CASE STUDY: Citrus Networking Solutions Group Avoids Disaster

CASE STUDY: Citrus Networking Solutions Group Avoids Disaster

December 6

If you run a business in Florida, “Hurricane Central, USA,” you’d better prepare for storms.

But if you run a business that keeps other Florida businesses running, you either prepare or…you’re out of business.

No one understands being prepared like Teresa Bell. She’s the founder, president, and CEO of Citrus Networking Solutions Group (CNSG), a managed services provider in western Florida’s Nature Coast. The area is known for its abundant wildlife and for harboring endangered species like the manatee.

It’s also known for heavy rainfall, frequent tropical storms, and hurricanes.

But it wasn’t a flood, high winds, or any other natural disaster that almost shut down Teresa’s business. It was something much more common: hardware failure.

(Read more below)

Avoiding Disaster: StorageCraft and Citrus Networking Solutions Group

In fact, hardware failure and human error are more likely to disrupt your business than a broad-based or natural disaster. One Aberdeen report shows that only five percent of small businesses and nine percent of medium businesses reported data loss caused by natural disasters. (“Small vs. Large Enterprise Data Backup; Same Concept, Very Different Process.” Aberdeen, June 2011.)

According to Teresa,

Business owners don’t understand that technology is what runs their business until it’s too late. Disaster lurks around every corner for a business—even an IT company—and it isn’t always due to weather or fires.

Most of her clients are small businesses in rural Citrus County. The nearest city to get hardware replacements is Tampa, more than 90 minutes away. If you’re not prepared, downtime can last a long time.

A server is up 24/7, 365 days a year. Mechanical equipment goes bad. As their trusted partner, I tell my clients even one-year-old servers can go bad.

And Teresa speaks from personal experience.

Since founding CNSG in 2003, her philosophy has been, “preventative is better than reactionary.” So in the fall of 2010, when CNSG upgraded their servers, routers, switches, and VOIP system, Teresa immediately installed StorageCraft® ShadowProtect® Server.

I didn’t do it because of a loss, I did it because it was a best practice—part of being a good engineer. We always practice what we preach to our clients.

They also had a backup and disaster recovery plan that included full and incremental backups, off-site storage, and 24/7 support from their hardware manufacturer.

Teresa’s best practices ended up saving her business.

On October 4, 2011, she heard a loud, high-pitched whine “like a power drill or weed whacker” coming from the server room.

I ran to the server rack and hunted down the noise. With no warning or alerts, our one-year old server, which runs our SBS domain controller—our entire world—had two failed drives in our RAID array.

That meant no phones, no email, no service tickets coming in, and no business data.

But because they were prepared with a backup and disaster recovery plan and the right tools, CNSG got all their systems back up and running by 8 a.m. the next day.

Teresa explains how they did it:

We had built-in imaging backups through Labtech and StorageCraft. I had full and incremental backups going to my NAS up to the moment of failure.

We had Dell Gold Support (24x7x4) with guaranteed four-hour delivery of parts (worth every penny). One call to Dell (our rep rocked!) had a courier at our door in three hours with two new drives (because we only had one hot spare so we needed the other drive).

We used Reflexion’s RADAR (email archiving) so we didn’t lose one single email because we could use their web interface to respond to emails.

Our ticketing system was also in the cloud so we were able to access that.

We immediately started rebuilding the array on the server and then began the restore of the image of our server.

When she discusses that fateful day with local business owners, Teresa always asks, “If this happened to you, how quickly could you be back in business? How much money would you lose if you were down two or three days…or longer?”

That’s why CNSG teaches its clients how to avoid business data disasters in the first place.

We focus on business continuity. Disaster avoidance is the best medicine. A system geared at avoidance will allow operations to continue, clients to get served, and revenues to continue to flow.

That’s also why CNSG uses StorageCraft ShadowProtect products.

If and when your business is threatened by a loss of data, you need a system that will work when recovery is required. This is crucial.

And backup imaging isn’t only for disaster recovery.

We use StorageCraft to do upgrades to servers as well. When older servers are running out of drive space, we put in new server, lay down the StorageCraft image, and get up and running quickly.

Because of their rural location, Teresa offers potential clients a free IT assessment. CNSG consultants help local business owners understand the current state of their business network and where vulnerabilities may exist.

They then create a customized report detailing ways to lower risk and costs, increase productivity and revenues, and minimize downtime.

The integrity of your data can never be in question. The worst time to test your backup is when a disaster occurs.

She recommends testing backups once a month, or at the very least, quarterly.

And for those clients who think they can’t afford to be prepared with a backup and disaster recovery plan, Teresa has one question:

What is it worth to keep your business up and running, no matter what happens?

Though Teresa has been using StorageCraft products for the past seven years, she found a new appreciation for ShadowProtect technology after averting her own data disaster.

The difference between imaging your server and just “backing up” is huge. We would have had to reinstall our operating system and then hope the backup was good. ShadowProtect allowed us to restore to brand-new equipment within a few hours as opposed to days.

What does Teresa like best about StorageCraft products? Their versatility.

I can restore just one file, reimage just a partition. I can do upgrades and maintenance and resize partitions for my clients without any downtime. It’s just amazing.

In addition to the technology, Teresa especially likes the business model.

StorageCraft’s managed services model makes it affordable for small businesses to have backup and recovery services, and it makes it easier for us to resell those services.

You could say Teresa Bell is a StorageCraft fan for life, but it might be an understatement.

I don’t see a reason to change. Their service is impeccable, their products work great, and without StorageCraft, we would’ve been out of business. All of our client information, seven years of email, our accounting and billing information could’ve been lost.

Citrus Networking Solutions Group

Citrus Networking Solutions Group delivers IT services to SMBs in the western Florida counties of Citrus, Levy, Sumter, Hernando, Lake, and Marion.

“Our clients particularly love us because we follow a philosophy of recommending and implementing only the technology you need, with an eye towards what you’ll need down the road,” says Teresa Bell, president and CEO.

“Instead of ‘toy-happy’ youngsters who love the latest and greatest (especially when it involves shopping with other folks’ money), you’ll get seasoned, mature professionals who are highly certified to build, upgrade, and maintain your computer network for maximum results and minimal disruptions.”

CNSG specializes in preventative maintenance, software updates, and data backups to prevent downtime. They offer on-site, on-call, and fixed-cost contract IT solutions that are customized to fit each business.

As a Microsoft Certified Partner and Small Business Computer Specialists, CSNG provides fully managed IT services and on-call customer support that allow clients to focus on keeping their businesses profitable—without worrying about technical support.

Nature Coast businesses unsure about their computer service needs can schedule a no-cost, no-obligation IT assessment.

Image Source: Mad House Photography