July 1, 2008

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Assuage the IT Monster with Outsourcing Options

Jenie Skoy

July 1, 2008

Information technology: it’s the machine that keeps your business operating, computers speedy, data protected and systems processing to make sure your business is organized and effective. Living and doing business in an increasingly virtual world requires businesspeople to manage their IT solutions with more sophistication than ever before. The question is how to keep up when things are in constant flux. There are programs to be updated, new viruses to be battled, equipment to be maintained and the hassle of troubleshooting when systems go down. Feeding the IT budget can feel like feeding a beast: it doesn’t ever seem to end, and many executives find it’s a cost that’s hard to predict. To assuage this IT hunger, a couple of Utah businesses have come up with innovative outsourcing answers that are alleviating companies’ headaches. South Jordan-based, Asierus, a six-year-old company, promises a new technology that eliminates in-house IT shops (and desktops and software) and replaces them with a virtual data center where information is managed centrally. The full virtual package allows companies to get computing piped right into their office over an Internet connection. Users pay for it like they would for a utility like water, electricity or gas. Asierus replaces the desktop or laptop with a Pano device — a box the size of a breakfast muffin that allows the company to run virtual systems that are hosted at a data center. Users need only a monitor, keyboard and a mouse to log in and are able to get complete computer functionality from anywhere. Think of it as harnessing all the idle resources on the infrastructure. Asierus teamed up with Menlo Park, Calif.-based, Pano Logic to provide this one-of-a-kind virtualization to users. “Pano is our end point and we are the utility,” says Jeremy Simmons, CEO of Asierus. It’s like this: Imagine the Pano device is the receiver for your television. Asierus is like the cable TV provider. The system saves businesses on a few fronts: first, they pay a set fee, which is more predictable, unlike vacillating IT budgets that are difficult to tie down from year to year. Next, they eliminate that “throw away” factor. There is no need to buy software to update programs or new hardware one year, then chuck it the next because Pano desktop devices have no software (this also makes it “greener” than its counterparts, consuming 5 watts, or about 3 percent, of what an average PC produces). It eliminates the need for on-site visits by an actual IT person to the physical desktop. All installations and upgrades take place centrally. DirectPointe also offers original IT solutions from its central office in Orem. CEO Michael Proper says the company has been offering a type of end-to-end utility computing for years, though users keep their existing desktops. Proper realized there was a need for small businesses to have enterprise level technology and support without having to pay a premium for it. So the company bundles hardware, software and services and charges small businesspeople a monthly fee that’s on a per-user, per-month and per-network basis. DirectPointe offers services that manage IT assets and monitor networks, servers and PCs all from a central data center located in a sophisticated facility. It also staffs a 24-hour help desk. The company now has customers in 50 states and 29 countries. Kids Village, a private elementary school in Orem turned to DirectPointe a few years ago to help with basic server management and content filtering. Owner Ann Whittaker says that before Kids Village signed on with DirectPointe, they’d end up hiring different computer people to take a look at their system when they had an IT glitch. Like many companies, Kids Village is too small to staff an on-site IT person, Whittaker says. The situation was problematic because she found that those she hired to help troubleshoot had to start over from ground zero to get help with her computer issues. What Whittaker says she loves is that DirectPointe knows her business and can quickly get up to speed on computing issues. DirectPointe also provides content filtering — a must for an environment where young people are regularly browsing the Internet — and she enjoys the backup capacity the company offers. “It’s like life insurance. If my computer crashes, I’d be lost. It gives me the peace of mind of knowing that if something bad happens to my computer, I’m okay.”
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