InTech: Integration Technology
IT For Hire
By Diane Seo
Sam Gridley and Paul Ventura have the enviable task of running a business that hasn’t just endured economic downturns, but flourished.
As co-owners of Integration Technologies (InTech), they’ve built a successful and longstanding company that serves as an IT-department-for-hire to some 80 to 90 small-to-mid-sized businesses in Hawai‘i.
Many of InTech’s clients fall in the professional services category—legal, financial, medical and other firms that rely on computers, but prefer not to employee their own IT person.
“We needed to build an infrastructure for growth, and they looked at our budget, our users and designed a whole system and package,” says InTech client Jennifer Timpe, human resources and operations director at the nonprofit INPEACE. “They’re ideal for companies who fall between mom-and-pops and big businesses.”
Headquartered in downtown Honolulu, InTech sets up and maintain computers and networks, offers a 24/7 help desk and provides clients with security from viruses and intrusions.
“Our main motto is to work proactively, not to wait until problems arise,” Ventura says.
InTech has thrived because an increasing number of businesses are looking to avoid the headaches and high costs of managing their own computer and network systems. “The economy is tanking and the real estate market tanked, but IT seems to be almost recession proof,” Gridley says.
In 2009, InTech was selected as one if Inc. Magazine’s 5,000 fastest-growing companies in America (it was ranked 2,627 nationally). Although Gridley says the company’s growth has since leveled off, its survival and longevity in a rapidly changing industry are impressive.
The genesis of InTech began in 1991, when Gridley launched the company from his living room. Ventura came on board six years later, and together, they grew the home-based business into one of the island’s leading IT solutions operations.
In the early years, before most of their clients had high-speed Internet access, their work required sending technicians to on-site locations to address issues. But in 2003, as the Internet became ubiquitous, they began doing everything remotely, considerably improving their efficiency. Now, Cloud computing is radically shifting the way businesses store and process data. Instead of relying on local servers, everything can be networked via the Internet.
Although such advancements have led to even greater efficiencies, keeping up with technology remains a challenge. New equipment, software, applications, networking systems and security measures are constantly emerging, and it’s vital for a business like InTech to keep up with this frenetic pace of innovation.
Another issue is finding and retaining qualified IT staff in Hawai‘i, where the pool of candidates is more limited than in large, tech-centric cities. Along with having technical skills, InTech requires its technicians to interact well with clients. “People we hire to do tech support have to have social skills,” Gridley says. “They all have to be able to talk to someone who’s not familiar with computers, as well as those who are.”
Most of InTech’s 20 employees now work out of a spacious office at the Topa Financial Center, but the company also has three IT specialists at a satellite Las Vegas office.
To help retain employees and keep them versed in the latest technologies, Gridley and Ventura have implemented various incentive plans. For instance, InTech will pay for employees to get tech certifications and also offer a raise. The office also is filled with all kinds of employee-pleasing perks, including video games, a pool table, dart boards and an extensive DVD collection.
Such efforts to keep employees happy are well worth the cost, Gridley says, since InTech’s core business depends on employees providing top-of-the-line customer service, as well as technological expertise.
“It’s like taking a car to a mechanic,” he says. “You have to trust the mechanic. People are constantly looking for good mechanics, so if you prove to be a good mechanic, you’ll have a good business.
745 Fort Street
CYBER TIPS FROM SAM
We asked InTech’s Sam Gridley for tips on what business owners—particularly those running small and mid-sized companies— can do to protect themselves from cyber threats.
New data from Symantec shows that small business cyber attacks have doubled from 2011 to 2012, most likely because companies generally have more relaxed computer security and fewer people “watching” the computers, Gridley says. Cybercriminals have become very good at draining bank accounts, credit cards and Paypal accounts for small businesses, usually before business owners know what hit them.
Here are seven often overlooked (and free) steps to keep computers safe and prevent costly headaches:
1. Obtain free antivirus software
You may know you need antivirus software on every computer, but did you know it can be free? Microsoft Security Essentials is free for home users and business with less than 10 PCs. It still doesn’t beat a centrally monitored and managed business AV solution, but in a pinch, this will keep you protected.
2. Keep your computers updated
Every time someone finds a security hole in Windows, Microsoft Office, or any other software (yes, even Macs), the battle begins between the manufacturer racing to release an update and the cybercriminal racing to create software to exploit the hole. Install your software updates regularly. For home computers and very small businesses, simply turn on “automatic updates” to make sure your security holes get quickly plugged.
3. Don’t get hooked by phishing
Phishing is the fastest growing security threat on the Internet, and it can be very costly. This is where criminals use social engineering to trick people into clicking on a link or visiting a website. Some of the best we’ve seen look exactly like a Verizon Wireless bill (usually for a crazy amount to make you click) or even a FedEx delivery refusal email. It’s important to learn how to tell the difference between real email and phishing attacks.
4. Teach your staff about phishing
Even though you may be able to avoid a phishing scam, be sure to teach your employees how to spot a scam too. It only takes one computer being compromised to jeopardize your entire business. Here are some fun phishing quizzes people can take to see how well they can identify phishing emails: http://bit.ly/EmailPhishing and a spot phishing website: http://bit.ly/WebsitePhishing
5. Always use unique passwords
A very common security threat is people using the same password for multiple websites. Every time you hear a news report about a big company having customer passwords stolen, you can bet the criminals are going to use those same passwords to try to hack into Paypal, bank accounts, credit card accounts, etc. But wait, you say. It’s impossible to remember dozens of different passwords? That’s where Last- Pass.com and RoboForm.com come in. Use one of these free services to automatically record and securely store your passwords for various websites. Both will allow you to access your passwords from all types of computers and even smartphones.
6. Remember to secure your wireless
Nearly every company has a wireless router installed (or maybe your own employee brought one to work and plugged it in). Reports show that as many as four of 10 are open or unsecured. This means that anyone within a couple hundred feet of your wireless router can connect to your network. Besides slowing down your own employees and Internet connection, letting other people into your network is a huge security risk. If a hacker gets access your network wirelessly, it’s very easy for them to access data on any other computer on your network, and even pick out usernames and passwords from your network traffic. All routers have security built in these days, and be sure to use WPA2 or better.
7. Beware of public wireless hotspots
There are several free hacking tools designed to spy on people in a shared public hotspot. For example, it’s pretty easy for someone to view your emails or get your email password by snooping when your computer automatically downloads your email while connected to a public hotspot. You never know if one of the other 40 people sitting around you in Starbucks is using one of these tools, so it’s best to avoid certain activities while on a public wireless hotspot.
Photo courtesy Dave Miyamoto
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