Henson Mechanical Tackles Successful Expansion with the Help of IT Partner Aventis Systems, Inc.
Impetus for Change
Henson Mechanical is a well-known, established heating and air company, and had two offices in the metro Atlanta area, offering heating, air conditioning, plumbing installation and repair, as well as septic tank services for both residential and light commercial customers. However, as with many small businesses today, the company was experiencing unprecedented revenue and employee growth, and possessed the desire to expand offices and diversify its services. The company was staged to diversify its offerings by opening two new divisions, ProRes Restoration, offering mold remediation services following water damage; and another, managing storage units. This diversification would require the company to increase the number of office locations and expand the businesses into the Florida market, which held a great deal of potential for ProRes Restoration. While they outsourced much of their IT support prior to the expansion, they recently hired a new IT director to help technically guide them through the growth process, knowing it would require internal IT expertise to support day-to-day operations during the expansion, as well as the knowledge of how to grow and amplify their IT infrastructure along the way.
The new IT Director, Chris Greenwood, faced a number of immediate challenges when he came on board. His first order of business was to move and establish the existing IT infrastructure to the company’s new corporate headquarters. The next challenge involved reworking the company’s phone system infrastructure, the lifeblood of the company, which could no longer support the company’s growing size. Greenwood also realized he would need assistance with end-user IT support due to the additional headcount, and understood the centralized server infrastructure would need to be configured to provide remote access to the new branch locations. After Greenwood conducted a full assessment of the situation, it was clear Henson Mechanical required an IT partner with both the expertise and the product offerings to support this growth and help tackle the substantial infrastructure expansion challenges ahead.
Seeking an IT Partner
Henson Mechanical was referred to Aventis Systems through a credible recommendation based on the company’s solid industry reputation, talented engineering staff, and affordable pricing. Aventis Systems was asked to help diagnose the existing challenges and develop a solid and affordable plan of action to solve the challenges Greenwood’s team faced. The Aventis engineering teams met with Greenwood to assess the situation, prioritize projects, suggest specific products and services, and put a timeline in place. Henson liked the diversity of product offerings Aventis Systems presented, and was especially impressed with the knowledge and expertise of the IT support team. And so the partnership began.
Phone System Implementation
Aventis Systems first challenge was to integrate two offices with one reliable phone system, allowing Henson to share resources and communicate effectively with teams spanning the state. At the time, Henson had only two offices, its corporate location in Atlanta, and one warehouse facility south of the city. Both were on analog phone systems and communication between the two offices, as well as fielding sales calls, was very antiquated.
The main software Henson Mechanical utilizes is industry-specific software called ESC, requiring them to run a dedicated server with another application of two connection servers to drive mobile devices. Office staff is connected via an office application. Prior to the new phone system, the warehouse did not have access to any of these resources, creating a large amount of extra work and communication to provide needed information to the warehouse and field technicians. Aventis Systems recommended a hosted PBX VOIP phone system, consisting of ten trunk lines, PBX web front-end and Asterisk software deployment, and PBX configuration. Aventis Systems provided Henson Mechanical with numerous technology solutions, including telephone carrier services, phone server hosting, including connections for all of the devices, conference numbers, queues, IVRs, and reporting capabilities, as well as flexible end-user set ups, comprised of hard phone, soft phone, and cell phone forwarding.
The Aventis Systems’ team handled onsite phone service and device testing, including simulating phone traffic with multiple inbound/outbound calls, determining malfunctioning devices and verifying device configuration. They also provided fail scenario confirmation. "The new phone system allowed us to integrate both of the offices for full communication and offered us the ability to have secondary set up cues," said Chris Greenwood, Director of IT for Henson Mechanical. "Aventis Systems was able to test for a wide variety of potential call scenarios and make sure the system was solid before we went live. This was critical to us, as this is the primary form of communication with not only new and existing customers, but also our management team and field technicians." The support didn’t stop there. The Aventis team also provided internal training and support on the system, helped with implementation questions, ISP issues and equipment replacements from time to time.
Throughout this process, Henson Mechanical and Aventis Systems have created a strong IT partnership. "Anytime I have needed network consulting, whether it be shirring up network settings, making sure it was set up correctly, troubleshooting, or fine tuning the system, Aventis Systems has been there," said Greenwood. For instance, with the initial PBX installation, Henson had completed some initial testing internally; however, they ran into some roadblocks and problems with some IP phones they had previously purchased working with the main office. Both ran fine independently, but when combined, calls were being dropped, audio was lost, and calls couldn’t get through. With the help of Aventis Systems, they were able to isolate the issue and resolve the problem.
These solutions allowed Henson to answer incoming calls in both locations, transfer calls and be in constant contact with each other, but also provided easier phone management and additional technical capabilities, including email, voicemail, and fax. The solution additionally lowered the cost of phone service and lifted restrictions on the number of users.
Once the new phone system was established it was time to look at the support infrastructure. As Henson Mechanical added locations, the ability to network between the two existing offices and two new offices in Tampa and Miami, Florida magnified the situation. Henson initially tried a few solutions on their own, including LogMeIn Hamatchi, which works similar to a VPN, but issues arose. "We would get the system working for a half day and then it would go down again," commented Greenwood. "It just wasn’t an acceptable or stable solution for us." At that point Henson had two choices: They could purchase additional servers and have them local to each branch, which was a significant expense not only in server costs, but also in licensing fees and the added expense of maintain three servers; or they could go with a hosted server. Once again Henson turned to Aventis Systems and its Advanced IT Services for help. Aventis Systems Advanced IT Services are an expansive portfolio of services for small- to medium-sized organizations that include the hardware, software and virtual environments running the applications, as well as the necessary support and maintenance.
Aventis Systems recommended a hosted solution, as it would allow all branch office employees the ability to easily access all of the systems, as well as improve uptime and security. Due to the mobile nature of Henson’s business, this solution would also provide remote mobile access to the network. The Aventis Systems’ IT team looked at a variety of hosting options, and recommended a hosted PBX server, two ESC connection servers and a new ESC server. "This allowed us to put an endless number (in theory) of required ESC licenses, or group of licenses, on the hosted server," said Greenwood. "The larger benefit was the ability to have anyone in the company access the ESC software from any location. It also provided us with incredible flexibility for employees to work away from the office or work from home due to inclement weather or other circumstances. With just a few switches, we can have an employee live. This flexibility, at an affordable price point, was a perfect solution for us."
Aventis Systems handled every aspect of the server installation, including VPS provisioning, configuration, troubleshooting, creating firewall rules, and installation of Red Hat Cent OS," commented Greenwood. "The new server integration was a huge step for us and helped us out tremendously on numerous levels," added Greenwood. "Users are now able to work from home when needed, and it has drastically reduced the time needed to maintain the servers." It has also provided added stability in that if the Atlanta office has a power outage for instance, the two branches in Florida are unaffected. "The expertise Aventis Systems has with each specific technology made for a smooth and seamless transition to the new server," added Greenwood. The transition also ended up saving Henson Mechanical money in the long run, as the cost of maintaining a server, especially for three companies, would have required them to upgrade their server. The hosted server solution was an affordable alternative.
The hosting solution has also offered peace of mind. To put it in perspective, Greenwood recounts his trip to set up the Miami office location, prior to having the remote hosting in place. "I spent the entire week predominantly setting up the phone system and VPN," said Greenwood. In contrast, once the hosted server was in place, Greenwood went to Tampa and after the first day the office was fielding calls and everything was being routed properly. "It simplified and streamlined the entire process, allowing me to spend time on other critical office needs."
Securing the System
The next challenge to tackle was data back-up and recovery. Prior to Aventis Systems, Henson would run periodic back-ups throughout the day. However, due to the nature of their business, technicians were out late into the evening, not allowing for an ideal time for a complete back-up to take place. "There was a constant risk throughout the night; if something went wrong with the mobile server we were out of luck," said Greenwood. "The same situation applied to database corruption or anything along those lines, as we did not have any replication set in place." Aventis Systems helped integrate hosted Veeam back-up and replication, providing daily VPS back-ups and an additional 50GB of storage capacity for Henson Mechanical. "Now if the server goes down here, I have the back-up I can immediately implement. Everything is taken care, and I can spend my time being proactive and not falling behind trying to troubleshoot back-up issues," added Greenwood.
"Aventis Systems was extremely easy to work with, utilized our internal strengths, and provided invaluable external support and advice," concluded Greenwood. "They were very thorough and designed a technology and hosting solution personalized to our specific needs and situation. Being a one man IT shop, it is nice to be able to bounce ideas off a team of experts and make sure you have all of your bases covered. It is a great partnership, and we look forward to new projects in the coming year."
"Henson Mechanical was a fantastic partner to work with and we are extremely pleased with the results we have been able to provide them," said Ben Yampolsky, Director of IT, Aventis Systems. "They were open to our recommendations and dedicated to executing the strategic vision that resulted in simplified IT management, a much more reliable IT infrastructure and streamlined change process which accommodates future growth on our platform."
Due to the performance, cost effectiveness and successful IT milestones Henson Mechanical reached in 2014, the company has increased its IT budget in 2015 to implement new projects, including Aventis Systems’ cloud offerings and migration of additional on-premise software.
About Aventis Systems
Aventis Systems, Inc. is one of the fastest growing private companies in the U.S. The Atlanta-based company specializes in Dell and HP lines of servers and storage units, as well as Cisco networking equipment. The Company also offers a full suite of business class workstations, desktops, laptops and all hardware components necessary for upgrades, as well as full offering IT services and support.