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How Cortavo Tackles the Challenges Facing SMBs' IT Infrastructure: An Interview With Aventis Systems’ VP of IT Operations

The COVID-19 pandemic has sent ripples through every industry and changed how people around the globe are working. Small businesses are no exception and, in many cases, they have been caught off guard even more than larger enterprises that already had remote workforces and policies in place.

Tom Lasswell, vice president of IT at Aventis Systems, talks about how a managed services provider like Cortavo can address many of the new concerns that have emerged as the result of a remote workforce, including SMB IT challenges. While Aventis Systems was founded in 2008 with the purpose of reselling hardware, laptops, monitors, servers and more, it grew into a managed services provider (MSP) in 2017.

Now, in addition to selling essential equipment, Aventis manages the technological needs of small to medium-sized businesses with its MSP brand, Cortavo. Lasswell recently talked about what Cortavo offers and how it is particularly necessary in the current work environment.

Q: What does Cortavo offer to businesses?

A: Cortavo provides all-inclusive IT services, which is unique because most MSPs specialize in one specific part of the managed services, such as the back end. As the name implies, all-inclusive IT includes everything. Because we have hardware and the desktop and laptop supply chain covered and also have our own server environment, we basically include everything in one specific low price for the end user.

That means there’s just one end user fee that includes everything from the desktop to monitors to internet connectivity to the email address. And it also includes back-end servers. It’s very different from selecting individual services from a menu.

Q: How does that affect the overall cost?

A: A lot of times, a customer might start out with something small that they need help with, say a printer. But the service provider starts seeing other things that need to be added on and there’s a creep that happens. So, by the end of it, they don’t know what they’re going to pay month to month.

With Cortavo, there is one single fee, no added extras, and we can help with literally everything.

Q: That “everything” even includes advisory services, is that correct?

A: Yes. We meet with customers monthly, look at their roadmap and see how technology can help them on the journey. Probably the hardest thing for a small business right now is that they’ve got so many options. A trusted adviser really helps them move into a technology world that they can be comfortable in. That lets them focus on running their business instead of running their IT.

Q: Our work world has changed a lot recently. What do you see as some of the greatest challenges facing small businesses?

A: Definitely it’s that in the new normal, everyone is remote working. Small businesses are used to working in a single place, so all the networking and security is right there. Remote working has brought in a number of challenges in terms of where the data is. A lot of SMBs use a file server that sits in an office somewhere and, in order to access it, you have to be on the network. You can bring in a VPN (virtual private network) to remotely connect, but when you talk about remote work, it’s difficult to retain all of the secure aspects of it.

Q: What are the biggest threats to security with traditional remote work setups?

A: There are several. Things like people bringing their own computers and connecting to a VPN; that’s a bad thing to do. That computer is now attached to the network and all the things that apply, like with malware and viruses, it opens up holes in the security. It has a lot to do with not thinking of all the implications.

And also there’s the question of how all the employees are going to access it, and how do you make sure all the files are still there?

Q: What advice do you have to offer about how to make that network more secure?

A: I would say that, first, don’t just open up your network to a VPN connection. Take the time to make sure that you’re not freely giving out those credentials and passwords to allow people on your network. Make sure you’re taking the time to have antivirus measures in place and that the computers they’re connecting with are secure.

Then look at services like Microsoft 365. You can use it to sync everything into 365, so the user’s data no longer exists just on the laptop. Those backups are done on a continuous basis. Every time you save something, it gets backed up onto Microsoft 365, and it saves all your files in a remote world. It’s secure and accessible. And that way, if a laptop gets lost, you still have all that data.

Q: What are some other steps SMBs should be taking right now?

A: I’d say to get into a Microsoft or Google plan right away. Get your data backed up into a cloud environment and then everyone can start collaborating.

There are features that come with both of those plans that allow you to open a Word document and work together. For example, let’s say you’re working in a OneDrive space. Two people can work on that document at the same time. They can see where the other person is and they are looking at the same thing. It makes remote work feel more like you’re working on a team.

Q: One of the biggest changes for many people has been the use of Zoom. How can businesses make sure that’s going to be a positive experience and that workers have the connectivity they need?

A: Every machine has a remote agent, and one of the things it tells is the internet connectivity. We can tell whether there are constraints.

People have not historically worked in such forces remotely, so the connectivity in most people’s environments at home is very different from what they’re used to in the office. Zoom is a great example of how that affects us. When this first started, some of the big home players like Comcast and AT&T had issues keeping the bandwidth up there. We’ve seen some great strides, but we definitely recommend that when working remotely, you look at the internet connectivity and see if they need to upgrade.

Q: When it comes to Cortavo, how do most of your customers find you?

A: Most of them have used an MSP in the past; I would say that is about 80% of our business. But about 20% of our business is new companies, smaller businesses that might have five to 10 employees and they’re growing, but they don’t want to keep getting consumer-grade laptops. They’re ready to move into the business world.

Q: Do you have any special offerings that are particularly attractive to those smaller businesses?

A: We just launched our Work From Home Bundles, which is great for companies with one to five employees; maybe they haven’t needed laptops in the past but now they do. With those bundles, we’re offering short-term contracts that are six months to one year, so it’s a good way to try it. We’re able to bring them online, get them in a secure environment using Microsoft, then migrate the data and enable people to be secure while working remotely. Those bundles really are everything they need; it’s an office in a box.

Right now, it’s hard to judge where we’ll be in six months. This way, they’re not locked in a long-term contract. We’re seeing a huge amount of traction with the Work From Home Bundles.

To learn more about Cortavo and how it can serve your SMB, visit Cortavo.com or call 1.844.4CORTAVO today.

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