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The Right Call for Phone System Expertise

Valley Network Solutions steps in to quickly provide Fresno Chrysler Jeep with a robust, state-of-the-art Cisco Unified Communications solution.

Years ago, children used to pretend to make phone calls by connecting two tin cans with a string. That scenario very nearly became a reality for Fresno Chrysler Jeep. The firm purchased a new dealership and all of its assets, which included a Cisco IP telephony system. However, the phone system itself was hosted at the prior owner’s headquarters in Oregon, leaving Fresno Chrysler Jeep with phone sets connected to, well, nothing. “We found this out about a month before we were going to move in,” said Judy Musto, Business Manager, Fresno Chrysler Jeep. “We had no idea — we thought it was just a phone system. But they told me that once they took the computer equipment away it wasn’t going to work. So I did a Google search to figure out who in the Fresno area works on Cisco phone systems. I happened to pick Valley Network Solutions and got somebody very nice on the phone who listened to my needs and got back to me immediately with the right experts. And the ball just started rolling from there.” Musto made the right call. VNS is the only locally-owned, locally-staffed technology provider in the Fresno area that is fully certified in Cisco Advanced Unified Communications. On top of that, the VNS team is a great bunch of folks to work with. “I didn’t have a clue about any of this, but the VNS people stepped in. I immediately felt very confident that they knew what they were doing. They were very professional, always called me right back when I had questions, and kept me in the loop. They even called the previous owners and got them to leave their system in place for a month until we could get ours ordered, programmed and ready to go. The day of the move the VNS engineer was waiting for us at our new facility when we arrived. It was incredible,” Musto said.

Talk the Talk: VNS has extensive experience with phone systems. Over the years, the firm has worked with Nortel, Avaya, Mitel, ShoreTel and Altigen, and several VNS engineers also have significant experience with legacy phone equipment. Several years ago, VNS decided to focus on Cisco, and has made significant investments to ensure that its engineers and technicians can provide expert design, installation and support of the latest Cisco IP telephony solutions. This level of expertise proved invaluable for Fresno Chrysler Jeep. VNS was able to go in and quickly ascertain the firm’s needs, design a robust solution and implement it — all within a very short timeframe given the last-minute situation and impending move. “The VNS guys were so great. I had complete confidence in them,” Musto said. “They talked mostly in terms I could understand even though I knew absolutely nothing about the system. But most of all I could tell that they knew what they were talking about. That’s the important thing.” Of course, no IP phone system operates in isolation to other aspects of the IT infrastructure. Fresno Chrysler Jeep had numerous needs, including cabling, wireless headsets, wireless integration, security and more. VNS was able to offer a true one-stop solution. For example, VNS is the only technology provider in the region that is C7-licensed to both install and certify all of its own copper/fiber cabling, as well as provide core network design, service, support and maintenance. “They did cabling to our other buildings and out to the back shop. They were very efficient and professional. And they worked so hard, even into the night sometimes, to get everything done for us. Yet all the time they were here, they never disrupted our business,” said Musto. “I was in awe of having such great customer service.”

One Call Does It All: Musto says the Cisco Unified Communications solution is a giant leap beyond a traditional PBX, with features such as Caller ID, easy call forwarding and routing, and much more. “I’m sure there are many other features that we don’t know about yet,” she said. “VNS didn’t want to overload me right after the move, but will come in and do more extensive training after we get settled in. In the meantime, the VNS technician who set up the system wrote out a two-page instruction that tells me how to go in and set up a new account or reprogram something. He also programmed a hot button on my phone that goes directly to them.” The “VNS hotline” is a lifeline for Musto, who now relies upon VNS for all of her technology needs. No more frantic Google searches for help at the last minute. No more hoping that the technician who came out last year is still around. Musto has one number to call for expert, professional support with her long-term needs in mind. “They know the phone system, they know the wiring … they even have someone on staff who was able to fix our old PBX at our other location,” she said. “When they recommended a service contract we immediately agreed because I trust this company thoroughly. I know they’re not just trying to sell me a bill of goods. They care about us and are trying to direct us for the future. “I know they have other customers but they were always there for us. If you call for service they respond promptly, and follow up afterward to make sure you’re happy. They always send me quotes right away — I’m never in the dark about what something is going to cost. We’re so glad we found somebody local who can help us with everything. We’re going to stick with VNS for the long term."


Times Change, Relationships Don’t

VNS ensures that B&D Quality Water has the IT services it needs amid changing business and budgetary requirements.

A difficult economy can be hard on small businesses, forcing them to scale back planned projects in order to conserve capital. At the same time, experts say small organizations can weather economic storms better than large enterprises if they have the flexibility to respond to changing conditions. By tailoring its programs to meet the precise needs of customers, Valley Network Solutions (VNS) is committed to maintaining long-term relationships in good times and bad. Jill Holstein, vice president of B&D Quality Water, says that VNS has proven its dedication to supporting her small business amid changing requirements. Founded in October 1985 with a small office in Fresno, Calif, the family-owned and operated firm has grown to three California locations with more than 100 employees. Its commitment to excellent customer service has allowed B & D to become one of the leading distributors of RainSoft water worldwide. For several years B&D has trusted VNS to provide sound advice, technical skills and reliable services for its growing IT needs. The firm takes advantage of the VNS NetCare program, relying on VNS technicians to provide proactive maintenance and ongoing support of the firm’s network, server and PCs. When B&D decided to build a new facility in 2007, VNS provided a range of services to ensure that the firm had a strong IT infrastructure to meet its business requirements. This included the buildings copper and fiber voice/data infrastructure, Cisco VOIP phone system, servers, UPS power and cooling, clients and applications, all seamlessly integrated. “VNS worked with us to define exactly what we needed for our new building,” Holstein said. “They worked tirelessly to set up our network and were always available to fix whatever we needed fixed. They also worked really well with our vendors, including our telecom provider and our software vendor. There are always so many snags you run into when setting up something so complex but they did a great job and made it a very smooth transition.”

Bad Economy, Excellent Support: The state of the economy soon changed dramatically, however. B&D required additional IT services to support its expanded infrastructure but needed to watch its budget. “In our old location we had just one server and a limited network, and our minimal NetCare contract reflected that,” said Holstein. “We knew we were moving, and VNS helped us keep things going with what we had. For example, when we moved part of our operations into another building VNS set up a wireless network to get everyone connected. “When we moved into our new facility we had six or seven servers and a brand-new Cisco phone system. We expected our NetCare contract to increase because of the amount of time and expertise needed to support all of that, but the economy put a damper on our plans. VNS worked with us to find a solution that would fit into our budget and yet still be able to meet our needs. They were great to come up with an affordable plan that we could commit to, with the understanding that they would be available to provide additional services as needs arose.” Some vendors might be inclined to cut back on service levels for customers with limited budgets. VNS, however, is dedicated to providing top-notch support to all customers regardless of circumstances. “They have been a dream to work with because they are available whenever I need them,” Holstein said. “We have a staff that works from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., so VNS instituted an after-hours program for us. And, of course, they are always right here in an emergency. A few months ago one of our main servers crashed and VNS had every resource out here to help us get back up and going. That really impressed me.”

Over the Long Haul: Of course, VNS provides excellent support day-in, day-out. Holstein says the VNS technicians communicate well and are able to handle many things remotely, saving her time and aggravation. “Most of the time, computer technicians are not very social people. They tend to get frustrated with you and use language you don’t understand,” she said. “These guys don’t do that. They are really good at explaining issues to me, and they work well with my employees. If someone is having a computer problem I can have them call VNS and VNS will look at their computer remotely. VNS also monitors our network remotely and knows before I do when a problem is about to happen. Before people start running into my office VNS is already on the phone helping me deal with it.” Under the NetCare program, VNS technicians visit B&D Quality Water regularly to handle any issues that don’t require immediate attention. VNS is also just a phone call away whenever Holstein needs help resolving minor problems. She says it just doesn’t make sense to hire IT staff. “I spend less with VNS than I would to have someone sitting here waiting for something to go wrong. Plus I don’t think I could even hire someone with the range of knowledge and certifications that the VNS technicians have. One of the detriments of hiring is that you’re limited by the individual’s knowledge and experience, and while they may claim to know things, in reality they may not. It just isn’t worth it to me,” she said. “I don’t know how the folks at VNS are able to provide everything they do for the money they charge. It’s amazing. They’re competitive so they can keep a great staff but they don’t gouge you. They understand the economy put a damper on some of our projects. They set us up on a great plan and always have great ideas with a mindset of budget. We are a small business so we’re limited as to what we can spend for IT. VNS comes up with excellent solutions that enable us to accomplish what we need to accomplish.”


Smart Move

Valley Network Solutions’ NetCare™ program helps Valley Truck Parts drive down IT costs and rev up system performance.

Just because computers are important to your business doesn’t mean you have to know much about them. Anthony Stegall, general manager of Valley Truck Parts and Equipment, describes himself as a “big hammer sort of guy” who knows more about the engines, differentials and suspensions of big rigs than he does about PCs, servers and storage. In fact, Valley Truck Parts has no one on staff who specializes in IT. Instead, the Fresno-based firm relies on Valley Network Solutions (VNS) for all its technology needs. Through the VNS NetCare™ managed services program, Valley Truck Parts has a virtual IT staff of experienced engineers and technicians. “I have a few people on my team who have enough knowledge that they could be walked through some very basic things, but really we rely on VNS 100 percent,” Stegall said. “A company our size, with 25 to 30 employees, can’t justify having an IT person on premises full time. The VNS NetCare™ program makes it simple. The entire VNS team is accessible to us, making it seem like we have a full-time IT person on staff. Yet NetCare™ makes so much more sense for our business.”

The Right Direction: The NetCare™ program provides Valley Trucks Parts with a comprehensive suite of services that includes remote monitoring, routine maintenance, on-site support and consulting. VNS has built a state-of-the-art network operations center where skilled technicians can remotely monitor critical systems in order to rapidly detect and respond to outages. “If anything comes up, they’re usually on it before we even know what’s happening,” Stegall said. “And if we need additional help they’re always available by phone or e-mail.” What’s more, the NetCare™ program is designed to prevent common problems that can cause downtime. NetCare™ couples proactive monitoring and maintenance services with regularly scheduled service visits from an assigned systems engineer who is highly trained and certified in the latest technologies. The result is improved system performance, availability and security. All of that is backed by an organization dedicated to exceptional customer service. VNS has been providing customers with managed services since 2000, continuously improving and redefining service levels to minimize downtime. “I don’t think you sacrifice anything at all by utilizing VNS versus hiring someone — in fact, I think you come out ahead,” Stegall said. “For example, we had a problem with our e-mail system, and they jumped right on it before we knew what was going on. I think they had several people working on it for us because they understand how important it is to our business. I couldn’t have imagined trying to clear it up without them.”

Dollars and Sense: Stegall believes that partnering with VNS provides faster response and problem resolution than having someone on staff. Valley Truck Parts can tap into the collective skill set of the entire VNS technical staff, with expertise not found within the typical small company. “I would rate their expertise about as high as you can get. They’ve been very good,” Stegall said. “VNS has people who specialize in certain fields whereas your generalist IT person isn’t going to have that kind of expertise. On top of that, VNS can have more than one person working on your account at a time. They’re very responsive, efficient and effective at resolving our IT issues.” Best of all, VNS provides all these services in a cost-effective and predictable monthly budget. Stegall says it not only beats hiring someone — it’s cheaper than getting piecemeal service whenever issues arise. “In the past we had called several different companies depending on what came up. But when I did the math I realized that NetCare™ is more cost-effective,” he said. “For a company that can’t justify having a full-time IT person, I think partnering with VNS is one of the best things you can do, by far.” You don’t have to know anything about IT to make the best technology decision for your business — you just have to know about the NetCare™ program from Valley Network Solutions. VNS helps companies like Valley Truck Parts focus on their core business and get the most value for their IT investments. It just makes good sense.


Charting a Course for IT Success

Astone Marketing proves that VNS NetCare™ makes good business sense in any economy.

Ideal economic conditions tend to trigger broad business growth across a variety of industries and sectors – hence the expression “a rising tide lifts all boats.” But it takes focus, discipline and a faultless sense of direction to successfully navigate an economic downturn. That’s why organizations of all sizes are taking a hard look at their business processes, seeking ways to improve efficiency and competitiveness while lowering costs. IT spending often comes under scrutiny. And many organizations are finding that IT is not aligned with business goals. Rather than supporting business objectives, IT serves as a distraction from the core business focus. However, savvy business managers don’t wait for a recession to address such fundamental operational issues. Astone Marketing discovered years ago that partnering with Valley Network Solutions (VNS) can save money, increase efficiency and free up key resources. VNS also ensures that Astone’s mission-critical systems are properly managed and maintained so that the company is positioned to take advantage of new opportunities. “We’ve been working with VNS on and off in a variety of capacities since 2000,” said Steve Farris, IT Manager, Astone Marketing. “They’ve always been a kind of ‘IT department in waiting’ for our company, handling various projects for us when we didn’t have the bandwidth or the right technical skills in-house. We even had a full-time IT position for a while, but ultimately decided it made more sense to outsource everything to VNS. Rather than maintaining dedicated IT staff, we rely on the VNS NetCare™ program.”

Clear the Decks: Astone Marketing has been ranked the largest marketing firm in the Valley by Fresno Business Journal for the past several years. The firm has about 100 employees in two locations, and 2008 revenues of $55 million. With a fast-paced environment and a complex IT infrastructure, Astone recognized early that NetCare™ can reduce overhead while protecting the organization from unexpected downtime. “We have saved money with the NetCare™ program, and it has worked out very well for us,” said Farris. “It was actually a very seamless transition. VNS was already familiar with our company, having been through a lot of moves and changes with us over the years. And VNS is very responsive — they understand that if something goes down that stops our business, we can’t wait days for a service call.” State-of-the-art remote monitoring tools enable the VNS team to respond quickly to system problems and outages. More importantly, the NetCare™ program focuses on proactive maintenance to help prevent problems before they occur. “In addition to remote monitoring and service, the VNS systems engineer (SE) comes out one day a week and does routine maintenance checks, making sure that everything is working properly,” said Farris. “If there’s time left after the proactive maintenance work is done, he takes care of non-routine maintenance or any new projects that we might have. Usually during the week I’ll have accumulated a list of non-critical things that I want done. He takes care of that kind of work for us as well, and provides phone support whenever we need it.”

Know the Ropes: Large enterprises began outsourcing IT several years ago, yet many SMBs are still struggling to sustain an IT model that may not make good business sense. Some organizations maintain a substantial IT staff capable of handling workload spikes and emergencies, with the tradeoff of inefficiency when that staff sits mostly idle. Others keep a “lean” IT staff in order save money, leaving the organization vulnerable when issues surface unpredictably. “When you look at the advantages and disadvantages of outsourcing, you recognize that it’s more about choosing the right technology provider than whether or not to outsource,” Farris said. “The advantage of having an in-house person is that you have instant access to someone whose job is to deal with any emergencies that come up. And your fear is that you’re going to lose that if you contract it out. But if you find the right provider and work out the right agreement, you’re covered.” “VNS is our IT department across the street instead of on-site. It’s just transparent to us here.” In fact, Farris says, you get a broader skill set by outsourcing to VNS than with an in-house IT person. The NetCare™ program includes a full-time Account Executive, a dedicated Service Dispatcher, the VNS full-time Network Operations staff, an inside sales team that can quickly handle procurement needs, and other technicians and engineers who provide expertise as needed for hardware break-fix/warranty or cabling needs. “You get the whole team,” Farris said. “We tend to go to our specific tech, but we can also use the VNS NetCare™ Service Center, which is a part of the NetCare™ plan. You just call or send an e-mail to service@vns.net and the request gets into their system very quickly. The appropriate person will respond to those kinds of non-critical issues within a couple of hours.”

Ride the Wave: That broad mix of skills is especially important given Astone’s eclectic IT environment. The marketing firm has a mix of Macs and PCs, as well as remote offices that add substantially to the complexity. “Having someone who can support everything is really important to us. All our creative people are on Macs and all of our business people are on PCs. Both platforms have to be maintained, and they all have to talk to each other on the network,” said Farris. “Although most tech firms won’t maintain Macs, VNS takes care of everything. They also support our Citrix servers and remote office connections.” Astone also relies upon VNS for major projects, such as an infrastructure move or a new implementation. VNS engineers sit down and consult with Astone’s management team to map out a plan based upon the firm’s business requirements. Then VNS handles the hardware and software procurement and installation, as well as long-term support. “VNS gets us very competitive pricing — I didn’t realize that until I started making comparisons,” Farris said. “Now I don’t even think about it. If I’m going to buy any kind of business technology, I go through VNS. In addition to being very competitive, it’s really convenient because it ties their service into the manufacturer’s warranty or support plan. You don’t end up with a lot of finger-pointing.” Organizations seeking to lower costs and increase productivity are finding that outsourcing can help them weather today’s economic storm. Astone charted the right course years ago by tapping into VNS’ NetCare™ program before the clouds even gathered. VNS has helped Astone maximize the value of its technology investments and prepare to take advantage of new opportunities when the economic tide turns.


Local Hero

A local call to Valley Network Solutions is the right call for HP warranty service.

Given the growing prevalence of outsourcing and offshoring, you’re never certain who you’re going to get when you call a business. But you’ll never that concern with Valley Network Solutions (VNS). You can rest assured that whenever you call you’ll speak with a local expert who understands the latest technology and your business needs. But what about HP warranty service? If you have an HP product under warranty, you’re supposed to call a toll-free number for support. Trouble is, the HP call center representative simply cannot provide the same level of service as VNS technicians. “The unfortunate reality in the IT industry is that many support functions are outsourced or sent overseas,” said VNS Repair Services Manager Jake Klee. “It can be difficult for any company to maintain the quality of service associated with its brand in such an arrangement. And no matter where your call is directed, it’s simply not realistic to expect a call center rep to be a certified and experienced technician. That’s why HP maintains Authorized Service Centers like VNS.”

Who Ya Gonna Call?: HP asks customers to call a toll-free number for warranty support due to the nature of the HP warranty. Warranty service falls under two categories — customer serviceable repairs (CSRs), for which HP simply ships the customer a replacement part, and repairs that must be performed by an Authorized Service Center. The call center rep is supposed to figure out which type of repair is at issue. “A lot of times, they just don’t know,” said Klee. “They may determine it’s a CSR when authorized service is needed, or vice versa. Even if it’s truly a CSR they may misdiagnose the problem and ship you the wrong part. Or you may get the right part and not have the tools, know-how or time to install it. Any number of things can go wrong, in which case your problem is not resolved and you have to make another call to HP. Do you really need those headaches?” For many customers, the answer is an emphatic “no.” Although a nominal additional cost may be involved with a CSR issue, it makes sense to take the product to VNS. VNS technicians will handle everything from end to end — correctly diagnosing the problem, getting the right parts, installing the parts, and ensuring that the issue is resolved once and for all. If needed, VNS will serve as your advocate with HP to help you get maximum value from your product warranty. “We have worked with HP to change certain repairs from CSRs to repairs that must be performed at an Authorized Service Center. We pointed out that it was just too difficult for customers to make these repairs themselves, and HP agreed,” Klee said.

Experts Near You: VNS technicians are highly trained and maintain A+ Certification from the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA). CompTIA A+ certification is vendor-neutral and recognized by major hardware and software vendors. It confirms a technician’s ability to perform tasks such as installation, configuration, diagnosis and preventive maintenance. “In addition, all VNS technicians are HP APSs — which stands for Accredited Platform Specialist — for each product line. There’s an APS certification for desktops and notebooks, an APS certification for servers and an APS certification for printers. The APS certification for printers basically says that I know printers. But then there are certifications for each individual printer model, and we have those certifications as well.” Best of all, when you call VNS your call won’t be transferred across the country — or halfway around the world. A local presence, skilled and experienced technicians, and personal service make VNS the right solution for HP warranty service.


The Right Partner

VNS has all the qualities Vie-Del Co. looks for in a technology provider — and more.

What do you look for in a technology provider? For Ramy Moghaddam, Network Systems Engineer for Vie-Del Co., important qualities include knowledge, experience and industry certifications. He wants someone who’s responsive, and appreciates competitive pricing. Most of all, he wants a firm that’s more interested in building a win-win relationship than making a quick sale. He found all that and more in Valley Network Solutions (VNS). “Our first contact with VNS involved printer service. We found that the technician was very good about following up, telling us what needed to be done and being up front about costs,” he said. “That left a positive note in the back of my mind. Because VNS provided such good hardware service, I figured they’d be a good company to call on for other projects as well.” “At VNS, we strive for excellence at all levels — from highly complex network engineering projects all the way down to things like printer repair, which we do because we want to stand behind what we sell,” said Daniel Duffy, CEO of VNS. “We want customers to know they can rely upon us for their most challenging projects as well as all of their day-to-day IT needs.”

Details, Details: Vie-Del’s first positive experience with VNS has since blossomed into a long-term partnership between the two Fresno-based firms. Vie-Del, a winery, distillery and fruit juice processing operation in business since 1946, looks to VNS for assistance with its key technology initiatives — including a recent server infrastructure upgrade. “Our servers were outdated and running at capacity in terms of both storage and processing power,” Moghaddam said. “We needed a partner to assist us with the upgrade and turned to VNS. They have done a very good job.”

A successful server upgrade starts with assessing business requirements and determining the best hardware solutions to meet those requirements. The technical expertise of the VNS account executive who assisted Vie-Del helped get the project off to a good start. “VNS has a lot of technical know-how on the sales side, which really sets them apart,” Moghaddam said. “Our VNS account executive is certified in several areas of networking, and can ‘talk shop’ almost to the same level as the VNS engineers. He fully understood what we needed, and made some good recommendations. He was also great about getting back to me quickly whenever I had questions.” VNS also stood out because of the clarity of its project plan and pricing. Each phase was broken down into steps so that Vie-Del knew what was going to be done and what it was getting for its money. “VNS did a really good job of determining the scope of work and how many hours it would take,” said Moghaddam. “That was another key reason we chose VNS for this project.”

Keeping Current: You learn a lot about a group of people when you work shoulder-to-shoulder over the course of a major project. Moghaddam says VNS is committed to high levels of technical expertise and customer service, and that commitment extends throughout the organization. “Their IT shop is one that encourages employees to stay involved with the latest technology and continue to gain new knowledge. There’s a sort of healthy competition going on, I think, that drives their staff to keep up their certifications,” he said. “Ultimately, that makes for great customer service and successful implementations.” The breadth of VNS’ offerings is also valuable to Vie-Del. The VNS team can assist Vie-Del with a wide range of projects, eliminating the need to manage multiple vendor relationships. “We may be looking at voice over IP in the near future, and have also considered adding IP-based video cameras to our network. VNS has experience with those solutions, so we’ll be looking to them for guidance,” said Moghaddam.

A True Win-Win: That kind of relationship is important for a growing business with a two-person IT staff. It just makes sense for Vie-Del to turn to VNS for assistance with important technology projects. “We simply don’t have the manpower or expertise to handle a server upgrade or similar job of that size,” Moghaddam said. “Working with VNS has been a very positive experience.” Vie-Del’s IT infrastructure has grown substantially over the years, and now includes multiple servers, wide-area connectivity, wireless and more. The firm is always exploring new ways to use technology to increase efficiency and competitiveness. To meet its business-critical IT requirements, it needs a technology provider with knowledge, experience and dedication to customer service. Vie-Del demands a lot but knows that VNS will deliver.

 

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