Salmon Sims Thomas Client Story
CPA Firm Saves Money, Improves Morale by Moving to the Cloud
Salmon Sims Thomas Accountants and Consultants found a wealth of industry expertise and saved over ten percent of their IT expenses when they switched to Netgain’s IT-as-a-Service platform.
The Dallas-headquartered financial services firm has 18 CPAs and about 30 other team members who make up their auditing, tax services, accounting services, and administrative teams. They have a satellite office in Arlington, TX where a handful of their employees work from as well as several employees who work remotely.
Aaron Lohman is SST’s Audit Manager who spearheads the IT initiative, and also championed the cloud migration project with Netgain. Aaron, who was spending at least 10 percent of his time troubleshooting IT issues previously is now happy to have that responsibility off his plate.
SST had been working with a managed services provider in the Dallas area for about five years. The provider had taken them from an IT environment of on-premise servers to an Azure cloud solution. Their original migration to the cloud had been a nightmare, according to Aaron, with too many bumps and bruises along the way. Once in the cloud, there were still many challenges they faced with their provider.
Challenge: IT provider with minimal CPA expertise.
SST’s IT provider had experience with technology but minimal experience with hosting CPA-specific applications in the cloud.
“It felt like we were learning right along with them, and that wasn’t working,” Aaron said. “Anyone can procure servers on Azure, but we needed someone who knew our specific application, what resources they needed to perform best, and to be able to create that environment for us.”
Challenge: Employee frustration due to IT.
Because of system slowness and disconnects, SST employees were frustrated that they couldn’t work when they needed to work or get support when they needed support.
“The user experience was frustrating,” Aaron says. “If our employees didn’t have luck connecting to an application in the hosted session, they’d go back and do it from the local session.” The multiple connection points raised security and productivity issues on top of user frustration.
Challenge: Limited Support
Though SST’s IT provider was contracted to provide support services for their users, Aaron found that there was high turnover on the support team, making it difficult to resolve issues quickly and effectively.
Further, the provider’s support team didn’t have knowledge in SST’s CPA-specific applications or how they were used.
“It was frustrating to call in and the support analyst didn’t know what application we were referring to or how to troubleshoot it,” Aaron said. “We found ourselves spending hours on the phone collectively with their support team for issues that should have been resolved in minutes.”
Near the end of their contract with their IT provider, SST began searching for a new cloud provider. They knew the industry-trend was cloud, but they were convinced they weren’t reaping all the benefits of what the cloud could offer.
Aaron had met some of the Netgain team at the Boomer Technology Circles Summit and was impressed with their unique and combined knowledge of financial services workflow and technology. After learning about Netgain’s experience in the financial technology space, SST was eager to move to their platform and reap the benefits that cloud promised.
SST chose to migrate to Netgain’s IT-as-a-Service (ITaaS) environment right at the start of their busiest season, not wanting to go through another busy season with subpar performance and IT issues that caused consistent user frustration.
ITaaS is a comprehensive solution for SST, solving all their challenges for one per-user subscription fee. Included in the ITaaS solution is expert services around:
- Specialty application hosting, understanding the workflow of how SST users will utilize each application, and knowing what resources each application needs to run optimally in the cloud.
- Networking, ensuring SST has the necessary bandwidth in place for their users to get maximum performance and connectivity.
- Security, a comprehensive, layered approach to all aspects of security.
- Business continuity, putting the necessary redundancy policies and procedures in place, in case any of their technology should fail.
- Disaster recovery, determining a plan for asset recovery, in the event of a natural disaster.
- Azure resources, built on the most performant, stable, and secure hyperscale cloud environment on the planet.
All of SST’s applications now reside in the cloud and are accessed via a remote desktop on their devices. Users no longer have to toggle back and forth between local and remote sessions to access their required applications. Their experience is unified, reliable, and secure.
The migration process from their previous cloud environment to their Netgain ITaaS environment was smoother than Aaron had anticipated.
“Considering our first move to the cloud, I think I expected the worst,” Aaron said. “We did the migration at the beginning of busy season; we launched knowing that many of our employees would be across the country and needing to access the system. We didn’t experience downtime during the migration; everything went really smoothly.”
Financial services expertise
SST’s top priority when searching for a new IT partner was not only expertise in the technical aspect of the cloud, but an extensive understanding of the unique workflows and needs of CPA firms. They found that dual-expertise in Netgain.
“We talked to providers who had great expertise in technology and Azure, but not much on the financial services side. Then we found providers who knew a lot about CPA firms, but didn’t have experience running our specific applications in a cloud environment,” Aaron says. “Netgain checked both of those boxes. They have a great amount of experience and success putting our applications in the cloud and supporting that environment for CPA firms. That was huge for us.”
In hard costs, moving to Netgain’s ITaaS allowed SST to save about 10 percent compared to their previous provider.
In soft costs, Aaron is spending much less time troubleshooting user issues, reliability has improved dramatically, and storage is unlimited rather than metered.
“It’s hard to calculate the value and cost of the downtime we were experiencing before. Our user experience with Netgain is just so much better. The move has improved morale; our team is no longer frustrated with disconnects and system outages. It’s a night and day difference.”
Netgain’s ITaaS solution includes system-wide event monitoring and a proactive approach to support. Based on thresholds we set in the system for performance, security, and networking, our team will be monitored if a client’s analytics fall beneath that threshold, allowing us to quickly address and resolve the issue.
“With our previous IT vendor, it felt like they were always reacting to our IT issues, rather than being proactive and bringing us solutions,” Aaron says. “With Netgain, they’re often a step ahead. Their proactive monitoring system allows them to see issues we might be having and resolve them before we even notice the issues.”
Prior to their Netgain environment, SST had single-factor authentication in place throughout their systems and devices. During the pre-sales process, Netgain recommended multi-factor authentication, which would mitigate SST’s security risk. Aaron knew the risk of single-factor authentication and that it’s one of the only organizational policies that forces employees to be more secure.
“Since we were saving money per user by moving to Netgain, we decided to take Netgain’s recommendation and implement multifactor authentication throughout our organization during the deployment process,” Aaron said. “Multi-factor authentication gives us added peace of mind.”
Less IT troubleshooting, more billable hours
Since the migration to the cloud, Aaron has been able to transition from spending over 10% of his time on IT issues to spending 1% or less of his time on IT. This translates to Aaron having more capacity for billable hours, which directly impacts the firms bottom line.
“It’s always a little scary choosing new partners and making big moves like this, but we knew it had to get done,” Aaron said. “And in the end, it was well worth the change and effort it took to get us here.”
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