I will do my best to elaborate without seeming to insult the previous provider…this is not my intention but I am trying to highlight the  philosophical differences between ETC Maryland and the previous provider.  I will not name the previous provider nor name the client.  I do not do that unless it is warranted(in the case of a competitor) or a client(without express permission first).

I was talking to another IT provider and his avarice was quite on display.  This person was a bit miffed as to why his now former client called me to take over his network.  When i walked in it is nice and well laid out but when i saw the gear i knew there were issues I was not going to like.  I’ll just list them out..:)

1.  The gear is by Meraki which is a division of Cisco.  I’ll have another post shortly on the things about Meraki I particularly do not like and how this gear compares to my preferred platform in security and price and most importantly network control philosophy(aka who really controls your network)

2.  This previous IT vendor has a history of slow responses.

3.  The previous IT vendor is MAC focused, yet by their own admission they do not normally work to secure Windows machines.  This network in question has Apple and Windows machines in concert with each other.

4.  No attempt was made to reduce various costs associated with the ISP recommendations.

5.  A VOIP phone system was installed without consideration for the consequences for when the Internet goes offline.

6.  Practice management is done totally in the cloud.  See #5 above about ISP issues.

I first got wind of the situation from another client via a referral.  I had heard that the client above had been having network issues since opening.  I told my referring client to tell his client to cal me.  After about a month went by i inquired to the referring client about the client and they said they would re-contact the client.  The client i mentioned in the beginning did contact me and requested I come have a meeting.  i did so at the point as i was invited.  Upon the first meeting things were not necessarily sire in terms of security but the costs of the network that has been installed was staggering.  The internet provider has signed them up for their fastest tier of service,  The network equipment(the firewall and the wifi point) were shockingly expensive and the computers in the business were very under-powered from the get go.  Work flow was compromised by older laptops and a shortage of wireless gear to perform all of the function adequately.  Practice management was 100% cloud based with no offline backup and the phone system was also 100% cloud based with no offline backup.  There is no isp backup for this location.  The costs for the firewall and wifi access point are excessive with renewal costs that are excessively high.  ETC has now been making modifications to the network on a gradual basis as follows:

The Meraki equipment has a three year prepaid subscription.  I do not see any reason to trash the gear at this time.  It is my intention to replace it with the ETC security platform once the subscription expires.  ETC Maryland has reduced the provisioned speed of the internet connection and dropped the static IP address.  This will result in substantial monthly savings on Internet access costs.  The firewall has been tuned not only for the new access speeds but the traffic has been shaped to ensure the VOIP system will never be starved for bandwidth.  This means that no matter what else is going on within the internet network enough bandwidth has been reserved for all VOIP lines to have their full bandwidth simultaneously available at all times with the highest priority. The content filter has been expanded both in the size of the lists used and the number of categories blocked.  ETC chose settings that in our view provides the best usability while maintaining the requires level of security against outside threats from possible compromised sites.  TWO WiFi networks are now active.  One is for the practices machines to use and the other is now for staff personal or any devices not directly used for the practice to use.  This not only increases compliance with various privacy laws but also sets up WiFi to the latest best practices to prevent unauthorized disclose from non-practice devices on the practice network.  New hardware is being quoted to expand the practice’s capabilities and replacing older hardware.  Finally a proactive system is now in place where ETC Maryland visits this location at least once a week to proactively check on the systems and address potential issues before they become practice stopping issues.  This has resulted in the elimination of internal caused downtime and is increasing the practice’s capabilities in a way that controls costs but gives the practice a way to grow without being constrained by their network.


Future plans

The biggest future plan is once the practice can afford it a second ISP connection with be installed as a backup to the first to greatly reduce the impact of the primary isp failure.