How Protocol Networks Assisted the City of Warwick

Protocol Networks has assisted the City of Warwick in RI for the last 5 years within their infrastructure providing MS Exchange and AD upgrades as well as ongoing Sr. Systems Administration support.

When the City experienced a critical holiday weekend power outage, it caused their environment to crash and did a rather substantial amount of damage. The outage and subsequent ungraceful system shut down critically impacted their VCenter instance, SQL database and Exchange server resulting in loss of productivity and an inability for users to access important systems. One of Protocol Networks Sr. Systems Engineers was engaged to assess the source of the problem and successfully implemented a temporary solution to get the systems running so that users could perform duties and the client could allocate resources to deploying a more robust fix for the problem.

5 Ways to Connect IT Solutions to Your Strategic Plan

IT strategy

IT strategySuccessful businesses are successful because they effectively link their strategy to their vision, according to leading business journal Forbes. Yet, only 13 percent of businesses successfully execute their strategic plan. That means 87 percent of strategic business plans are filed away and forgotten despite a large investment of time and money into producing the strategy.

The low success rate can be attributed to several reasons, however, failing to include all company departments in the development process or not linking individual group goals to your organization’s overall goals leads to a disconnectedness that dooms the strategic plan. Including your IT support team may require help from an independent IT expert who specializes in developing technology strategies to help businesses grow and anticipate future priorities.

Protocol Networks provides New England businesses with the opportunity to have the skills and expertise of a Chief Information Officer at your disposal. As your CIO, here are 5 strategies we use to help you determine how to connect the best IT solutions to your overall objectives:

Identify Your Major Channels

The first step to a good strategic plan is to include all major channels within your company. From sales and administration to production and shipping, all stakeholders need to contribute to the overall plan. Connecting channels through conversation is critically important to creating awareness among everyone in your company. Without this connectedness, negative conversations can lead to no execution of the plan as employees haven’t been made to feel part of the ideas and practices set forth.

Analyze Channel Variables

Each channel is looked at in regard to staffing, budgeting and day-to-day operational solutions as well as assessing the technology they currently have and what IT support and functions they will need in the future.

Evaluate Human Resources

Identify where your human resources are going and where expenditures are being made. Find the deviations that will hinder the execution of specific goals. For instance, if the sales department has identified a plan that requires five additional employees and your allocation for new employees totals 10, you must decide if this is an appropriate use of your resources or if there is another project that will better carry your organization as a whole toward achieving overall success.

As New England’s only IT expert also specializing in IT staffing, Protocol also collaborates with you to appropriately staff your technology channel.

Identify the Best IT Solutions

Successful execution of the practices and tools needed to perform the activities and projects required for the strategic plan almost always includes software packages and hardware required to run the new software. As your CIO, Protocol reviews the technology needs of all departments, avoiding unitask solutions that benefit only one person or one department. Ways of using the software in multiple situations is examined to find out if it can meet the needs of more than one company channel.

Protocol prioritizes everyone’s technology needs, plots them on a calendar and determines the resources needed for each. A one-page sheet provides the project description, budget, summary of how to do the project and the expected benefit of the project.

What to Include in Your IT Strategic Plan

If your company doesn’t have an IT strategic plan, it is in your best interest to establish one. Here are items to include.

  • Use easy-to-understand language

If only IT people can understand your plan, it’s not a strategy. A strategy that is understood by others allows for questions and input from other members of your organization, leading to a plan that represents the good of the overall organization, not just one entity.

  • Every item in your IT plan should be linked to a specific goal in your overall plan

The goal is to have an IT plan that is beneficial to everyone in the organization, not just the technology department. If it’s not important to all, the plan will be ignored and never executed, stifling growth.

  • Maintain security for all organizational information

This should be in every organization’s strategic plan, but surprisingly is often missing. Data security is one of the most important functions of your business. Make sure it’s not missing from your strategy.

  • Implement Data Retention & Purge Policies

Many organizations don’t recognize the importance of the relationship between data retention and purging to finance and legal operations. Data retention is based on legal and financial requirements set forth by various regulations such as Sarbanes Oxley and HIPAA. Purging data after any required period of retention is just as important to protecting your company from legal actions.

Protocol Networks has the unique ability to incorporate business-savvy IT solutions into your strategic plan. Contact us at 877-676-0146 or online.

Searching for IT Professionals is Almost as Easy as a Google Search

Searching for IT Professionals

Searching for IT ProfessionalsRecruiting and finding IT professionals for your team can be frustrating. With IT unemployment lower than ever and employee turnover costs soaring, finding the right people is imperative – and difficult.

Hiring more employees takes time, and qualified candidates are challenging to hire especially in the field of technology. With technology unemployment dipping to 1.9 percent in 2018, employers have had a particularly tough time finding and hiring IT professionals.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have your own personal technology recruiting partner to assess possible candidates and ensure they will be a good fit for your organization? And, this recruiting partner also understands the ins and outs of your IT systems. Sound too good to be true? Well, you’re in luck.

Leading IT Managed Services Provider (MSP), Protocol Networks focuses on solutions for clients that not only encompass your network, hardware and software but also on recruiting highly qualified IT professionals for your business.

Often, a business’s current staff members can’t take on even one more project as they are already at capacity with day-to-day functions. This makes it difficult to take advantage of growth opportunities or even take care of immediate needs that may arise. Whether you need temporary employees to cover while your regular staff is on leave, short-term IT staff for special projects, or permanent, full-time IT professionals, Protocol can help.

As an IT consulting firm, Protocol only staffs technology candidates. From systems and networking to the help desk, Protocol places IT staff in companies of all sizes giving you the flexibility to scale up or down with operations as needed. Plus, all the headaches that come along with recruiting, interviewing and hiring go away.

Protocol’s recruiting process sets a high bar for IT candidates with most being referred by IT engineers and other colleagues. Candidates are vetted based on your company’s cultural, business and IT needs so you can trust you are getting only the best employees.

Protocol’s Process

Ongoing recruitment

Internal candidate pools dry up as soon as you’ve hired one person and thanked everyone else for their time. Protocol’s ongoing recruiting process ensures there are always candidates in the pipeline.

Interviews

Initially, candidates are interviewed by the staffing team who primarily focus on soft and people skills to ensure candidates can have a conversation without using too many technical terms. This is also where candidates are reviewed for cultural fit, so they can be placed within a company where they can be successful – and so the business gets someone who can be effective in their company’s environment.

Candidates must be able to represent Protocol and themselves professionally and personally.

IT Assessment

Protocol engineers do technical screens to ensure prospective employees have the experience and knowledge needed to perform required job duties. Your systems will be handled by people who meet Protocol’s own stringent set of criteria for IT expertise.

Internal screening

A Protocol principal tests candidates’ ability to handle things under pressure, troubleshoot and think on their feet, and think ahead. Characteristics specific to IT positions also are evaluated. A help desk person needs to be not only technically astute but also able to treat users with respect. An engineer has to have the experience and knowledge required to complete IT responsibilities but also be able to plan and communicate well.

If a candidate fails even one of these steps, they are not considered for placement. Protocol only places candidates they would hire themselves.

Placement Success

Employee turnover costs companies an average of 6 to 9 months’ salary every time a salaried employee is replaced, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. So, if you’re paying $40,000 a year, recruiting and training expenses can be as much as $30,000. If you’re lucky, your first hire works out. If you’re not, it’s back to recruiting.

For permanent IT positions, Protocol Networks places candidates with a company on a temporary basis for 6 months. At the end of this trial period, the candidate can be hired by the host company as a regular employee. To date, Protocol has a 100 percent conversion rate.

If a Protocol staffing candidate doesn’t work out, Protocol replaces them with another IT professional immediately, leaving little to no downtime for you.

If you’re taking on new ventures, expanding your facilities or simply covering IT while regular employees are on leave, Protocol Networks has vetted, experienced IT professionals ready to join your team. Contact us online or at 877-676-0146 for IT recruiting.

5 Ways to Handle Business Transitions Superbly

Business Transitions

Business TransitionsBusinesses encounter a wide variety of transitions throughout their evolution. From start-ups where everything is new to SMBs expanding and contracting with the economy to mature companies acquiring other businesses, bringing new products to market or adapting to new leadership, businesses live and die by the way they handle changes.

As your company goes through growth periods such as these, it’s important to keep in mind the stress this can put on your technology systems and IT infrastructure. Scalable IT solutions are ideal as they are cost-effective, flexible and easy to implement – especially with supplemental help from an experienced managed service provider (MSP) specializing in business transition management.

Although it’s tempting to put the onus of transition onto in-house IT departments, often internal IT professionals don’t have the specific experience or time in their busy day-to-day schedules for adapting to increased network traffic, identifying software to accommodate new objectives or analyzing how new directives need to be addressed.

When you realize your IT team is outside of their comfort zone, Protocol Networks can strengthen your ability to make the transitions necessary to grow. Here are 5 ways a qualified IT managed services provider helps handle business transitions:

  1. Operate as members of your team – As your transition partner, we collaborate with your team members to ensure we recommend solutions to fit your project parameters as well as your organization’s culture.
  1. Analyze the project plan – Because of our knowledge of technology and business, we analyze projects from both perspectives which enables IT to make proposals that fit with the overall objectives of the project. As we work with you, we also make sure information is presented without a lot of techno babble that makes it difficult for non-technical staff in the rest of the company to understand. Clear communication is a key factor to the success we’ve had guiding companies through transitions.
  1. Help with financial planning – Remaining within budget is always a top priority. Protocol Networks identifies solutions that work within your budget with an eye to when the project is complete. Scalable solutions that can be eliminated when the project is completed or can be used on an ongoing basis for the company to get the most consideration.
  1. Staff the project – We’ve already established that your in-house team is busy enough keeping day-to-day operations and users productive. Staffing your project can be done with temporary IT professionals who won’t add to your ongoing expenses after the project is completed. Protocol Networks recruits, vets and hires these highly qualified engineers for you.
  1. Reporting and follow-up support – Establishing the proper reporting information and frequency keeps everyone apprised of the progress and ongoing status of the project. Once the transition has been achieved, Protocol Networks works with you quarterly to make sure the IT solutions are still effective and appropriate.

You’ve built your IT team to support day-to-day operations. Let us partner with you to implement new projects and make your transitions seamless. Contact us at 877-676-0146 or online here.

Rebounding from a Less-than-Stellar Audit

Rebound from less than stellar audit

Rebound from less than stellar auditNow that your audit is over, take a minute to breathe a huge sigh of relief. Even if your audit results were less than stellar, know that audits aren’t all or none, and you do have the opportunity to correct areas needing improvement.

We’ve put together this checklist to help you get on the road to compliance by correcting your current audit deficiencies.

How to Correct Audit Shortcomings Checklist

  • Slow down

Audit deficiencies are common, and this is not the end of the world. Your organization didn’t fail the audit by having one bad day, and audit issues can’t be fixed in one day either. Noncompliant processes and procedures have evolved over time. You will have to change the way you do business to move in the right direction.

  • Put together an action plan

Once you’ve received your audit results, you generally have three months to a year to remedy the areas needing improvement. Prepare an action plan to remediate and get it to senior leadership as soon as possible for approval so you can get started on the audit remediation process.

Word of caution – if you made a commitment to your auditor to correct an item, make sure you have it complete by the date promised. Nothing triggers a re-audit like a missed deadline!

  • Identify resources needed to correct audit failings

Now is the time to ask for any resources you may need to bring your organization into compliance. Directly correlating people, equipment and software to audit remediation practically guarantees you will be granted those resources.

  • Go after low-hanging fruit

Identify areas that can easily be fixed and take care of them right away. If you were dinged for not having current documentation of your systems to provide to the auditor, document processes now so you have time to revise, review and correct before your next audit. (Implement documentation updates as an ongoing process.)

  • Correct these common areas of failure

The No. 1 error organizations make is not managing change in compliance with regulations. For instance, managing employee turnover must have a plan outlining each new employee’s network accesses, software needs and equipment requirements. And, on the other hand, ensuring that exiting employees aren’t taking valuable data and equipment with them when they leave is equally important to document and execute.

Speaking of documentation, this is the other area businesses frequently fail in. Whether it’s lack of documentation or documentation that differs from actual practices, auditors focus on documentation and often find it insufficient and/or inaccurate.

  • Anticipate your next audit

Start preparing for your next audit now. Stay on top of the basics like documentation and security instead of trying to cram for your audit at the last minute. As compliance issues arise, take care of them as quickly as possible.

There’s not an “Easy button” to bring your organization into compliance so you must be prepared for the next audit. Protocol Networks has assisted financial institutions, health care practices and other regulated businesses with audits. Our team has the experience necessary to prepare you for and pass audits – give us a call now at 877.676.0146 or contact us online to start preparing for your next audit.

Audit Time. Is Your IT Up to Snuff?

Audit Checklist

Audit ChecklistYour audit results are in – there are 42 deficiencies and your overall grade is “F.” The report has just hit your CEO’s desk. Now what?

Now is the time to call in experts: IT consultants who have been through literally hundreds of audits themselves – successfully. Seasoned audit-experienced IT professionals will correct IT shortcomings using solid principles to build a well-documented environment that will bring your organization out successfully on the other side of an audit. Meanwhile, your in-house team continues to maintain day-to-day operations without skipping a beat.

Protocol Networks works with banks and other financial institutions before and after audits. Anticipating and planning for your audit could mean the difference between an “A” and an “F.”

Get IT Audit-Ready

Speaking of grades, you can’t cram for an audit. First, you never know exactly what the auditor is going to look for or ask about. And, second, it’s best to do the basics well and not cut corners year round. It’s also important to realize that not all audit items are equal, even if they are equally weighted on the audit.

Here are 5 actions we take to ensure your next audit goes well:

  1. Security takes first place among audit items that are very important. Make sure your security stack is up to par and being continually evaluated as you are never done with security. Preventing unauthorized visitors on your corporate network is imperative whether it’s hackers or your customers in the lobby. From network infrastructure to password management, security practices must be solid.
  1. Review your documentation to ensure that it matches what is actually happening in your organization. Documenting changes to your environment is just as important as making the change itself. When changes go undocumented, auditors see red flags.
  1. Protocol takes an inventory of the documentation your company has published online so you are aware of what information an auditor already has access to. Once this is done, then it is matched – or updated – to reflect your actual practices.
  1. Communicate to everyone in the organization what’s going on, including the scope and expectations of the audit. Protocol Networks works directly with IT leaders on how to communicate best with auditors – what to say and what not to say. Being interviewed by an auditor is somewhat similar to testifying in court. Only answer what is being asked; do not volunteer extra information.
  1. Protocol Networks coaches IT directors about how to strategically meet the standards required by auditors including how to include audit needs in your annual plan and budget. When IT goals align with audit outcomes, it makes sense to allocate necessary resources to make them happen. Some great companies have failed an audit. It is not a knock on your leadership or ability, in some cases it is an opportunity to hire and staff at the level you have been asking for, for years.

It’s unreasonable to expect your small, internal IT team to meet the same specifications required of larger financial institutions, but that is exactly the expectation of auditors. No matter the size of your company, you have to have the right IT infrastructure in place to serve and protect customers and to meet all of the requirements of internal and external auditors. The success or failure of the audit was determined when the four corners of the audit were initially established.

Protocol Networks has helped financial institutions, health care practices and other regulated businesses with audits for since 2000. Our team has been through hundreds of audits – give us a call now at 877.676.0146 or contact us online to prepare for your next audit.

Consulting Resources – Now? Later? It’s Your Choice

Consulting Resources

The pharmaceutical industry is one of the most competitive in the world. The race to bring new drugs to market is among the fiercest and most important to pharmaceutical companies’ success. Missing the opportunity to get a new drug approved after decades of research and development is a devastating blow to pharmaceutical business.

The role of a well-strategized IT infrastructure is imperative to this success. For many companies, their current IT operations are sufficient for normal, day-to-day operations but do not have the resources necessary to ramp up for the grueling, time-sensitive drug approval process. Often the most efficient, cost-effective way to bring your pharmaceutical IT infrastructure up to speed is by partnering with an experienced, third-party IT change agent who specializes in organizational transitions.

The advantages of using a consultant are numerous. One of the most important though – especially to your bottom line – is consulting firms have the valuable ability to ramp up, or down, quickly so you only bring on the resources you need when you need them. And, you only pay when you need to. You have the freedom to decide.

Don’t Bring a Knife to A Gun Fight

Competing in the marketplace requires having the best resources available in your arsenal. Protocol Networks brings decades of experience delivering IT systems consulting and integration working with companies of all sizes and all verticals to supplement existing technological resources to facilitate change. It doesn’t make sense to enter into new ventures without the most effective resources in hand.

Here are considerations for when you hire a change agent to help ramp up your IT infrastructure as your organization grows and changes:

Independent, unbiased advice – A partner who makes hardware and software decisions based on your needs, not products they are trying to sell, will provide a solution unique to your situation ensuring it fits into your organizational growth and future goals. Protocol Networks’ engineers are certified in many different areas and are knowledgeable about lots of technologies, not products they are trying to sell.

Rapid implementation – When you need assistance with an infrastructure rollout for a facilities move, a short-term staff augmentation for special projects, or a remote management solution for security or facilities located in different locations, your transition partner needs to implement best practices and IT infrastructure quickly enough for your company to take advantage of opportunities or bring potential threats to a standstill.

A full arsenal of managed IT services – A full-service transition partner should have a number of essential, cost-effective services to meet your needs including:

  • Network Infrastructure
  • Systems
  • Security
  • Remote Access
  • Virtualization
  • Storage and Backup
  • Disaster Recovery
  • VoIP
  • Wireless
  • Support and Maintenance

If your company is heading toward a change such as the stringent FDA drug approval process, a facilities move or other change, let Protocol Networks assist with a scalable, customized strategy to ensure a seamless transition. Call us at 877-676-0146 or online.

Protocol Networks Guides Biopharma Company Through FDA Process

FDA Approved

FDA ApprovedSarepta Therapeutics, a biopharmaceutical company in Cambridge, Mass., develops genetic medicines to treat rare neuromuscular diseases which currently lack therapies to help the lives of patients with the debilitating diseases. As Sarepta focuses on transforming the treatment of serious, life-threatening diseases through RNA-based technologies, it relies upon good partners to assist with major projects that fall outside of their core competencies.

Since 2014, Sarepta Therapeutics has trusted Protocol Networks to manage key technology projects during growth and transition periods.

The Challenge

Protocol Networks initially completed two projects for Sarepta — a data center relocation and an office consolidation project. The scope of these projects included relocating Sarepta’s data center from Colorado to Massachusetts along with designing and installing telecommunications and computer networking infrastructure for Sarepta’s new headquarters in Cambridge. Because Sarepta Chief Information and Privacy Officer Steve Aschettino was so pleased with Protocol’s work on these projects, he called them in when Sarepta faced their next growth point.

When Douglas Ingram came on board as Sarepta’s President and Chief Executive Officer in 2017, he brought along years of experience in biopharmaceutical management and corporate affairs. He also brought his vision for taking Sarepta into pharmaceutical marketing which includes going through the Food and Drug Administration approval process for drugs.

With an already high reliance on computing assets, the biotechnology firm needed to bolster its technology assets – from infrastructure to user education – to be prepared for the long, challenging process of bringing a drug to market.

The Solution

As Sarepta approached its first FDA Investigational New Drug (IND) application, Protocol knew there was no time to spare in putting a winning plan into place. Because there is only a short window for companies to be profitable on a newly approved drug, Protocol’s Philip Rogers, Chief Information Officer, put together a three-phase plan to ensure Sarepta would be ready to optimize their investment in the drug development and application process.

Phase 1 – Protocol built up the infrastructure to include on-site and remote help desks, network monitoring and managed services to position Sarepta to scale up for phases 2 and 3. Protocol developed “office kits” so Sarepta’s upcoming physical expansion could be implemented easily.

Phase 2 – Sarepta was using larger labs and needed more staff members to support the FDA approval process so internal needs increased. International office locations were added resulting in even more users. Because the technology foundation had been laid in Phase 1, Protocol efficiently brought new employees and facilities online quickly.

Phase 3 – The clock starts ticking on marketing a new drug once the FDA approves it. Sarepta was ready and waiting with its IT infrastructure in place and its employees up-to-speed on the technology.

The Benefit

Bringing in Protocol Networks as project manager instead of hiring more staff to prepare Sarepta for its new line of business was a strategic decision that was cost effective as Sarepta only paid for what it needed. Sarepta’s internal IT staff was just one person at the time. As a strong, trusted partner Protocol operated as though they are part of the Sarepta team, attending team meetings and trainings to better understand Sarepta’s objectives and mission. Protocol Networks allowed the CIO of Sarepta to fill out his Organizational Chart as if he had all the resources the strategy required.

Sarepta’s first IND was eventually approved by the FDA, so they didn’t have to invest in internal infrastructure and then figure out what to do with it if the drug wasn’t approved. Protocol advised them on how to handle this situation as well. Protocol Networks converted two of its system administrators to Sarepta’s full-time employees.

Protocol Networks specializes in change for companies going through transition. If you need help with short- or long-term technology projects, give us a call at 877.676.0146 or get in touch online here.