re always there. If I have a problem on the weekend, I can call the Verteks help desk and the on-call person will take care of it.
“Verteks also recommends products that might be beneficial to us as our needs grow. For instance, when we decided to put in a new firewall I called them up and asked, ‘What do you think?’ They’re very good about steering me in the right direction.”
Kids Central had been outsourcing its firewall services to a telecom provider, and was frustrated by the lack of control over the solution. Verteks recommended WatchGuard, which provides enterprise-class security in an easy-to-manage appliance.
“With the outsourced firewall, I couldn’t even log into my own equipment, and trying to get a change made was a hassle,” Lovely said. “The WatchGuard firewall has worked very well. I can log in and make changes, and Verteks is there to assist if something happens.”
Verteks also recommended the Datto disaster recovery solution. With Datto, Kids Central’s data is automatically backed up every four hours to an on-premises appliance then synced to the cloud every night.
“You don’t lose data,” said Lovely. “One time we got hit with ransomware [malware that locks all the files on infected systems]. We stopped it quickly, and Datto restored our data right to the server. We only lost maybe an hour’s worth of time.”
In addition to security and disaster recovery, Verteks has helped Kids Central optimize its data center environment. The organization had a number of servers — each of them running a single application — in a small room that lacked the features of a real data center. The Verteks team worked with Lovely to implement virtualization technology so that one server could run multiple applications. Verteks also coordinated space for the equipment in a local hardened data center.
“We’re down to three servers that run somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 virtual machines,” Lovely said. “It’s nice because we’re not spending money on equipment that’s barely doing anything. And if a server is running five different virtual machines we can balance the load.
“We’ve now moved our servers into a hardened data center, which is a big win for us because we don’t have to worry about a fire or some other disaster. One of the great things about Verteks is that they’re aware of what goes on in the local IT industry. I come from South Florida so it’s nice to have that resource.”
Lovely says he also appreciates Verteks’ flexible approach in designing a customized managed services solution. Kids Central’s in-house help desk staff provide end-user support, relying on Verteks to monitor the PCs and automatically push out software patches and updates.
“It’s called Verteks One Care Monitoring. We have that on all our machines now,” said Lovely.
Verteks also manages all of Kids Central’s servers, and provides highly responsive support should an issue arise. In addition, Kids Central has a dedicated account manager who comes onsite once a week — or more frequently if needed.
“Every Thursday we have a Verteks engineer here verifying backups and taking care of whatever needs to be done,” Lovely said. “But it isn’t as if Thursday is our only day. We can call anytime and they immediately get on it.
“Last week alone we had their guy out here three times. We were cutting over to a new building and had some problems with our wireless. Verteks made sure an engineer was here to troubleshoot any issues.”
Smaller organizations like Kids Central have mission-critical IT needs, but typically don’t have a fully staffed IT department to handle ongoing maintenance, management and support. By partnering with Verteks, Kids Central has ready access to skilled engineers who keep the organization’s IT environment in tiptop shape.
“Most of our work done is out in the field with children, and with our agency partners,” said Lovely. “It just makes sense to outsource IT work to Verteks.”