Information innovation Featured

9:48am EDT July 22, 2002

David Lundeen needed to link 140 employees at five locations with a new computer network, all the while knowing his organization would not be able to afford the high salary an IT manager would demand to maintain it.

The CFO of the Cleveland Christian Home for Children also recognized that hiring a less experienced IT manager would ultimately be nothing more than a short-term solution.

“We began to realize, because we were a child welfare agency, that we couldn’t pay competitive salaries,” says Lundeen. “And, if we did get someone, we knew they would learn on us and move on to where they could get a better salary.”

Welcome to the predicament that has wrapped its arms around scores of small business owners trying to keep their companies on the cutting edge.

Enter Jeff Kressin, who founded Seven Hills-based Network System Integrators in 1996. Kressin heard the complaint over and over until he ultimately decided there was a business opportunity in solving the problem. Although NSI serves large clients such as The Cleveland Clinic and Third Federal, Kressin created a new company, Infoserv, to provide network support to small businesses.

“In the IT industry, support is the bottom of the barrel. It’s the bottom rung of the ladder,” says James A. Kittelberger, Infoserv executive vice president. “But, from a customer service perspective, that’s what they really want. The two things (Kressin) learned was customers want support and nobody’s paying any attention to small businesses.”

A key part of the plan was finding a way to keep the service affordable. The answer was a centralized data center that is connected to Infoserv’s customers by high-speed T-1 lines. In most cases, that means there are only computer desktops, peripherals and a series of switches and routers at the customer’s place of business.

The centralized design allows Infoserv to efficiently update software versions, manage software licenses and properly back up client information. One of the biggest selling points of the set-up is it gives customers the same computing power available to larger companies and allows them to escape from the “small business versions” of popular software.

“It can make them appear bigger in their competitive effort,” says Kittelberger. “Suddenly they have the computing power of a big business.”

Last summer, Lundeen hired Infoserv to support the Cleveland Christian Home for Children’s computer network. He says it is a move that has dramatically eased the organization’s transition to the digital age.

“All of a sudden, we went from a situation where we weren’t sure we were doing the right thing to a point where we’re in good shape with our MIS system and it’s being managed well.”

How to reach: Infoserv, (216) 643-7000

Jim Vickers (jvickers@sbnnet.com) is associate editor at SBN.