THE CHALLENGE – require a managed service provider

Community Together CIC (Community Interest Company) helps people in South Staffordshire to ’grow well’, ’live well’ and ’age well’ by offering mental and physical wellbeing, plus practical support, information, advice and guidance.

When the CIC was formed in 2011, founder Lee Bates managed all the IT aspects, alongside the day-to-day management of the organisation.

The CIC has grown tremendously since those early days, due to the quality of support offered to the community. As a result, Lee now has to focus more on the strategic organisational aspects, so needed to look for help with IT management.

THE OPPORTUNITY – support the IT network infrastructure

Lee Bates was introduced to First Class Technologies (FCT) through a networking event organised by the Community Foundation for Staffordshire.

Lee discussed with Richard how First Class might help to support the organisation’s IT network infrastructure and its users, and a plan of action was established.

Community Together CIC has a main office at Offa House in central Tamworth, plus a satellite site in Tamworth Castle Grounds.

The first task was to understand what IT equipment Community Together had, in order to understand what IT support would be required.

With around 16 staff members, the CIC runs a cluster of HP computer base units and a number of Lenovo laptops. Whilst new equipment has been purchased by the CIC as and when needed, the organisation had no cohesive IT strategy.

Lee explains: “If someone needed a new laptop, we’d just purchase one online, then purchase a new Microsoft 365 licence for that machine. As a result, we ended up with several different licences that we didn’t need! The team at First Class was able to review everything we had in order to streamline and simplify it. This will now make our IT easier to manage and less complicated to budget for, whilst helping us future proof the organisation too.”

First Class also identified a saving for the organisation regarding internet services. The Community Together office in central Tamworth spans two floors, and had ended up with a separate internet service on each floor, thereby paying twice the service fees. First Class has rescued this situation, and set up one internet source for both the ground floor and upstairs office, saving the organisation money each month.

Whilst Community Together was running Microsoft 365, providing the flexibility it needed for both staff and remote associate workers to use the network, its back-up systems needed to be reviewed. First Class was able to provide advice and support with regard to backing up the Microsoft 365 files, to keep the organisation’s data safe.

As part of this, First Class recommended installing BitDefender anti-virus (with web protection) software on all the PCs and laptops, to assist with cyber security and help bolster the Cyber Essentials certification for Community Together.

First Class also installed a Remote Monitoring Access utility on the 16 devices, to allow the IT support team to be able to help the organisation more quickly and efficiently. First Class also helped Community Together move documents and files from OneDrive to Sharepoint, to streamline data access.

The team also implemented a Microsoft Azure Active Directory with multi factor authentication (MFA) to secure logins.

Now, the support team at First Class can proactively manage Community Together’s IT infrastructure, including daily back-ups and running IT hardware checks to identify any potential issues. The helpdesk also provides telephone support to help fix any issues as part of a monthly managed service provider contract.

IN CONCLUSION – excellent IT support provision

Lee Bates says: “We’ve received excellent support from First Class, and we’re delighted to have them as our IT partner. Even though we’ve only been working with them for the last few months, they already know our systems as well as, if not better, than us!

“The transition from Community Together managing its own IT, to handing it over to First Class has been seamless.

We’ve already established a strong relationship with Richard, Rob, Lee and the rest of the FCT team. Nothing is ever too much trouble for them, they’re always happy to help.

“IT is one of the most important aspects of an organisation, yet isn’t always managed by the right person. I’ve never been IT trained, but from the early days of the CIC, if there was an IT issue it became my responsibility to sort it out. The IT management role just stuck with me! It’s such a relief to be able to hand the management of our IT over to First Class now, knowing we’re much better off in their experienced and capable hands. It also frees up my time and energy to be able to concentrate on my role as Chief Operating Officer for Community Together.

“Being a CIC, we have a limited IT budget, which we thought might be an issue when working with a managed service provider. However, we’ve been impressed with how cost effective First Class has been with its IT recommendations . The team really seems to understand the not-for-profit sector. As well as advising us of the urgent and imminent changes that need to be made, they’ve also helped us understand what isn’t a priority for upgrading or replacing yet. This allows us to be proactive, and gives us the information we need to be able to plan for the future, so we’re really grateful for their insight.“

Richard Hinton, Managing Director at First Class Technologies comments: “We have well over 20 years’ experience working in the non-profit sector, and have enjoyed helping Community Together upgrade and future-proof its IT infrastructure. Lee’s comments about freeing up his time to work on developing the CIC, due to him no longer having to worry about IT supports our whole business proposition, that our clients put their IT management in our safe and trusted hands.”


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