Pine Cove Pulse

Brandon Vancleeve

Closing in on my 9th year with Pine Cove Consulting. Continuing to make effective change in educational technology integration by bringing enterprise-level technology solutions to schools and businesses throughout the Rocky Mountain region.
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Recent Posts

How important is technology in education?  Let's ask this rural Montana school district.

Posted by Brandon Vancleeve

HERE IS A LITTLE TASTE OF THE INTERVIEW:

Lynne Peterson | Savage Public Schools Superintendent

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Located in the eastern area of Montana, near the North Dakota border on MT highway 16. Savage is a small, isolated farming community. Savage School District is all too familiar with the technology challenges rural communities face: location, resources, and funding. 

Competing for access to resources, funding and the professionals that can implement, support and manage an idea can be much more difficult for rural communities. This is especially true of all things IT related, as the appeal of city living and compensation often pull homegrown talent away from the communities they grew up in. Pine Cove Consulting recognized this trend at its inception and has strived to partner with and support rural communities, bringing top tier technology so that their students have equal access and exposure to learning opportunities. 

Lynne Peterson took over as the superintendent for Savage School District in 2013, Lynne learned first-hand how far behind her district was. She began looking for solutions and partners to upgrade Savage’s teaching and learning experience.

What are some of challenges you face being the superintendent of a district in a rural community?

“Geographically, we’re in the Bakken oil field and the oil companies snatched up all the techs. We have not had a technology person for probably six years. Previous superintendents came in and thought they had a little bit of tech knowledge which is always dangerous.

How did you hear about PCC?

“I first met Matt at a tech meeting in Sidney where they were talking about the SBAC testing and I knew that there was no way my school could support what was being mandated by the state. He saw the look of panic on my face and set up a meeting.”

What was your first impression of the Pine Cove approach?

“I felt Pine Cove looked at Savage School's challenges, did a needs assessment, and fit a solution to us.”

How did you start this tech overhaul?

“We basically had to start from ground zero. Network cabling services first but Matt had to come to a few board meetings to talk them into it.

How did you fund this project?

“We got the network cabling services done with some oil money and Matt helped me organize my thoughts on a Mill Levy for technology. We passed a ten-year mill tech to cover the Hardware as a Service (HaaS) cost of the endpoints and servers.  It was a lot of help that Matt was a presence here with my board members; walked around with Char, my board chair and had constant dialogue with them. Through the board members, the teachers and the kids expressing their frustrations about how the system was always letting us down and how we could never count on it we got it across that we had out grown our system.”  

How do you feel about Pine Cove service since the install?

“I love it. I have monthly meetings with Brandon Bassett (Pine Cove's head of account management) where I can discuss what is going on.  Brandon is awesome and gets things done.

What would you tell someone who asked about your Pine cove experience?

“Call Pine Cove and sit down and talk to them.  They will take you by the hand and guide you through what you need.

 

Download the Whole Case Study Here:

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Topics: Showcase

Ransomware today: How to protect against Locky and friends.

Posted by Brandon Vancleeve

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Missed the Webinar: Ransomware today: How to protect against Locky and friends.

 
 
 
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Here are some key insights:

Ransomware has become one of the most widespread and damaging threats that internet users face.
Since CryptoLocker first appeared in 2013, we’ve seen a new era of file-encrypting ransomware variants delivered through spam messages and exploit kits, extorting money from all types of organizations.
Today, Locky ransomware is wreaking havoc with at least 400,000 machines affected worldwide.

What you will learn in the video above:

  • What’s behind this current wave of ransomware
  • Anatomy of a ransomware attack
  • The latest ransomware to rear its ugly head: CryptoWall, Locky, TorrentLocker, CTB-Locker
  • Practical steps to protect your organization from ransomware threats

 
Want a one-on-one demo? Contact Pine Cove Consulting

Topics: security

Press Release: Pine Cove Consulting Receives National Recognition

Posted by Brandon Vancleeve

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Pine Cove Consulting Wins National Cybersecurity Award

Pine Cove Consulting was recently awarded a national partner award from its industry leading security partner, Sophos, for outstanding work in the Cybersecurity arena.  The award recognized complete security knowledge and expertise, as well as personal and company-wide certifications and continued education.  This award is contended for across the country, and has historically been awarded to larger companies in more urban areas.  

"This is important to Pine Cove and our area to show that a local company can compete and succeed regionally and nationally.  We try to explain to our customers and vendors that living and working in Bozeman is a choice, and we believe we possess all the business tools we need here.  Our team has set this as our goal since last May and couldn't be more excited that we reached it," said Brandon Vancleeve, Pine Cove Consulting’s Vice President.

Topics: Pine Cove

Pine Cove Consulting welcomes Joey Lovell, Janel Morgan, and  Kelsea Kimerly as our newest Consultants!

Posted by Brandon Vancleeve

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Joey Lovell grew up in the Panhandle of Idaho in the small picturesque town of Sandpoint. With many activities based around the 4 seasons Sandpoint has to offer, Joey gravitated to the golf course. After high school he pursued a collegiate golf career at Boise State University while earning a bachelors degree in Business. Joey's professional golf stint included qualifying for the National Pro Tour and playing in as many professional tournaments as he could. Joey relocated to Bozeman, MT in the fall of 2013 and is now enjoying his Business degree while using his golf skills to become a better salesman. When he isn't golfing he enjoys spending time with his better half Kelly hiking around the local trails and snowboarding during the winter months. 

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Kelsea Kimerly is the new consultant for Pine Cove Consulting, based out of the Bozeman office.  Kelsea grew up in Columbia Falls, Montana and then went off to Carroll College in Helena, where she double majored in Communication Studies and Public Relations.  After graduation, she drove off to Hollywood, California for sunshine and adventures before coming home to her Montana roots.  She now lives in Belgrade with her fiancé, Jonathan Jensen.  When they aren't traveling across the state for softball or bowling tournaments, they spend most Sundays playing board games or horseshoes with the Jensen family in Manhattan. 

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Pine Cove Consulting welcomes Janel Morgan as their newest Consultant for the Billings office.  Janel grew up in Billings, Montana where she studied Psychology and Business Management at  MSU-Billings.  She then made her way to Kalispell, MT where she completed her mentor-ship for Real Estate Appraisal and spent 7 years in the field before pursuing a career in sales.  She has since relocated back to her home town to be close to family.  Most of her time is spent raising her 7 year old daughter, Shayda.  They enjoy baking, mountain biking, camping, 4-wheeling, and spending time with their 1 year old Boston Terrier, Shine.  

Topics: Pine Cove

10 Ways Your Phone System Improves Your Customers’ Experience

Posted by Brandon Vancleeve

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Business competition in today’s economy is fierce. Your customers expect the highest level of customer care, and you and your staff need to be reachable, professional and customer focused at all times –  no matter where you’re located.

If that’s your business model, is your phone system serving you like you serve your customers?

Use this checklist to evaluate if your phone system gives your customers the experience they now expect from their chosen providers.  Any items you can’t check off may signal that you could be getting more out of your phone system.

Reachability and professionalism

  • Customers can access your sales staff anytime and anywhere with mobile capability that directs incoming office calls to be received on your sales staff’s mobile phones
  • Outbound calls look professional, coming from the main company number, even when your employees are using their smartphones
  • Customer focus is enhanced by connecting your CRM tools with Outlook to give you conversation history with your client
  • Employee productivity is increased by merging call records with customer records to improve sales trending projections and staffing optimization

Employee productivity

  • Employees and partners can communicate in ways that are easy and intuitive through audio and web conferencing, regardless of where they’re working
  • Employees use presence features to be reachable by establishing if they are in the office, out of office, or in a meeting by using presence features
  • Teamwork is made easy with voice and video calling, including screen sharing

Cost effectiveness

  • Ongoing administration, such as adding a new employee is easy, not labor intensive
  • Local support is available to train your staff to use features that improve customer experience
  • You have the option of outsourcing your phone system management to an experienced local company

How did you do? Depending on your responses, here are some things to think about.

  • If you scored an 8-10, you’re using your phone system to improve your customers’ experience as they work with you.
  • If you scored a 5-7, there may be some phone system features you can use to improve your company’s competitive positioning and your customers’ experience.
  • If you scored less than 5, it’s time to look at phone system capabilities you can bring to your company to help your staff be more reachable, professional and customer-focused.

You want your employees to function effectively while improving company productivity and increasing customer satisfaction. Your phone system should help you do all that – and boost your competitive advantage.

If you’d like to discuss your phone system’s capabilities and see what’s possible for your business, give us a call at 800.432.0346.  You can also learn more about our phone solutions and our company at  http://marketing.pinecc.com/blog/topic/phones

Topics: phones

A Phone System that Maximizes Your Control

Posted by Brandon Vancleeve

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You’ve realized that your current phone system is no longer working for your growing business.  So you do what any savvy business person does – you research your options. And you quickly comprehend that what you need is a phone system that will minimize disruptions to your business and integrate with your current custom applications, all at a reasonable cost.  Most importantly, you want to be able to control how you use, manage and pay for the phone system over the long term. 

It might be time to consider a telephony platform that gives you total control in three critical manners. 

Control over care

If you like the idea of being able to control how and when you complete a phone system upgrade, and determine who administers changes to your phone system, then an onsite phone system may be right for your business.  An onsite system gives you physical control of your phone system. You have the ability to determine when you want to make system changes and upgrades. It also gives you the ability to have a non-technical person manage moves, adds and changes as you need. And the flexibility of the system gives the administrator access from anywhere.  Meaning it’s a single image administration, no matter how many sites or locations you have.

Control over custody

What is your ownership preference?  If you have a certain comfort level when the assets you buy are sitting under your roof, an onsite phone system will give you complete custody of the equipment. Simply put, you own it. This type of investment can create a future benefit for your business by reducing long-term system costs while increasing the book value of your company.  With an onsite phone system, you don’t necessarily have to commit to large capital outlays. The financial decision of leasing, renting or buying is up to you. When you own the phone system, you have ultimate control over the asset. You decide how you spend money on the care and maintenance, helping you control your costs in a way that makes sense for your business.   

Control over administration

The ease of administration with an onsite phone system means it will work with the applications you already own, while minimizing business disruptions. If you’ve built your own custom applications that you want to integrate with your phone system, you can do that. Applications you have purchased, developed or customized like Microsoft Outlook, custom paging, and other business applications are easily integrated with an onsite phone system you control. This allows you to keep what you’ve already built and connect it with a phone system that offers you more control without affecting your users’ productivity or your customers’ experience.

Determining what’s right for your business

There are companies that want to move to the cloud. And there are other companies that want to maintain control of the assets they own. As you consider your phone system options, consider how an onsite phone system may allow you the type of control you require in your business so you can minimize disruptions, integrate to applications you’ve already customized and manage how you pay for the system. Perhaps it’s the best solution for your business.

Topics: phones

E-Rate 2016: How to get the most out of Sophos Security

Posted by Brandon Vancleeve

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For most of 2015, Pine Cove has been discussing the changes taking place with E-Rate 2.0. Most of our E-Rate schools and clients have become aware of how the new model affects their budget and are taking advantage of the changes.

At the beginning of November, Pine Cove hosted a webinar with Sophos representatives to clarify changes to E-Rate 2.0 for the upcoming year, and what services Sophos has to offer qualified schools.

This Webinar is about 59 minutes long — if this is to long to watch, you can read through the summary below.

 
 
 
 
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Want a refresh on E-Rate 2.0? Read our posts here!

Below is an overview of what Sophos had to say.

You can find a blog recapping E-Rate changes here.

What are Sophos Components available with E-Rate?

  • Firewall Hardware – many different models and options. 
  • Network Protection Updates – IPS, pattern updates, DoS/Flood Protection, SSL VPN and remote access, advanced routing, WAN load-balancing, and detailed network protection reporting.
  • Wireless –Sophos Firewall is the wireless controller.
    • Add wireless APs for coverage.
    • Configure security policies specific to each zone.
  • Support – Offers 24/7, 365 day support with advance next business day replacement.

Firewall Components for Security:

  • Routing
  • Email Security
  • Web Filtering
  • Intrusion Prevention System
  • Threat Engine
  • Proxy
  • Selective Sandbox
  • Application Control
  • Data Loss Prevention
  • ATP Detection
  • Security Heartbeat

Sophos Firewall Interface at a Glance

A new interface was released on the 9th of November. The new interface involves a better user experience, clean, intuitive dashboard that makes for easy navigation and analytics for users, and detailed reporting on any criteria.

Important Applications:

Security Heartbeat

Sophos Security Heartbeat

Security Heartbeat is a brand new application with the new interface. Its main function is to connect endpoint security clients to the firewall.

  • Communicates and sends findings to the firewall.
  • Health status changes to warn users.
  • The only company in the industry that does this.

User Threat Quotient

  • Reporting that shows who the “problem children” (high-risk web users) are.

Built-in policy templates

  • User friendly
  • For common business applications

Easy evaluation modes to test out Firewall

Models

SG Series Models  

SG series models

  • No matter which model you use, the firmware, functionality and features are the same.
  • The only difference in models is that they are tailored to how much throughput you need.

Central Management: Two options 

Central Managment

  • On Prem & Cloud
  • Sophos iView 2

Introducing: Sophos Cloud Endpoint

Endpoints are a line item on your budget. Not only can you use Sophos to protect your network and everything surrounding, but Sophos also offers endpoint security. Once you use a portion of E-Rate’s Category 2 budget to get your wireless and firewall taken care of, you’ll want to protect all components surrounding security.

Sophos users who buy Firewall and endpoint security receive bundling discounts, which can also help free up budget money.
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Why does Pine Cove think Sophos is the best solution for our schools?

Dan Russell concluded with a short explanation on why Pine Cove has partnered with Sophos for so long, and why we think Sophos is the best option for our clients. It’s this simple: "Sophos has the best user experience, interface, and central control system for wireless protection, network protection and now endpoint security."

What Should you do Next?

  1. Get in contact with one of your Erate Consultants if you have further questions or need advice or check out the usac erate page  Pine Cove are NOT Erate Consultants
  1. Request Firewall Hardware, Network Protection, Wireless Software, Wireless Apps and Support on your next E-Rate Submission.
  1. Remember to use Pine Cove Consulting for the installation process. Our experts make for seamless technology transitions.
  1. Contact Pine Cove. We can help scope Sophos Solutions or for any other E-Rate related questions contact Brandon Vancleeve at bvancleeve@pinecc.com

 

Want to learn more about E-Rate Changes? Click Below

E-rate 2.0 changes

Topics: E-Rate

Why Buy from Pine Cove?

Posted by Brandon Vancleeve

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We understand why you may be hesitant to use a consultant to buy your technology. You might think we’ll be more expensive. You might want to just “skip the middle man” and do the research and buying yourself. You might think it takes too long. Or maybe you didn’t even realize you can buy your products from Pine Cove. We’re here to clarify why buying from us can be a great option for you.

Think of it this way…

Say you want to buy a pair of skis for the upcoming season. While you are a good skier, you are not an expert at knowing exactly what fits best for you at the most competitive price. What do you do? You go to a professional at a specialized store. They find the best pair for your ski style, size, and help to find the best cost for your budget. Experts are even there for follow-up, when you need repairs or years later when you need new skis.

When it comes to technology, utilizing professionals for help should not be compromised. While working with consultants might have some short-term costs, it will be much more cost-effective in the long run.

The four main reasons why to buy from Pine Cove Consulting:

We know and offer the best price

  • We work with our vendors to fight for the best price the first time
  • We’re experts at comparing prices
  • We often offer cheaper – we can find package deals that are not offered elsewhere

We offer the best insight

  • With expert knowledge and insight, we do the research for you at a fraction of the time
  • We’re honest about pricing and technical issues
  • We work to give you the best quality products and finding the right answers to your questions

We hire local

  • Although we’re headquartered in Bozeman, we have employees everywhere
  • We hire employees from your areas so that we can reach your assistance quickly

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We make everything simplified

  • Simplified research
  • Simplified orders, packages and installments
  • Fast turnaround

Cutting out the middle-man and doing the research and buying yourself might seem faster. But the truth is, many unforeseen problems may arise. We’ve had a client buy 400 Chromebooks from a vendor, and wind up with 25% of them broken within two months. They’ve used our buying services ever since.

While we know you might think it’s easier on your bank account to avoid buying from your consultants, we can assure you that buying from us puts your technology – and your money – in good hands. We are honest about what your business should invest in and offer the best price the first time – every time.

If you think you might be interested in buying products from Pine Cove, contact us!

Topics: 1:1 computing

School district problems and the IT solutions PCC uses to resolve them

Posted by Brandon Vancleeve

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Summer is the busiest time of year for Pine Cove Consulting’s engineers and project team. It is the best time to make any major technology changes in a school district. Every year I see similar changes happening across all of our school districts. They all seem to be doing the same upgrades at the same time to solve problems. So, what problems are our school districts currently running into and how are we solving them? Here are our top three areas of focus this summer:


New Devices

Pine Cove has sold thousands of Chromebooks over the past few months. The ease of use, ease of administration, and low cost of these devices make them very popular in schools. Anytime you add a bunch of new devices into the mix, you have to address the network. The technology built into these new devices are driving the need for new networking and wireless equipment that can handle new network protocols and speed (802.11ac).

What are our IT solutions for a bunch of new devices coming on the network?

Upgrading networks and infrastructure. If you are interested in adding new devices or more of them, please call our network consulting team and we can help you plan a successful deployment by utilizing our “Wheel of Technology Planning” to make sure it is done right the first time.

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Security

Believe it or not, schools are more vulnerable than most businesses when it comes to their security health. Most people working at companies know not to visit questionable websites or click the link in the email to help the Nigerian Prince get his money out of the country. A 4th grade kid on the other hand is not as knowledgeable about safe internet usage practices. From my view, the main security problems in school settings are often caused by internal users. You are leaving a lot of holes in your security process if you only have a firewall and an endpoint antivirus software installed on all of the district machines. Another thing to consider is that kids bring in their personal devices and connect to your “guest” wireless network. Worse yet, they connect to the main wireless network of the district because a teacher gave out the password one day when they were trying to get on the network. At this point, that device is behind the firewall so it cannot stop the incoming threat. Many times end-user devices are infected by viruses and malware which can spread to other devices on the network including your main servers, if your network is not segmented properly.

What have we been doing to fix this?

This summer, we have installed 10-15 Sophos Unified Threat Management (UTM) appliances in our districts. They are not just a firewall. It is a complete security solution that incorporates email, server, web, network and endpoint protection. It can also run a fast, secure and cost-effective wireless network. Having one pane of glass to manage all of these aspects of security across the network means that you have an intelligent system that works together to combat threats and can help you sleep better at night. It also means less administration from your technical staff. 

Watch one of our webinars by Sophos:

Webinar 1: Simple Security is Better Security
Webinar 2: Sophos Network Security health

Virtual Desktops

We have done several new deployments of virtual desktops across Montana and Wyoming. In a school setting, managing desktops is literally a full-time job. Teachers, staff and students are always running into issues with their computers. Using VDI, we can significantly reduce the administration time required to provide Windows desktops to all of your users. Every time a user logs in, they have a fast desktop that doesn’t get bogged down over time. If they mess something up…they just restart the desktop and it is brand new again. It makes having master images way easier to manage and updates are done once on the image instead of on every computer. Another benefit is that all of the data is stored on the server instead of the individual workstations, so it is way easier to backup and manage. If you use computer labs in your school, it is definitely worth investigating VDI as a solution.

Find out just how important is technology in education from other school districts.

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Justin Hill – 406.294.5471 – jhill@pinecc.com

Topics: Pine Cove

IT network consulting company court the Underserved Small Businesses: Why?

Posted by Brandon Vancleeve

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Since our inception, Pine Cove Consulting has been focused on bringing quality IT solutions to underserved public entities in rural communities. For the past 22 years, we have partnered with rural school districts and local governments to bring them the most current technologies. We believe the experience, partnerships and relationships we have cultivated over the years, will be equally valuable to underserved businesses that want to remain competitive. We understand technology and how to use it to grow, stay connected and create a valuable customer experience. But most importantly we strive to understand your business, clients and customers to ensure you get exactly what you need to thrive. We live and breathe technology so you can devote 100% of your time to your bottom line.


What does it mean to be underserved?

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you feel your IT solutions make you more productive? Or prohibit productivity?
  • Do you feel 100% confident that if you had a data breach or loss, you would be able to get your data and applications back?
  • Is your technology giving you exactly what you need in order to run operations quickly and efficiently?
  • Do you feel like communication among employees, customers or partners is not at the level of quality you demand?
  • Are you finding you spend the majority of your IT budget fixing and maintaining your current inadequate IT solutions?
  • Do you cringe with every hour your IT support companies are fixing problems?
  • Do you feel uneducated when trying to buy the right technology?

You might not even realize that you are an underserved business. We define “underserved” as rural businesses not getting the help they need or businesses in thriving communities that are unsatisfied with their current IT solutions. Bottom line: if your technology is not making your business more productive, you are underserved and could benefit from our small business IT consulting.

 

Why is PCC moving into the B2B Environment?

1. We RECOGNIZE the void for solution-based IT network consulting companies

When looking at the competitive landscape for Pine Cove, we see two groups that we fit in between. There are the larger solutions companies that focus their attention on large, enterprise customers. Then, there are the small break fix companies that focus on smaller entities with a model based on hourly support time and maintaining current inadequate technologies. Our goal is to be an IT solutions based company that focuses on smaller entities by providing them sustainable enterprise solutions that are efficient and sustainable.

2. We ARE the small business.

After years of staying away from local business opportunities, we realized that they are no different than our own business. They have strategic objectives as an organization, they need to be able to communicate, administer and support those objectives. Technology is a huge piece of that puzzle. Our business depends on technology to amplify productivity, profitability and reduce travel. We now realize this could be true of most businesses who are looking to grow in a competitive market.


3. We SOLVE problems with IT solutions rather than labor.

We recognize the sinking feeling customers receive when they need to call IT support companies in to solve their technology issues. Pine Cove Consulting is dedicated to helping you at a monthly rate rather than outrageous hourly billing. Our model is to solve business problems with technology, rather than fixing the technolgy that is creating problems for your business and limiting your growth.

 

How is Pine Cove Consulting going to better serve the local business community?

1. Show how we use technology.

We use technology in our office every day to communicate with employees, clients and partners in a large geographic area. From video conferencing, VoiP phones, Wi-Fi and the infrastructure it takes to run a network, we strive to understand your unique business challenges so we can create the ideal environment for you.


2. Community involvement and outreach.

While headquartered in Bozeman, Pine Cove Consulting has employees who reside in Montana and Wyoming. We operate where you operate through business networks in your community. Through our existing involvement, outreach and relationships in local communities, we understand the strengths and challenges a business might have.

3. Bring you in to see how it works.

Because we are a small business, we have IT network consultants who are available to you around the clock. You won’t get an automated message or person you can’t understand over the phone. And the best part is, you don’t have to talk to us just over the phone. We encourage visits and face to face meetings to understand your IT issues and to walk you through our proposed solutions.

What is our solution?

“We design, build, and deliver sustainable technology solutions that ensure your network is capable of carrying out your vision.”

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Topics: SMB