How One MIS Client Learned That the Grass is Not Always Greener
Back in 2014 one of MIS’s favorite clients gave us the pink slip. We were pretty surprised given that we had been providing pretty darn good IT support to them for about 10 years. So what happened was…the client’s on-premises hardware was showing its age and beginning to behave badly. To rectify the root cause of their problems, they needed to loosen the purse strings and purchase new equipment and install fiber or they were going to need to make a move to MIS’s Greenlight Cloud. The third option – one that we did not anticipate – was that they would show MIS the door and move on to another IT vendor. Ouch.
But this story has a happy ending for almost everyone involved. (Honestly, would we be sharing it if it didn’t?) And we can say without a bit of hesitation that it was our downright stubborn commitment to providing the best service and building rock-solid relationships with those we serve that made this story possible.
Building healthy relationships with clients, vendors, employees and the community is not just glittery marketing fluff for MIS. Shelley Burris, vice president and CFO of Stuart Pro Heating & Air can vouch for our bold claim. In fact, she was willing to put her job on the line to re-hire MIS Solutions as their IT support company after experiencing another vendor’s less-than-stellar service.
The Buford-based HVAC company began using MIS Solutions for their IT support in 2004, one year before Shelley joined Stuart. Throughout the years, she has been the one to oversee Stuart’s technology and serve as the main point of contact for IT-related matters. For 10 years MIS supported Stuart’s network and end-users allowing them to offer their clients world-class support.
The housing market crash of 2008 had an impact on Stuart’s new construction installation division. Thanks to its service division the company was able to survive the lean years. Still IT budgets were tight and many companies, including Stuart, found it necessary to make do with the equipment they had. In the years following the Great Recession, Stuart rebounded and went through a period of rapid growth.
Nonetheless, they had accumulated a considerable amount of technical debt. Their infrastructure was showing its age and frequent server crashes weren’t uncommon. When their on-premises server finally went belly-up, MIS loaned them a server to help them function until they were able to invest in their technology. The loaner server was merely a temporary fix until the leadership team at Stuart was ready to upgrade. With the loaner server limping along, MIS strongly encouraged Stuart to consider migrating their technology to MIS’s private Greenlight Cloud.
At the time, cloud computing was the new kid on the technology block. Very few small and medium businesses were taking advantage of all it had to offer. It was mostly enterprise organizations that were afforded the luxury of anywhere, anytime access to company files, business continuity in the event of a disaster and scalability up or down depending on current needs.
The leadership team at Stuart wasn’t sold on the virtues of cloud computing and no decision was ever made to purchase a new server. As the months went by, frustration continued to mount for the employees. Founder and owner Jim Stuart began to wonder if maybe there might be another IT company out there that could end their technology woes without spending thousands of dollars on an upgrade. Was their equipment really the cause of their problems? Were the company’s workflows and processes unable to keep up with the fast-paced growth? Was the team at MIS recommending the best thing for the company? Without a second opinion, it was hard to know what the right answer was.
So when an acquaintance of Jim’s suggested his IT company could fix all their issues for much cheaper, he decided to start fresh with a new vendor.
It was disappointing for MIS to lose a client after so many years, but, again, relationships are important to us, so we offered all the support we could to hand over the account to Stuart’s new IT company and make the transition as smooth as possible.
Turns Out the Grass Isn’t Greener
Stuart is not the first MIS client to jump ship only to learn that lofty promises made by other IT providers are empty. Spoiler alert: they’re also not the first to hire MIS back after experiencing another company’s subpar service. The new IT company, like MIS, suggested that Stuart install fiber to enhance the quality of their phone system, which they did. But then they recommended they move their phone system away from the 3CX platform (which MIS had installed and the folks at Stuart loved) to one called FreePBX. Well, it was free – and performed about as well as you would expect free software to perform. Without a quality phone system, the expensive fiber they had purchased was useless.
“When we moved to the new company, it was a nightmare,” said Shelley. “Our phones went down all the time, and that is one thing we can’t have happen. The heating and air conditioning business is highly competitive. If someone needs service and they can’t get through, they’ll call someone else. And we’ll never hear from them again.”
The new IT company did confirm MIS’s findings and recommendations – Stuart’s environment needed an overhaul or a move to the cloud. This time the leadership team was ready to migrate to the cloud and gave their IT company the green light to proceed. “But it never happened,” said Shelley. “They told us that they were going to move us to the cloud, but a year went by and it just didn’t happen.”
Meanwhile, the constant downtime and nagging issues were wearing on every last nerve of every single person at Stuart. The new IT company spent six months trying to transition the phone system but couldn’t get it to work. They spent a year trying to migrate data to the cloud and couldn’t make it happen. “I was so sick and tired of IT problems and the new vendor was very slow to respond,” said Shelley. “Our employees were complaining and things weren’t getting any better. It was a very frustrating time.”
Lack of timely response times from their new vendor was another huge disruption to their operations. In the HVAC business, most summertime work needs to be done during the early morning hours before temperatures soar to scorching levels. So having access to support outside of normal business hours was crucial for Stuart’s business. Without offering 24/7 support, the new IT company was not working out and Stuart was forced to reconsider their options.
During the year that Stuart was under the service of the other IT company, things had not improved. In fact, they had gotten much worse. After speaking with a few IT companies in the area and gathering proposals, Shelley concluded that MIS Solutions was the cloud services provider that could easily get their IT environment where it needed to be. She also valued the relationship she had had with the team at MIS for so many years. “Jim asked me, ‘Are you willing to put your job on the line for it?’ I said ‘yes’ because I know Lliam, Jennifer and the whole MIS team have my back.”
The pain the company was experiencing at the time was much worse than before they left MIS making it easier for Shelley to convince the executive team that an investment in infrastructure was necessary. She knew that leaning on MIS’s expertise and following their recommendations was going to be crucial if they wanted their IT to not only work like it’s supposed to, but also to help foster the company’s growth. This time around, the leadership at Stuart was onboard.
Onward and Upward – to the Cloud
When most other IT companies in the area say they offer cloud computing, what they mean is they are resellers for large cloud platforms such as Microsoft’s Azure or Amazon Web Services.
MIS, on the other hand, built its private Greenlight Cloud which is hosted in a Level 3 data center. The only higher tier of data center is Level 4 which usually houses data from enterprise companies and those that do contract work for the federal government. MIS has been offering private cloud computing to its clients since 2012 and has invested a tremendous amount of time and money in developing, updating and securing it.
Being a cloud client has been a game-changer for Stuart Pro Heating & Air and its employees. Service technicians receive their work orders on tablets and accept credit card payments in the field. Builders now place orders for new construction installs online or via email. “When I started here, we were writing job orders on a big calendar on the wall,” said Shelley. “Now we are completely paperless. And because our people can work from anywhere, we don’t have to get here at 4:30 in the morning. They can take care of urgent matters from home before coming in.”
Prior to moving to the cloud, Shelley was accustomed to receiving text messages at 5 a.m. letting her know when there were problems with the computers. “I hardly ever get those text messages now. I don’t stress about it anymore. If there’s an issue, I know it’s going to be fixed. The one time our computers went down after moving to the cloud, MIS was in constant communication with me letting me know what the problem was and the status. And we weren’t down for long.”
To say Stuart Pro Air depends on technology to keep the doors open is an understatement. “Technology has played a very large role in succeeding and being able to compete,” said Shelley. “The value MIS brings to Stuart Pro Heating & Air is priceless. Without an IT company protecting us, we cannot work. I have complete trust in MIS and I truly never want to try another IT company again.”