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  • Questions and answers.

FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions

 

For Prospect Companies

What is a managed services provider?

A managed service provider (MSP) is the IT department you would build yourself if you had the resources to do it. Simply put, an MSP is an IT department for hire.

Imagine you were working for a large enterprise, and you were given the responsibility of creating a world-class IT department. What would that entail? After some thought, you’d probably come up with these items:

  • Staffing – IT today is so complex and changes so quickly that nobody can know everything. So you’d need a staff with the breadth and depth to cover all the technological bases, from desktops and servers to networking and security. You’d also have coverage when someone was away on vacation or sick.

  • Tools – You would give your staff some really good tools to monitor what’s going on across the IT environment, catalog everything you have, track your team’s activities (including changes they make) and really, really good documentation of everything. Plus you’d configure them to be highly effective.

  • Standards and Processes – You’d establish great processes to ensure your team is consistent in what they do. You’d also establish detailed standards to make sure that everything is done with consistency. Ideally, those standards would focus on making IT as stable, reliable, and easy to support as possible.

  • Focus – Most IT departments are so busy putting out fires that they have no time for proactive functions that can prevent them in the first place. So to build the ideal IT department, you’d make sure that your team always acts proactively to maintain everything well and minimize the number of fires.

  • Results – How do you measure your success? The purpose of IT is to enable people to work. Effective IT is like a phone dial tone. It’s always there, and you don’t need to think about it. A world-class IT department delivers an extremely high degree of stability and reliability, and outstanding support when things do go wrong.

Achieving these requires money. It also requires serious management focus and careful research on best practices in IT management.

Reality is, very few businesses – and virtually no small- and medium-sized businesses – have the resources and expertise to create a world-class IT department. That’s why managed service providers exist.

You can read more about managed services providers on our Managed Services 101 page or our blog series on MSPs.

What IT roles does a managed services provider fulfill for my organization?

A good MSP is more than just a mechanic who fixes stuff when it breaks. A top MSP focuses on four areas:

Learn more about the difference you’ll experience with Apogee IT Services and what sets us apart from other MSPs.

What are the benefits of choosing a managed services provider?

An MSP provides expertise, tools, and processes that most SMBs can’t match on their own. Whether the MSP does it all or works with an internal IT specialist, the MSP should deliver IT that is more stable and reliable than the client achieve by themselves. Learn more on our Managed Services 101 page.

I’d prefer to have an IT professional in-house – why should I consider using you as a vendor?

There are advantages to having a technical resource in-house who has expertise with your line-of-business applications. At Apogee, our expertise is your infrastructure. And while we strive to understand your business, the fact is we can never know your business as well as you do.

We are effective because we have staffing breadth and depth, tools, processes, standards, and focus very few SMBs could match. IT competence is our wheelhouse. Whatever your business, your staff should be focused on making you more effective at that business. Our job is to deliver the stable, reliable IT that allows your entire organization – including your technical specialist(s) – to be more productive and effective.

Why should we choose you over another IT services provider?

So we’ll reiterate what we said earlier – other MSPs may promise similar services for less money. Those players range from one- and two-person shops to larger MSPs. Websites (as awesome as we think ours is) can be deceiving, so we encourage you to do your homework. The keys that make us different are our documentation, our commitment to customer service, and our standards and processes.

Just like a job candidate, you can fake a lot in life. So we strongly encourage people considering an MSP to visit the provider's office. Seeing is believing. We've also created a simple guide with questions to ask when choosing an IT services provider.

When prospects come on-site for a tour of our facility, they see the proof – we really do what we say we do. A fully staffed Help Desk with a dedicated Help Desk manager is proof of our depth and breadth. Our documentation is proof of how we do business. Our Shop provides the proof that we really follow the rigid standards and processes that are key to our success.

We encourage you to talk with us more. The ‘why choose us’ discussion is best done through a series of conversations or in-person meetings. It’s the best way to ensure that the business fit is a good one and that you, as the client, are making a strategic decision that makes sense for your company.

What industries do you serve?

We have over 150 clients, mainly small- and medium-sized businesses in the legal, manufacturing, orthopedic, non-profit, financial services (financial planning, CPA firms, etc.), and professional services industries. Typically our clients have anywhere from 20 to 100 end users (employees using a desktop, laptop, and/or device(s) on a regular basis), but we have many clients who are smaller and larger as well.

Do you have client references we can call?

We do have a list of clients who you can call as references. They are available upon request and provided to you as we discuss the possibility of working together.

How many engineers and IT personnel do you have on staff?

Apogee IT Services has over 60 technical staff – network engineers, Help Desk technicians, system administrators, and other IT specialists across our Pittsburgh, Boston, Dover, and Toronto offices. Overall, we have 75+ employees.

Can we get a tour of your corporate offices?

Of course! We prefer having prospective clients come onsite to see our staff in action. All you need to do is fill out the form to the right, or you can call 412.928.8670. We’re more than happy to answer your questions.

What does the process of working with you look like?

When you are a prospective client, you start out typically checking our website or scheduling a free consultation (phone or in person) with us. During one or more conversations we’ll learn more about your company, your IT needs, issues you’re experiencing, and most importantly, what you actually want your IT to do for your company in the long run. From there, we will provide a proposal that will give you an accurate understanding of costs, what’s included, the onboarding process, and what to expect when working with Apogee IT Services.

Once you sign on as a client, we initiate the onboarding process, which takes approximately 2-3 weeks, depending on the client size and network environment. Part of the onboarding is a network assessment. During onboarding we integrate everything over to our tools, standards, and processes – and fix anything that we discovered during the network assessment.

Any user can contact our Help Desk (support@apogeeITS.com or 412.928.8670) at any time, and there isn’t a limit of tickets per user. Refer below for more information about our Help Desk.

Otherwise, you will receive periodic communication from Michael Halperin, our CEO, regarding IT industry news, company news, and other alerts. Our Technical Account Manager may contact you from time-to-time, and we will meet with you at least once a year by request for a Strategic Advisory Meeting.

Should you ever want to talk with us, need to meet with us, or have questions about the services included in your agreement, you can contact us at any time.

How much do your prices increase per year?

One of our Core Values is financial responsibility. We pride ourselves on being able to provide predictable IT services, and that includes cost. If we switch to a tool that will provide a better result for our clients, that cost is on us – not you. Like most companies, we need to make increases periodically with compensate for inflation, increased equipment costs, and other miscellaneous fees. However, we make every attempt to do it sporadically and when necessary.

What kind of cost can I expect?

Total investment varies based on client size and network environment complexity. We also don’t want our discussions to be solely based on cost, when the conversation should be about service offerings and value. Too often companies go for a ‘cheaper’ provider or hire someone in-house, only to find that one critical IT issue or security breach costs them thousands of dollars MORE than if they would have gone the strategic, proactive route with Apogee IT Services.

Thousands of companies have streamlined their IT costs by choosing a managed services provier. A survey conducted by industry non-profit group CompTIA showed that nearly half of MSP clients cut their annual IT budgets by 25% or more. Based on our calculations, becoming an Apogee client could save you anywhere from 25-50% or more on your overall IT spending.

Will we have a main contact managing our account? Who can I call if I have questions about a particular project or service?

At Apogee IT Services we are very accessible and transparent. As a prospective client you’ll have the opportunity to meet with the CEO and/or the president, our technical account manager, and at least one other network engineer or project manager. As a client, you can contact our CEO and/or president at any time for urgent matters, our project manager, technical account manager, senior account executive, designated integrator, etc. You will receive more information during client onboarding about our managers and key personnel, who to contact, and when.

And of course, for Help Desk support relating to any type of desktop or network issue, you can contact 412.928.8670 or support@apogeeITS.com at any time. (We answer phones from 6am-7pm. After hours and during select holidays we have an answering service, but at least one network engineer is available at all times and will respond to you directly to help you resolve the issue.)

What certifications do your tech staff members have?

Apogee IT Services technicians and engineers actively serve over 100 clients across western PA, eastern Ohio, New York, and beyond. Our technicians and engineers hold the following industry certifications:

The benefits of choosing Apogee IT Services include:

  • Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP)
  • Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA)
  • Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE)
  • CompTIA A+
  • CompTIA Network+
  • CompTIA Server+
  • CompTIA Security+
  • HDI CSR (Help Desk Institute Customer Service Relationship)
  • Fortinet NSE
  • VMware DVC (Data Center Virtualization)
  • VMware TSP

What’s included in the onboarding process?

Client onboarding begins once we receive a Sales Agreement from the client. Every new client is onboarded via a tailored plan that includes:

  • Installation of Apogee management tools
  • Installation of security tools
  • Installation of backup tools and media
  • Setup and testing of backup
  • Cleanup of the physical environment
  • Labeling of all equipment, cabling, etc.
  • Network assessment
  • Configuration of client equipment to align with Apogee IT Services standards and best practices (addressing any concerns or recommendations from the network assessment)
  • Documentation of all aspects of the client environment in our documentation system (includes photos of the environment)
  • Implementation timeline of approximately 2 weeks, depending on client size and environment complexity
  • Follow-up approximately 3 weeks following onboarding to resolve any issues, check in with key contacts

How long does the onboarding process take?

Client onboarding takes about 2-3 weeks, depending on the size and complexity of the network environment, as well as if a network assessment has already taken place.

Why do you need to do a network assessment?

Conducting a network assessment enables us to gauge the current status of your network and infrastructure. We examine over two dozen technical and operational aspects and capture risks, issues, and concerns with each aspect of your environment. Think of it like an x-ray. It will show all of your breaks, hairline fractures, bruises, and vulnerabilities. That gives you an understanding of the health of your IT setup and allows us to talk with you about where your IT is and where it should be to work for your business.

What do we receive after you do a network assessment?

The Apogee Network Assessment results in three principal deliverables: a system overview, a risk report (bomb report), and detail data gathered from discovery and analysis tools during the evaluation. Fill out a form or contact us to request a sample of these deliverables.

Do you have a service description available?

You betcha. Our service description is available upon request for companies interested in working with us. All clients receive a service description as part of their onboarding.

IT as a Business Catalyst

What is two-factor authentication, and why is it important?

A hacker who knows a user’s username and password combination can immediately gain access to all systems and data that user could normally access, which is why two-factor authentication is important. It adds a layer of protection and serves as a safeguard against cyber criminals. Four factors of authentication are possible:

  • Password
  • Logging in from only a specific building or computer
  • Electronic security token
  • Fingerprint or retina blood vessel patterns

Two-factor authentication tools can run on any smart phone. For example, when a user logs into their remote desktop, the tool pushes a request to the user’s cell phone notifying them that someone has attempted to log in. The user has the option to allow or deny the login attempt. If the request is not accepted, the login attempt is denied.

We have an IT manager in-house, but they are becoming overrun with helping our employees with simple desktop issues and can’t focus on their other responsibilities. What can we do?

We work with a lot of companies who have an IT Manager in-house, so don’t think you need to get rid of your lone internal staff member. Talk to us and explain what you need help with. If things continue to fall through the cracks, eventually your business will pay for it. You can save your company, your employees, and especially your IT Manager a lot of headaches if you take a proactive approach now – before it’s too late. Call 412.928.8670 or email info@apogeeITS.com to learn more.

How do you handle patching?

One of the greatest sources of vulnerability for small- and medium-sized businesses comes from systems that are not properly patched, meaning they lack the latest software updates. Workstation patching should be performed regularly (monthly or more frequently as needed), with a focus on higher priority patches and security-related patches. Applying patches to servers typically requires more testing than when applying to workstations. Server and workstation patching is paramount to patch known software exploits. The bad guys typically go after computers that are not patched using a previously known exploit.

Apogee patch management provides deployment and management of OS and security updates for desktop, laptop, tablet, and mobile devices running Microsoft OS, including Windows 2000, XP Pro, Vista, and Windows 7. Keeping these systems up to current patch levels improves performance and your overall IT security.

Client Services

What type of network and system monitoring do you offer?

At Apogee IT Services, we proactively monitor numerous types of critical system information to build the best possible IT environment and have all the moving parts work together. Some of our proactive monitoring includes network, desktop, data backup, anti-virus and performance maintenance, network support automation system, and more. Learn more about network and system monitoring.

What types of reports do you provide clients regarding network performance? When?

We run several types of reports internally, including our daily backup reports, monitoring reports, and daily logs of alerts. Every client has the opportunity to meet with us annually for a Strategic Advisory Meeting, during which we provide an IT Cost Analysis, report on network performance, and others. If you are interested in learning more about the reports we run, contact us.

Do you support both PCs and MACs?

We do support both PCs and MACs, as well as various tablets, iPADs, and notebooks. Most of our clients predominantly use Microsoft products, but our techs are more than capable of working with Apple products, including troubleshooting and issue resolution.

What security methods will we have with you to protect our company?

Security is one of the most important topics in our industry and will continue to be as technology becomes increasingly integrated in day-to-day operations in the workplace. We take all of our clients’ security very seriously, which is why our approach is based on standards and best practices. Every client can rest assured knowing they have a multi-layer security profile with at least 5 layers, up to 9. You can learn more about IT security and what you should consider in our Security Suite page.

Can you help us develop an IT security policy?

We would love to! We always tell our clients that having a strategy – a roadmap and an action plan – is the best way to battle the bad guys. Too many companies, especially smaller businesses that have the same security concerns as large ones but far fewer resources, make do with what they have. In this day and age, that’s just not good enough anymore. As a client, we can help you develop, implement, and improve your security year after year.

When you say strategic advisement, what do you mean?

We exist to serve our clients and manage your network and infrastructure while providing you with the best customer experience. We don’t view ourselves as just a vendor. We are your advocates, your trusted partner in helping to set your business up for success. Strategic advisement is one major component of being a managed services client. It means that we help you plan months (and years) in advance, so you always know where your technology is, where you want it to go, and how to get from point A to point B. By doing so, we give our clients financial predictability and peace of mind.

How do you manage our certifications, licenses, and expirations?

Key date management is a great benefit of being a managed services client with Apogee IT Services. That means we manage your certifications and licenses, tell you when one is going to expire, and renew it for you so you never have to worry about your applications or programs being out-of-date.

Do you handle vendor coordination so we’re not stuck in the middle?

Yep. Vendor coordination is one of the aspects clients love the most about working with us. We have staff who work with vendors to quote and order new PCs, firewalls, switches, and other equipment when you need it. We do it every day and know our industry and products well, and it will save you a lot of headache and frustration (and time lost) along the way.

How do you handle projects and major system upgrades?

Most clients require upgrades and other projects to enable their network and infrastructure to take their business where they want it to go. Prescheduled maintenance and proactive tasks fall under the managed services contract, so they are included in the predictable monthly fee. If we decide to use a new tool or replace one currently in use because we feel it will provide a better service to our clients, we eat that cost and make the switch without charging you anything.

Other projects and upgrades are usually at cost and include everything from upgrading servers to configuring VoIP, from a PC replacement to a major system upgrade. When a client makes a request, we plan and scope the project, and provide a quote to the client. When they approve the quote, we design and take all the necessary steps to deploy what’s needed. Throughout this process – led by our Project Manager and experienced Integration Team – we communicate with the client and provide updates. Clients are also welcome to check in if they have specific questions at any time.

Do you have loaner equipment available if ours fails?

Yes, we can loan you equipment if one of yours fails until we can secure a replacement for you.

Do you support printers?

End user Help Desk support includes connectivity support to local and network printers, as well as compatibility and driver issues. We can also configure, install, and set up new printers for clients upon request.

How often do you come onsite?

We come to your office for prescheduled onsite maintenance, projects, emergency response, strategic advisory meetings, and any other client meetings. If it is more convenient, you are welcome to come to our office for any meeting.

What communication do clients receive throughout the year?

We communicate with our clients frequently via phone, email, and in person. The following are just a few ways:

  • Quarterly e-newsletters featuring helpful how-tos, links to recent blogs, and info on the IT industry and Apogee IT Services
  • Annual Client Loyalty Survey (sent to key client contacts)
  • E-alerts and emails for patching reminders, technical updates, industry news, company news, etc.
  • Strategic advisory meetings (in person)
  • Communication during projects and upgrades
  • And more

How do you monitor client satisfaction?

We have two major survey initiatives that help us to monitor client satisfaction: our Point-in-Time survey and our Client Loyalty Survey. We send our Point-in-Time survey to every user after we’ve closed a Help Desk ticket, which gives them the opportunity to share more about their experience and provide feedback. We send our Client Loyalty Survey once a year to key client contacts. It’s a quick survey that asks questions about the overall service we’ve provided to our clients and asks them to rate how likely they are to recommend Apogee IT Services to a friend or colleague (Net Promoter Score).

Otherwise, we at Apogee are accessible and open to feedback. We love positive comments, and we take any negative responses very seriously. We believe that’s the hallmark of a company striving to provide a great customer experience. From our CEO to our Help Desk technicians, we are available via phone and email and are ready to talk to our clients – no matter what they need or want to say.

Help Desk

What are your Help Desk hours?

Our normal Help Desk (Network Operations Center) hours are 6am-7pm. After-hours support is available, and we have techs available 24/7/365 for emergencies.

Every end user can contact the Apogee Help Desk via phone (412.928.8670) or email (support@apogeeITS.com).

We answer inbound calls in the order in which they are received. There is no charge for Help Desk and desktop support, and no limit to the number of Help Desk tickets that may be opened for any client.

Issues may be identified proactively by Apogee via our alerting systems or submitted to the Help Desk by any user. In either case, we open a ticket in our ticketing system, and all subsequent actions and client communication are captured in the ticket. The Help Desk has a two-tier structure to account for escalation of complex issues, with two more tiers available via our integration team. Most tickets are captured, worked, and resolved within the Help Desk, which currently consists of 15 dedicated technicians.

Can you handle Help Desk tickets and desktop support virtually?

Yes – we resolve the vast majority of our Help Desk tickets virtually (usually with the technician who has answered the phone call). The technician gets permission from the end user, then remotes into the workstation while talking with them to learn about the issue they’re experiencing and work toward resolution.

But what about my security when a Help Desk technician is helping me?

Our Virtual Desk-Side Assistance uses security best practices to protect our end users’ security and privacy. All transferred information, including screen views, data, and user identities is encrypted with government-approved 128-bit Advanced Encryption Standard before being compressed and encoded for transfer. Transferred information can be viewed and read only if it has reached its intended destination and has been decoded/unencrypted.

Additionally, every Virtual Desk-Side Assistance session is initiated by the user, who retains overriding control of their computer at all times. The engineer can only see the files the user allows, and the user can terminate the screen-sharing session at any time. Once the session has ended, the engineer cannot re-connect to the user’s computer unless the user initiates another session.

What does the Help Desk ticket process look like?

The Help Desk ticket process is as follows (for the majority of cases):

  • A user calls or emails with an issue or need.
  • The technician opens a Help Desk ticket.
  • The tech talks with the user about the nature of the question/issue.
  • The tech gathers additional information required to perform a Root Cause Analysis (remote access usually required).
  • The technician devises and communicates with the user a plan to resolve the issue and gets approval from the user to move forward.
  • The tech provides updates to the user regarding status of the ticket and activities being performed, including if the ticket is escalated.
  • The technician tracks the ticket’s progress through to completion. All ticketing information is available through our customer relationship management client portal.
  • The technician confirms with the end user that the issue has been resolved and then closes the ticket.
  • The end user receives a Point-in-Time survey, which gives them an opportunity to provide feedback about the service provided.

How do you handle after-hours calls?

For after-hours support, calls to the Apogee IT Services office are routed to a live answering service. The information is taken by the answering service, and our on-call engineer is notified (the engineer must respond within one hour). We always have techs available for emergencies.

What about holidays?

Our offices are closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. We have a limited number of staff available on Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day. And as always, we have techs on call 24/7/365 should you need us for any reason.

Training

What kind of training do you provide to administrators and employees?

We provide training for user administrators on access to our systems, as well as information to end users on how to access the Help Desk. We also provide Internet Security Awareness Training (iSAT) for all client end users. We don’t provide end user training on software apps, computer usage, etc. However, we do have relationships with third parties for end user training as needed and can help you set it up.

Do you have a library of resources available to us and our employees?

Yes, we have a variety of PDFs, documents, and links that feature information on security, data backup and disaster recovery, computer/laptop care, email hygiene, Internet Security Awareness Training, and more. Our resources are meant to be added value and educational, but don’t replace the service we provide in any way. We encourage all clients to contact us if they have questions or want to know more about a particular topic.

On the Lighter Side

What non-profits and charities do you support?

We’ve supported a vast array of non-profits and charities, including under our former names as PC Network Services and CMIT Solutions – Boston. Here are just a few:

Why did you choose the name Apogee IT Services?

PC Network Services was formed in 1990 and grew steadily solely based on referrals and a great presence among small- and medium-sized businesses in the Pittsburgh area, Eastern Ohio, New York, and beyond. We teamed up with CMIT Solutions – Boston officially in April of 2015, which had been in business since 2004 and quickly became one of the largest in the franchise serving clients in Boston, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, and New England. The two companies shared the same approach to managed services, the same methodology and fanatical discipline, and the same core values. It was time to combine the two entities under the same name, and so Apogee IT Services was born – launched officially on July 1 but carrying 25 years of experience with it.

We chose Apogee IT Services, because apogee is unique, but means the same as peak, pinnacle, apex, acme, zenith, and other synonyms. It means the best or highest point of something, as well as the farthest point in an orbit – signifying the breadth of service we offer through managed services. With everything we do, we strive to be the best…not for our sake, but for the benefit of our clients. We chose ‘IT Services’ to accompany ‘Apogee’, because that’s what we do. How we do what we do is more than just networks and IT. It’s about the service we provide, in addition to the tactical business necessities. Everything about our brand identity – from our name to our colors and our tagline (Aim higher. Expect more.) – resonates with who we are. We do IT right. We do IT well. We do IT and we have fun. We’re professional and competent, but we’re also interesting and down-to-earth people. And we want to work with you.

Clients in the US & Canada

Apogee Client Cities Map