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Local firms grow big on technology.

From global companies with thousands of computers around the world to small businesses with a handful of desktop stations, businesses are increasingly turning to Colorado entrepreneurs to manage their technology services and other operations outside their own walls. Call it outsourcing, managed services or network support--the trend not only saves companies money but enables them to keep up with technology's newest offerings and to operate secure systems without employing a high-tech staff of dozens.

"It's analogous to changing the oil in your car. You can do it yourself but why would you when you can take your car to Grease Monkey and have those with expertise do it more efficiently," said Bart Hammond, chief executive officer of Denver-based Interlink Group Inc., one of the largest privately-owned IT consulting firms in the western United States. "In the case of IT services, a company may have a staff with the skills to do it, but they would rather have their staff devoting their time to other strategies within the company and leave the daily maintenance to others. We can pro-actively monitor their IT operations 24 hours-a-day, seven days a week and make recommendations to improve their operations around the world."

Hammond noted a company would have to employ a seven-member in-house IT team to cover the shifts and do the kind of system monitoring Interlink does round-the-clock from its command centers in Denver and Pune, India.

Founded in 1989 with a staff of three, Interlink has grown to more than 200 employees, delivering technology solutions to 300-plus clients--primarily upper mid-market companies with revenues of $200 million to $2 billion, said Hammond. Interlink's revenues grew 26 percent in 2004, the same year that Microsoft tapped the company to receive its prestigious Customer Relationship Management Excellence award.

In June 2004, Interlink acquired Equarius, adding offices in Seattle, Portland and San Francisco. The company also has operations in Sacramento, Calif.

Aardvark IT Solutions, founded as Aardvark Computer Service Ltd. in Boulder in 1993, moved in 1999 to Broomfield to provide outsourced network support to growing businesses. "The trend today is for businesses to be very pro-active about their IT services in trying to prevent problems before they happen," said Wray Smith, founder and president of Aardvark, which also does business as Smartpoint.com. "For example, if a hard-drive were to begin filling up, a new virus hits, or traffic on the system becomes abnormally high, we see these things happening through our monitoring service, and we can react quickly to prevent further problems."

Within hours of spotting a problem at a client company through Aardvark's daily maintenance programs, Aardvark can dispatch a worker from its 18-member staff to correct it. "We primarily provide services to businesses with less than 150 users on their systems," said Smith. "Our clients are those businesses that just don't have the work for a full-time IT person yet they need daily maintenance. For them outsourcing is the solution."

In addition to monitoring systems, Aardvark offers free seminars geared to non-technical workers within a company who are appointed to oversee IT at their workplaces. "As companies continue to grapple with tight budgets and seek to lower costs, they are increasingly resorting to outsourcing IT functions," said Smith. "They also are turning to us to keep up with technology, since we can give them the pros and cons of the various software and can coach them before they make their purchasing decisions.

Founded in 1997, Colorado-based Business Network Consulting provides as-needed server, network and desktop support to more than 300 small to medium-sized businesses in Colorado.

Among clients for whom BNC has developed solutions are such non-profits as the Evergreen Fire Protection District, the nation's largest volunteer fire department, and Food Bank of the Rockies.

In the case of Food Bank, Business Network Consulting replaced an antiquated hardware and software system with a new computing platform and implemented an ongoing system replacement plan to ensure the region's largest food clearinghouse would not be adversely affected by an aging IT infrastructure.

"Small businesses typically don't have enough computer support work to keep a full-time person busy, which means they're left trying to figure it out on their own bringing in the occasional outside help," said Joe Kelly, company founder.

"Outsourcing is common for small businesses in non-core business functions such as payroll, accounting, and telecommunications management. Information Technology should be no different, and Business Network Consulting offers small businesses a comprehensive IT outsourcing solution. BNC is able to fill the role of an in-house IT department, while offering our customers the combination of enterprise-level IT expertise and full desk-side support."

Denver-based Business Network Consulting has IT engineers on staff dedicated to cover the IT needs of specific industries--legal, energy, finance and construction.

"We're not just the computer guy who comes out and works on the computers," said Kelly. "We're the business savvy expert that looks at the underlying business problem and implements the correct technology solution to solve it."

Business Network Consulting also works with larger organizations operating more than 150 computer stations, primarily being called in for special projects, including routing and security, infrastructure and IT management. Because BNC implements complex solutions on a daily basis, our engineers have skill sets which are not typically found in a large enterprise environment.

"Business Network Consulting has made possible the delivery of around-the-clock, expert technical computer and network support to a market segment traditionally underserved by larger outsourced IT consulting firms," said Kelly. "We enable customers to realize the competitive value of technology and keep their IT infrastructures operating."

"We enable customers to realize the competitive value of technology and keep their IT infrastructures operating," said Kelly.

Monica A. Pleiman founded Optimum Management Systems in 1998 as a minority and woman-owned consulting firm that aims to partner with clients to develop effective and efficient business solutions in both public and private sectors. Among the range of services OMS offers are advanced technology solutions and integration services, financial management consulting services. It has recently added a new division--communications solutions--which assists clients with graphic design, branding, web-site development and other communication needs.

"OMS will provide these services any time, any place, and in any capacity regardless of the size, complexity, or priority of the task," said Pleiman, OMS president and CEO, and one of the region's most honored minority business owners. In May 2003, she received the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce-Denver Post Minority-Owned Business of the Year award for outstanding entrepreneurial achievement and community support. She also has received the Colorado Women's Chamber of Commerce Athena Award presented to an individual who "has actively and generously assisted women in their attainment of professional excellence and leadership skills."

Denver-based OMS, which employs 90 and has field offices in Washington D.C., Albuquerque, Pittsburgh and Alton, Ill., is certified as a Minority Business Enterprise with the Rocky Mountain Minority Supplier Development Council, the U.S. Department of Transportation's Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program, and the U.S. Small Business Administration's 8(a) program and Small Disadvantaged Business program.

At Brainstorm Networks, chief executive officer Calvin Cooke moved into the Denver market from his Durango-based headquarters to focus on building extremely secure but highly flexible data- and converged-IP telephony networks for a variety of small-to medium-size companies.

"We specialize in offering complete end-to-end solutions on IP telephony systems and resolving security issues that goes beyond just setting up firewalls," said Cooke. "Eighty percent of security breaches come from within a company so we not only have a team of engineers to set up the technology but also have legal people to help companies develop and apply policies for operating those systems so they keep themselves operating safely and securely for a long time."

In fiscal 2004, Brainstorm Networks, which was founded in 1998, saw its revenue double to more than $3 million and is projecting it to double again in 2005 after becoming a Cisco Focus Partner. The company offers what Cooke refers to as a "holistic approach" to a full cycle of services to mid-size commercial markets.

"We're thrilled to move into the Front Range market," said Cooke of the company's move last fall to set up offices in the Denver Tech Center.

"Customer service is very important to us. We stay atop cutting edge technology, monitor systems 24-7 and regularly go to training sessions to learn about the latest technology. By outsourcing to us, companies can operate without having to hire a full-time IT person, or the IT staff they do have can devote their time to other projects within the company."
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Title Annotation:outsourcing
Publication:ColoradoBiz
Geographic Code:1U8CO
Date:Jun 1, 2005
Words:1425
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