Sky’s the limit for local firm

Just two years ago, three local technology solutions firms joined forces with the end result being a full-service IT solutions provider.

United Datacom Networks Inc. specializes in improving business efficiency and productivity through the implementation of customized technology solutions.

“UDNI is a full-service IT solutions provider that brings a unique perspective to our customers. We can provide all of your services in a one vendor environment,” said Jesse Morrell, executive vice president.

UDNI was formed through an acquisition and integration effort by United Computer Products Co. Inc., which has been, since 1989, a developer of ruggedized high-performance tactical computing solutions for the U.S. Department of Defense.

Although the respective technology companies were purchased/acquired by UCP, the integration effort that took place was the key that allowed UDNI to maintain a high level of expertise in each of the distinct areas of technology it serves.

UDNI has three primary focuses – cloud computing, unified communications voice and video solutions and IT management solutions.

Cloud computing is one of the main focus areas.

“We were one of the first businesses in the area to offer a cloud service,” said chief operating officer Scott Rhodes, who was president of IS2 Technologies, one of the acquired firms. “We offer businesses the ability to back up their data and information to the cloud.”

“Our cloud backup solution is one of the many cloud-based services we offer. In general, the core objectives of our cloud computing capabilities are to provide our client’s with secure, reliable, on-demand access to their critical data and applications regardless of their location or device,” Rhodes said.

“We are the only IT provider in the area that owns and operates its cloud infrastructure, which sets us apart from everyone else,” he said.

Cloud computing is the process of using a network of remote servers hosted on the Internet to store, manage and process data rather than on a local server or personal computer, Rhodes explained.

“This is a component of cloud computing, but there are several other pieces that help to define this technology model,” Rhodes said.

Cloud computing is commonly defined as a technology model for enabling abundant, accessible, on-demand access to share computing resources such as: networks, servers, storage, mail, office applications, unified communications, hosted voice and other business services. In a cloud computing environment, these resources can be rapidly provisioned and made available to users with ease, Rhodes said.

Rhodes said some common benefits include:

— Cost reduction – Cloud computing solutions can reduce a business’s hardware, networking, IT management and overall IT expenses.

— Rapid deployment – Compute resources can be rapidly provisioned, drastically reducing the time to deploy new applications and systems.

— Scalability – As a data environment grows including applications and systems resources such as storage, memory, and CPU capacity can be added as needed.

— Resiliency and redundancy – Implementing a cloud model allows the consumer to utilize an architecture, which provides rapid failover between hardware platforms and disaster recovery services in the event of a failure. This results in limiting the frequency of service disruptions and allows a business to operate continuously.

The word “cloud” means many different things to different people, said Clyde Zimmerman, senior vice president for strategic business development who was president of FiberCom, another one of the acquired firms.

In the small and medium enterprise business space, it is sometimes difficult and costly for business owners to move legacy business applications to the cloud. UDNI helps clients develop a cloud strategy to help business owners plan for this move from the premise to the cloud while still protecting legacy applications and business processes, Zimmerman said.

Having business applications, data and information in a secure encrypted data center cloud environment lowers costs and allows for dramatically improved user productivity because the users can work any time, from anywhere and on any device, he added.

“It could be my home computer or tablet, office computer, smartphone or any other computing device,” Zimmerman said.

Security is also improved because if a device is lost or stolen, the company’s private data is not compromised as private information is never stored on the device but stays in the secure encrypted cloud at all times, Zimmerman said.

What the cloud does is take a big expenditure and change it to a smaller number.

“We come up with a plan to save the customer money, a nice smooth operating expenditure to eliminate larger capital expenditures,” Zimmerman said.

UDNI has its own cloud infrastructure in a data center on the east coast.

“The core is in New Jersey, and everything is replicated and backed up to additional secure off-site facilities,” Rhodes said. “Because of us owning our own cloud hardware and data center, we have the ability to do customized implementations that fit the customer’s needs. It is not like putting a square peg in a round hole.”

Today UDNI serves about 400 small- to medium-sized businesses, K-12 education and government customers with its core business areas in central Pennsylvania.

DelGrosso Foods is a satisfied customer as UDNI provides infrastructure and virtualization support as well as custom programming for the Tipton company.

“We selected UDNI because of their technical knowledge, reputation for excellent customer service and fair pricing,” said Todd Walters, director of information technology. “In today’s market, most companies can deliver the technical solutions. In addition to providing excellent technical solutions, it is the follow up and service after the sale that UDNI excels at. The technicians and programmers are knowledgeable, prompt and courteous.”

The company also has customers in the York and Meadville areas, where it has satellite offices.

“We also have customers along the east coast from Connecticut to North Carolina. Because we offer cloud services, that gives us the ability to reach customers in a greater geographic area. We don’t have to go to them. We can centrally manage their systems. We manage them from our location here in Altoona,” Rhodes said.

Providing top quality customer service is important to UDNI.

“Our service support group is very important to our success. We provide 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year support to our customers. It doesn’t matter when they call us – we guarantee a one-hour response. That is one thing that differentiates us,” Zimmerman said.

From its control center, UDNI can tell when a customer has a problem even before they contact the company through its managed services program, which includes proactive monitoring and alerting, Zimmerman said.

UDNI has grown from 16 employees when it opened to 22 today. The company expects to keep growing.

“We have major growth goals. We have seasoned and experienced leadership on our team here and we work together well. We have forward looking people to grow the company and add real strategic value for customers,” Zimmerman said.

“We have a vision to promote cloud service offerings. Our plans are to combine that growth strategy in offerings and geographic locations. Our plans are to move south and grow in Maryland and Virginia as well as look for partnerships like we have found in Connecticut. We are always looking to grow and expand outside our core region, outside of the area we support today,” Rhodes said.

UDNI has a well-defined expansion roadmap and corporate vision, Morrell said.

“We continue to bring unique value to the small to medium business market place that to date has not been readily available. The key to our success is staying focused on the strategic mission we have, and above all, to continue to provide value for our customers by introducing new ways to implement and leverage technology to improve business efficiency and effectiveness,” Morrell said.