Integrated IT Overhaul Keeps Growing Company on the Move

North American Material Trading Company, a metal trading and processing firm headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio, recently acquired two nearby manufacturing plants and opened a satellite office in Tampa, Florida. It wasn't long before management realized that each location featured a disconnected jumble of outdated equipment.

The company now had three separate, stand-alone phone systems that barely worked and racked up unusually high phone bills. A variety of older computers were badly in need of replacement. There was no central server, and the new plants were using an unreliable hosted e-mail service. On top of those problems, none of the four locations had adequate network security in place.

NAMTC needed help fast. They called my team at Cleveland-based Voyant Technology, a member of the Computer Troubleshooters network, to address immediate computer issues at the Cleveland headquarters and solve their long-standing e-mail issues.

Once we got a look at their infrastructure, we dug deeper and performed a comprehensive technology audit in each NAMTC location. Based on this analysis, we suggested a seamless, three-fold solution: Establish systems to securely share data and enable better voice, e-mail, and data communications between all locations; provide equipment and processes to lower NAMTC's overall telecom costs; and monitor systems on an ongoing basis to ensure the best possible uptime.

Strategic Solutions

We first installed a Dell PowerEdge server at NAMTC's Cleveland headquarters that runs Microsoft Small Business Server 2003 and serves as a file, print, and Microsoft Exchange mail server. Next we installed four firewalls--one at each location--from Fortinet (www.fortinet.com). These included a Fortigate 60B at NAMTC headquarters, and a Fortigate 50B at each Conneaut plant, as well as the Tampa office.

FortiGate 60b

Employing the Fortigate firewalls, we created a secure connection between each location for use with data and voice communications. This enabled the separate locations to operate as if they existed within a single network. We also installed an IP-based telephone system from Fonality (www.fonality.com) with the central phone server located in downtown Cleveland, and IP phones from Polycom (www.polycom.com) and Aastra (www.aastra.com) at each location (in total, this consisted of 15 phones in Conneaut, 12 in Cleveland, and 3 in Tampa). Additionally, we added new Dell workstations in Conneaut to replace old and failing hardware, as well as new Dell workstations in the Tampa office.

To address NAMTC's backup and disaster recovery challenges, we implemented an off-site backup solution from eFolder (www.voyantbackup.com) that runs at all four NAMTC locations. We then upgraded the telecom at NAMTC's Cleveland headquarters from stand-alone phone lines to a T1 data circuit and added SIP trunks for voice-over-IP communication.

We also upgraded the telecom infrastructure in both of the new plants from stand-alone phone lines to a business-class cable internet circuit, which allows data and VoiP communications. Finally, we implemented a comprehensive technology support program that included proactive monitoring of all firewalls, workstations, servers and the phone system, as well as direct access to a professional help desk for all NAMTC employees.

Boosting Communication and Efficiency

The Fortigate firewalls provided the ability to create a set of custom content filtering policies at each location. This, in turn, prevented employees from accessing Web sites that management deemed inappropriate.

The upgraded phone system gave NAMTC complete control over how voice communications were handled. Receptionists in Cleveland and Tampa could now answer calls for any of the four facilities and provide administrative support for the plants by answering all inbound calls and transferring them directly to extensions on the plant floor or the overhead paging system. Voicemail-to-e-mail capabilities also allowed voice messages to be saved and archived on the central file server. Between telecom cost reductions and manpower efficiencies, NAMTC realized several thousand dollars of savings.

Our integrated solution also made company data accessible from any computer on the network at any location (given the right credentials). This helped headquarters employees reduce travel time, and it allows them to seamlessly access their desktops and files when they do travel, regardless of which office they work from.

By creating a unified data and VoiP telecommunication infrastructure, Voyant helped NAMTC to vastly improve communications between the Conneaut plants, Tampa office and Cleveland headquarters. Additionally, our solution was designed to prevent downtime by letting my team proactively monitor all networks, servers and software. We can now catch problems before they become critical, and NAMTC can focus its energies on servicing customers and building business.

MEET THE PROS

Brian Rosenfelt
Voyant Technology was founded in 2003 to provide expert technology consulting and solutions for small to medium-sized businesses. By providing experienced, professional, personalized, responsive and reliable technology management and support, Voyant makes technology easier for clients to use, and in turn, streamlines their business processes. Voyant is a part of the Computer Troubleshooters network, a group of 450 franchises in 24 countries. Co-Founder Brian Rosenfelt possesses a deep background in technology and finance, having served as a controller and CFO for a variety of industries. Rosenfelt still holds an active CPA certificate, he is a Microsoft Registered Partner, and he holds the FtOCC (Fonality Trixbox Open Communication Certification) from Fonality. For more information, visit Voyanttechnology.com or call 216-393-5659.

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