Grow Along with Open Approach

When I was growing up, my parents would have my sisters and me mark notches on one of our bathroom walls to signal our height, along with noting the date, our age, and weight. Every 3-6 months, and especially on birthdays, we’d update it with another notch. Years later, I am now able to look back on that door frame when I return to my parents, and aside from some middle school chubbiness that is obvious when looking at these statistics, it’s a great reminder as to where I started, where I am now, and how much I’ve grown along the way.

If Open Approach had marked notches on a metaphorical bathroom wall over the years, they would start back in 2002 when Scott birthed the company as a single employee moonlighting a few carefully chosen contacts. Since that time, Open Approach (OA) has grown immensely in many ways. Employees have increased ten-fold, and managed clients are now in the dozens. OA’s technical expertise continues to expand, and as a result so does their service offering. During this time, Scott and Open Approach have been able to stick to their core values that the company was built around – keeping client’s best interests at heart, and creating genuine relationships full of trust and confidence.

As a 4-year employee of Open Approach, I was able to climb on board when the company was already considerably sized back in 2014, but growth was slow, calculated, and not always a main priority. During my time here, I have watched the company grow around me, and have been fortunate enough to grow with it. I started off as a less-than-helpful help desk employee, with little knowledge but lots of curiosity. Serving as front line support for the many different OA clients was great exposure to lots of different technology. I learned a lot very quickly, and began to wear many different hats, which is one of the things I have come to love about working for a small company. I’d be answering phones for password resets in the morning, writing technical and client facing documentation by lunch, and then imaging desktops for a workstation roll out in the afternoon.

As my help desk role slowly evolved into that of a desktop support engineer, I began working on advanced level troubleshooting and some project work. Then, Scott started to take me under his sales/administrator wing which transitioned to doing some systems build outs, quoting products and projects to clients, and then managing those projects from a top level to help ensure they were completed.

The most exciting changes have been as of late, when Open Approach purchased another local technology company, Rail City Information Systems, Inc. (RCIS) in January 2018. This purchase effectively doubled the company’s size overnight in terms of employees, current customers and the potential for new clients. This growth spurt served as a milestone in the long list of bathroom wall notches, mostly because it forced a lot of scaling and changes in a way that OA had never been challenged before. For the first time in it’s history, Open Approach was truly feeling growing pains and we needed to figure out how to overcome them without impacting the level of service we can provide our customers. This has been a concerted effort, where we have developed a set of standards and procedures from start to finish. It’s a rewarding feeling to be in the middle of all these policy changes that will dictate how the company is run for years down the line.

Any Open Approach employee will tell you that their time here has been interesting and void of stagnation, and I have thoroughly enjoyed my ever-evolving role. At this point it’s hard to say how it will continue to change in the future, but I certainly look forward to finding out.

If you are considering working with an IT Service provider like Open Approach, give us a call. We’d love to learn more about your company and how we can help you reach the goals of growing your own business.

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Open Approach and RCIS Join Forces

It has been a full eight months since Open Approach and Rail City Information Systems (RCIS) began operating as one Managed Services Provider and I have to say, our combined company is better than I ever thought it could be. (Read more about the announcement on VTDigger.)

In retrospect, I see that I was prepared for the additional skills, knowledge and business intelligence that would expand our team and the greater level of service we would be able to provide. I was prepared for the hard-working, conscientious individuals who would be joining us. I was even prepared for the flurry of activity as we combined systems and procedures into one.

But…I wasn’t prepared for (although very encouraged by) the rapid switch that many existing RCIS clients would make from their current “Break-Fix” IT management to our Managed Services Provider (MSP) approach. In my mind, this is a testament to the quality of work and dedication to customers that drove RCIS along for the last 20 years. Trust is hard to earn, takes work to keep, and it’s clear that Scott Burleson and the team at RCIS were deeply trusted and relied upon by their customers. Now, as Open Approach customers, I know how incredibly important it is to work to keep that trust and reliability.

Typically, Break-Fix providers are not incentivized to help you build a healthy network. Think about it – if you have a healthy network, you have no reason to call for a repair. If nobody calls, the revenue stream dries up. The folks at RCIS were different, though, in that they attempted at every turn to go beyond “Break-Fix” when they could. To keep business revenue up, they had to add lots of clients and manage the unpredictability of it, the chaos of it, as best they could. Knowing this was unsustainable in the long run, RCIS tried to shift to a proactive management model, but with the continued and overwhelming workload required to support their clients the shift was impossible.

By merging our two companies, we were able to widen our level of expertise and RCIS was able to transition to the business model of Managed Services. Now combined we are working together to help leverage technology solutions to help businesses grow.

In a later post, I’ll talk about the industry’s understanding of Managed Services, and how we at Open Approach take it to the next level for our clients. If you’d like to learn more about how we will work to earn your trust, what we do, and how we will help your business grow, give us a call or send us an email. We’d love to hear from you.

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BENNINGTON POTTERS

Bennington Potters designs, produces, and markets beautiful, heirloom ceramics. Founded by David Gil in 1948, employed potters continue to follow David’s
legacy, embracing his technical creativity, commitment and tenacity, acting as the driving forces to build the remarkable company that thrives to this day.
Today they operate out of Bennington Potters Yard in southern Vermont, where they give guided tours 7 days a week, as well as a retail-only store in
downtown Burlington!

SOLUTION

Working with a jumbled web of computers, files, and encountering painful drops in network connectivity, Sheela Harden, owner of Bennington Potters, knew
productivity was suffering. They needed a change, but more importantly, they needed guidance. Looking for someone to work with them on their day-to-day
challenges, Bennington Potters reached out to Open Approach in 2006. From switching and firewall upgrades, to server and computer replacements, Open
Approach was able to bring stability and efficiency back to the pottery.


“Working with Open Approach is fluid and conversational, and their work feels that way too; everything works, projects are simple and streamlined, and
issues are resolved quickly and effortlessly.”

— Melissa Colon, Marketing Manager at Bennington Potters

HUBBARDTON FORGE

From its humble beginnings in 1974 operating out of a 19th-century barn, Hubbardton Forge has grown to become the oldest and largest commercial forge in the United States, generating more than $35 million in annual sales. Located in Castleton, Vermont, the company produces thousands of high-end, hand-forged lighting products – “Art that Lights up” – marketed through residential lighting and home furnishings retailers as well as contract distributors. In its highly competitive industry, Hubbardton Forge has distinguished itself as the preeminent design shop with a product line that is anything but common.

SOLUTION

Hubbardton Forge was one of Open Approach’s first clients, and the two companies have figuratively grown up together. As the demands on the Hubbardton Forge network grew, Open Approach worked hard to not only meet these demands, but to help shape the future computing environment to match their corporate vision. Like all visionary companies, Hubbardton Forge works toward opportunity and avoids reacting in fear toward challenges. Open Approach embraces this philosophy, and the result has been a network that is flexible, functional, economical and equal to the demands of this growing company.


“Open Approach has a way of projecting ‘calm’ in the midst of an IT ‘storm,’ and I never have to worry about their professionalism when they interact directly with our users.”

-Dale Carr, MIS Manager at Hubbardton Forge

VERMONT LAND TRUST

Working to protect the productive, recreational, and scenic land that gives Vermont its rural character, Vermont Land Trust (VLT), a member-supported 501(c)(3) nonprofit, is a land conservation organization operating five regional offices throughout the state. Established in 1977, Vermont Land Trust has permanently conserved more than 1,900 parcels of land covering more than 550,000 acres, or about nine percent of the private, undeveloped land in the state. They provide technical and legal assistance to individuals, communities, and local land trusts to help them achieve their conservation objectives.

SOLUTION

VLT and Open Approach began working together after VLT experienced network connectivity issues at one of its remote locations. Later, VLT engaged Open Approach for full systems support, which has included migrating to a highly available cluster of servers, introducing necessary redundancy into a previously aging infrastructure. Along the way, VLT was able to retire its deteriorating tape library for backups, as well as move to Microsoft’s Office 365.


“From the first interaction with Open Approach, communication has been very clear, friendly, and thoroughly professional. They really listen and respond to my concerns and ideas in designing solutions that work for us.”

— Teija Huttunen-Green, Director of Operations & Technology at Vermont Land Trust

MERIDIAN TRUST FEDERAL CREDIT UNION

Meridian Trust Federal Credit Union is a multi-branch organization that has been catering to its customers’ financial needs since its inception in 1954. Originally founded by a dedicated group of state employees, Meridian’s goal was to establish a not-for-profit, financial cooperative that would be built on the philosophy of people helping people. That ideology has held through to today, as Meridian has grown both internally and physically throughout the 1970s and 1980s, with the fifth and most recent location opening in 2004 in East Cheyenne, Wyoming.

SOLUTION

Part of Meridian’s growth yielded some growing pains, one of which was the loss of their network administrator in early 2013. Unhappy with another nationally known technology company, they utilized Open Approach in parallel while waiting for the contract to run out. “After only a few months of working together, we soon realized that going with OA was the best thing we ever did. We were treated like partners,” noted Huda Hussain, Director of Business Analysis.

Since joining the team, Open Approach has worked with Meridian on a complete network overhaul, including server virtualization, backup implementation, Active Directory restructuring, and network infrastructure optimization. They deployed a robust network monitoring system, a Citrix XenApp environment for more than 50 users, and an aggressive web filter, which increased productivity, security, and efficiency — all while being located more than 2,000 miles away.


“Despite the distance, Open Approach is in in contact with us all the time. We are kept in the loop of events, issues, etc. They are like our very own virtual IT staff.”

—— Huda Hussain, Director of Business Analysis at Meridian Trust

HELEN PORTER HEALTHCARE

Nestled into farmland bordering Middlebury, Vermont, Helen Porter Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center is a comfortable, secure residence where loved ones are assured of skilled nursing care and assistance. Privacy is honored, individuality is respected and residents can choose to dine, socialize, play games and activities, or exercise with staff and fellow residents. With accommodations for 105 people, Helen Porter is a nonprofit that is licensed by the state of Vermont and certified by Medicare and Medicaid.

SOLUTION

Open Approach and Helen Porter have been working together since 2002, when they teamed up to move their systems from paper files to electronic medical records while ensuring security and complete HIPAA compliance. From migrating non-redundant physical servers into a high-performance server cluster, replacing and standardizing an ever-growing list of workstations and laptops, to performing regular security audits of firewall, networking, and wireless configurations, Open Approach has worked diligently to help keep security and performance optimal, while also keeping costs minimized in support of Helen Porter’s non-profit mission.


“Cost containment in medical delivery is a major driver, and Open Approach has consistently delivered great value while also being one of our best partners. They work tirelessly on our behalf and feel more like fellow staff to all of us.”
 

— Jim Darragh, Facility Administrator at Helen Porter Healthcare

CHAMPLAIN VALLEY EQUIPMENT

Champlain Valley Equipment (CVE) is a Vermont-based company that represents Kubota, New Holland, Polaris, STIHL, Yamaha, and others to provide world-class parts, sales, service and after-sales support to customers for agricultural, light construction, and residential needs. Incorporated in 1970, Champlain Valley Equipment continues to evolve rapidly, and has undergone significant expansion of its product sales and geographic reach.

SOLUTION

“Growing to meet your needs” is Champlain Valley Equipment’s motto, and growing they have been, now with five different branches spanning the entire state of Vermont. To simplify the expansion, CVE wanted to quickly unify all of their separate stores under one network, and called upon Open Approach to do so. By building an interconnected network of firewalls, switching, and servers, Open Approach took five disjointed stores and brought all users into a single domain with minimal interruption or changes to their desktop environments. Open Approach addressed CVE’s increased reliance on email as they migrated to Office 365, and in response to the growing mobility of their users, they deployed a unified wireless solution between all stores, allowing users to seamlessly move between networks with minimal effort.


“Growth and change are the constants here. We are always looking to expand to meet the needs of our customers. That puts a lot of pressure on our systems. Open Approach has really helped us to take on as much as we have. It’s been a great partnership.”
 

— Jennifer LaRock, Office Manager at Champlain Valley Equipment

NORTHERN TIER CENTER FOR HEALTH

Northern Tier Center for Health (NoTCH) is a primary-care practice serving multiple locations throughout Vermont’s Franklin and Grand Isle counties. A federally-funded nonprofit corporation, Northern Tier’s team of compassionate and devoted health care professionals and support staff offer a full spectrum of health care services, including family medicine, obstetrics, internal medicine, behavioral health, pharmacy, lab, and general dentistry.

SOLUTION

Open Approach began working with NoTCH mid-2015, filling the void when a critical internal IT employee left unexpectedly. Work commenced quickly with a sizable project to restructure NoTCH’s backup environment, simplifying and automating backups for their entire server infrastructure, including offsite replication of vital data. Next up was a deep evaluation of network security and firewall configurations, resulting in a significant simplification and hardening of the rule set, which in turn reduced complexity and increased manageability. Along with this came enhanced flexibility for users to roam freely across their multi-site network — and resulted in more than $20,000 in annual savings.


“We needed a resource with the appropriate skillset who could come up to speed quickly, cost less money and have greater availability. The Open Approach philosophy matches ours to a tee.”

— Andrew Hoadley, IT Manager at NoTCH

NSA INDUSTRIES

Founded in 1982 in St. Johnsbury, Vermont, NSA Industries was built on a reputation of excellence in quality and performance. The company grew from its initial customer, the manufacturer of the Garden Way Garden Cart, to become the largest metal fabrication, machining, and powder-coating operation of its kind in Northern New England. Today, NSA works collaboratively with customers to develop manufacturing solutions, specializing in metal fabrication, machining, powder coating, engineering and prototype development, and assembly.

SOLUTION

Open Approach has worked with NSA since 2008 to support the systems infrastructure required to maintain the reputation that they’ve built. Early on, a high availability virtual environment replaced their collection of outdated physical servers. This paved the way to support a variety of business demands, such as remote access, a robust phone system, standardized workstations, and multi-site networking for all users across the entire organization. As NSA grows, OA’s latest work has been to facilitate the integration of acquired companies by extending the computer environment into new locations.


“Open Approach has become part of the NSA team. Our concerns become their concerns and are worked through together.”

— Jeff Keyworth, Process Engineer at NSA

MARINE ENGINE

Marine Engine is an online retailer in Brandon, Vermont, that provides boat motor repair information and parts to both boat owners and mechanics across the country. Marine Engine has had a large online presence for over 17 years, selling everything from boat motor parts to engine repair manuals, accessories, and supplies. They also maintain an active discussion forum that provides a wealth of knowledge for boat owners everywhere.

SOLUTION

Open Approach teamed up with Marine Engine nearly a decade ago when their IT needs began to overwhelm the quickly growing business. Due to the important nature of Marine Engine’s online presence, Open Approach established redundant internet circuits from different providers with automatic failover to serve those high-availability needs. They were able to perform an email migration from in-house Exchange to the more dependable and robust Office 365, and built up a modern virtual infrastructure as the company backbone. Today Marine Engine is sailing smoothly, and OA continues to monitor, maintain, and be readily available should any needs arise.


“We recognized the need for network support beyond what we could do on an ad-hoc basis, and we wanted a solid business to cover that realm for us. OA is always available for discussion surrounding issues or whatever comes up, and there’s nothing out of bounds.”

— Andrew Menkart, owner of Marine Engine