Who you gonna call?

Posted on: August 9th, 2011 by zach

Many small businesses can’t afford their own IT departments, which is where informatics services like Safe Harbour come in.

If you work for a large company and can’t log on to your server, or lose a file and don’t know how to retrieve it, you can always just pick up the phone and call your company’s IT help desk.

But what if your business is too small to justify full-time IT staff? Several years ago, Salmon’s Transfer Ltd. in Richmond reached that critical mass.

“We’re big enough to require somebody that would probably cost us a full IT salary, but we’re small enough that he’d be sitting on his thumbs most of the time,” said Doug Kellough, president of Salmon’s Transfer, which has 70 employees, about 20 of whom work in the company’s office.

The company has three servers and 22 desktops. Kellough and his office manager used to handle the company’s IT issues themselves, but it wasn’t productive.

“We just found that it was either over the heads of our people or it took one person an inordinate time to do it,” Kellough said.

He ended up hiring Dan Stratton, and stayed with him when Stratton founded Safe Harbour Informatics two-and-a-half years ago.

Safe Harbour specializes in IT help for small and medium-sized companies (from five to 50 employees) that can’t afford a full-time IT department of their own.  A typical company employs two full-time IT technicians to service an office with 100 computer terminals, at a cost of about $120,000 per year, Stratton said.

“With us, you’d pay $30,000 to $35,000 per year to do the same maintenance,” Stratton said.

“One of the things we do that is a lot different than our competitors is a proactive-type service. We put software into your computers and your networks that monitors all aspects of it, and quite often we will know before you do when there’s going to be a problem.

“We had a BlackBerry server that went off [recently] at about three in the morning, so we had 30 users that wouldn’t have gotten email in the morning if we weren’t monitoring it. So we had that resolved before 9 a.m. They had no loss in productivity.”

Kellough said the power goes out a lot in the area of Richmond where his office is based, and Safe Harbour can often do reboots remotely before the outage is even noticed.

“They’re open for us 24-7 when we need them,” he said.  Safe Harbour employs six technicians who can manage up to 200 PCs each.

“Smartphones are a huge trend,” Stratton added. “We do a lot of work with smartphones.”

One of the most common problems small companies experience is loss of data that has not been backed up.

“I had one [business owner who] … went to do a restore and couldn’t do the restore so he lost a bunch of history,” Stratton said. “They’re an accounting firm so he was able to put a dollar amount of $17,000 on that.”

One of the products Safe Harbour provides for small business is its Office in a Box: a suite of computer and network products that includes a phone system, file server, firewall-router, email server, wired or wireless networking and automated backup. 

Newspaper Article featured in "Business in Vancouver".

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