How does a 25-years young technology company celebrate its silver anniversary? With gratitude for our past success and enthusiasm for what's to come in the future.
A lot has changed within the fast-paced world of IT since we started back in 1996; but our promise to deliver the best results for our clients is one thing that's never changed.
We opened our doors at a time when fewer than 40 percent of U.S. households had a PC, the "Interweb" was young, and "the cloud" was white, fluffy and floated in the sky. At that time, our clients were large corporations, local exchange carriers, and anyone else who needed wide area network capabilities. We were all about telecom networking: engineering systems and the integration of products like channel banks and WAN routers.
By the end of the decade, the IT world had quickly moved from Palm Pilots to Blackberry devices. A little startup named Google entered the scene, and a rush to help clients survive Y2K became a priority. By the early 2000s, computers and laptops were doing a fair amount of work for everyone. Internet-based companies, which were hailed as the future of commerce, had an enormous wave of ups and downs. As broadband access to the web became common the world over, it was clear that business computing was here to stay. To meet the changing need, we expanded our services and began designing and deploying local area networks to support it. Our business model as a value-added reseller of technology solutions grew. We began providing clients as much support services as hardware. We didn't realize it at the time, but the growth in demand for pre-sale consultation and post-sale support was the beginning of our evolutionary path toward a contracted support model. A flat, annual fee for maintenance and technical support services replaced a bill for every call-out. In typical ANS fashion, we built our own support programs that bridged the service gaps in most manufacturers' programs. Many clients quickly realized the advantages of this model which reduced their vulnerability to costly downtime and emergency service charges.
In terms of pivotal moments, 2006 marked the debut of the iPhone and Amazon Web Services. Looking back, it was one of those years that taught us a big lesson about how hard it is to judge the impact new technologies will have on business. 2006 also marked the start of ANS's transition from systems design and hardware integration, to an as-a-service delivery model. Remote Monitoring and Management (RMM) and Professional Services Automation (PSA) tools had gained traction and our addition of these tools marked the segue to becoming a Managed Services Provider (MSP). We began with a remote server management, then expanded to include desktops, mobile devices, helpdesk services and backups.
Over time, our small and mid-sized clients reaped the benefits of having more control over their expanding environments and IT budgets, without having to add to their headcount. In the words of one client, "We were struggling to keep up with all of our computer systems and had ongoing problems. We've been able to stop worrying about server crashes and backup failures and can concentrate on our customers and new product development." As hoped, our "IT as a Service" packages began steering the helm of transformation and growth for many of our clients.
While our managed IT services model was busy growing and maturing, so were the threats from cybercriminals. Gone were the days of hackers whose primary motive was about "watching the world burn." By 2010, the cyber threat landscape became significantly more sophisticated, and the cost of security incidents mounted. Malicious exploits became increasingly difficult to detect and, for the first time ever, the FBI reported that revenue generated from cybercrime had exceeded drug trafficking. As companies' security needs grew, so did the need for more advanced cyber services. Once again, small to mid-sized organizations, burdened with the same threats as their corporate counterparts and with limited resources, needed more help. In response, we expanded our as-a-service portfolio, becoming a Managed Security Services Provider (MSSP). To effectively combat advanced threats, a fully-managed program with broad, integrated security capabilities became our next area of service delivery. Outsourcing their cybersecurity freed organizations from having to make large investments in their own expertise and technology tools; both of which were constantly changing. It was clear that effectively managing security risk was soon to become an integral part of everything IT related. And to successfully tackle all the moving parts, our clients were going to need a strategic right arm.
Over the next decade, our cybersecurity capabilities continued to evolve. Better ways to detect threats and protect data have been driven by the rapid adoption of trends like Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), cloud-based services, remote workforces, and the explosion of Internet-connected "everything." To keep up with the evolving nature of threats, wholistic network security strategies with advanced capabilities are now in play. Including tools that provide adaptive authentication, predictive analytics, behavioral analysis, automated threat response and cultural awareness.
Along our 25-year journey, Advanced Network Systems has kept a vigilant eye on a future that's refused to stand still. We've kept abreast of industry trends and next-generation technology–evaluating each based on the ability to effectively solve issues for our clients. From firewalls and antivirus in the 90s, to the latest AI-driven threat hunting, detection and mitigation tools. As for what's next, we'll do what we've always done: continue to provide our clients with the best solutions, wherever the battle moves.
Our 25-year milestone represents a lot more than a number. It's about being able to grow with a culture built on shared values. We believe what sets ANS apart is our ability to exemplify those values in the relationships we build, and the work we do each day. That has always meant continual innovation, establishing trust, and above all, care. Care for what's in our clients' best interests and care for the outstanding employees that make up our service teams. These values–the things that foundationally define who Advanced Network Systems is–stem in large part from the unique personalities, perspectives and contributions of our management team. Part of the "special sauce," is that we have an executive team that's very balanced in terms of talent and expertise. Add long-term relationships and shared goals to the mix and you get a lot of stability and dependability; one of those increasingly rare instances in business where you notice that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The balance and synergy are evident when you ask each of them what they believe makes ANS a great company to do business with. The underlying theme: doing good work matters.
From Kevin Leibl, our President: "For me, everything starts and ends with offering customer service that's a step above and solutions that are a step ahead. Ultimately, people buy from people they trust. Our company culture is about putting the client first. In an industry where "what is done" isn't necessarily always unique, the "how and why it's done" part becomes all-important. At the end of the day, our clients should feel, first and foremost, that we're on their side–supporting them in the ways they need and delivering successful outcomes. A big part of this has to do with having three important things in place: the right people for each position, an internal infrastructure to support them, and operations that are process driven. Whether it's sales, support or back-office functions, there's a system in place for all of it. We're a relatively small organization, but we run like a much larger one. Over the years, this has set us apart. It's allowed us to stay nimble, relevant, and to always stand ready to help clients with the next important technology they'll need."
From Tony Petrella, our Vice President of Engineering: "My passion and focus have always been the technical side. I'm an engineer, so I get excited about how integrating the right technology can solve business problems and elevate the level of operations. When we started, I knew we could offer better quality engineering and didn't have to rely solely on what any one manufacturer wanted us to sell. We could deliver better designed networks in terms of performance, resiliency, and scale, that incorporated the best products for the job. In a nutshell, we could control the quality of our recommended solutions and always stay focused on what was in the client's best interest. We don't oversell or undersell our clients; that builds trust and a lot of loyalty. We knew that the vast majority of our competitors weren't offering that kind of innovation and transparency. Over the years, a lot of things have changed in the company; but that's something that hasn't. Our engineering team has exceptional capabilities; but everyone also understands that we're committed to making recommendations that are both technically sound and provide the biggest return on investments. From a value perspective, it's simple; we treat our clients the way we, ourselves, want to be treated."
From Steve LaRose, our Vice President of Technical Operations: "Technical ops are where the rubber meets the road; everything comes together here. There's a lot of time and attention put into making sure each project is done correctly; and our clients have a positive experience. That means we deliver what we promised with minimal disruption to their daily operations. The required planning and preparation are not something that the client will see, because it goes on behind the scenes. But where a big part of the value is experienced, is in how smoothly onboarding or a project goes, or in how few times we must go back to resolve an issue. The purpose underlying our managed programs is to create a stable, secure network environment through proactive services. But, if a managed client does have a problem, we're responsive and put the right people in place to do the work. While I'm on the subject, as far as I'm concerned, the most impressive and important asset we have are our people. We have a team of people who are highly skilled and genuinely customer focused. They are problem-solvers who are willing go the extra mile to ensure our clients are taken care of; even when it means sacrificing their personal time. There have been moments, especially during the pandemic, when we've asked a lot of them; and whenever the occasion arose, they rose to the occasion. The level of dedication they have isn't something you can teach; it's an intangible that defines who we are; and sets us apart."
Lorri Haney, Vice President of Marketing/Human Resources: "I'm always impressed with the transformative effect our work has had on so many small and mid-sized businesses. One of the biggest game-changers, has been our ability to affordably offer them enterprise-quality solutions that were once only available to Fortune 500 corporations. It's rewarding to know that we can help smaller organizations leverage these leading-edge tools. For them, technology can be a great equalizer when it comes to improved operations and a competitive edge. Because that translates into something different for each client, we spend a lot of up-front time listening and focusing in on how we can deliver the most impact. One of our clients described it best when he said, 'I didn't start my business to spend time on IT issues, but that's how it ended up. Managing IT diverted our staff and distracted us from our focus. Now that we're with ANS, I've let go of worrying about our systems, or if people working from home are secure, or what technology we're going to need to grow. Everything just works.' Another client said, 'My work has become much more proactive and most days I leave at five. I can spend more time with my kids while knowing that our servers, backups, and devices are stable and protected. It's hard to put a price on all of that.' I never get tired of hearing about these types of outcomes."
Looking back, the past quarter century has taught us a lot about resilience in the face of business uncertainty; and how to grow strategically in spite of it. Beyond the devastating aftermath of 9/11, the dot-com bubble crash, and the global recession of 2008 we survived and thrived–each time emerging a bit better than before. And, while it's true we've never lived through a global pandemic before, like everyone else we've made some big adjustments; pivoting our operations and focusing on the best ways to help our clients navigate through it all.
In terms of the nature of technology, we've moved through a period that can best be described as a time of major disruptions. The volume of data generated has exploded; transactions happen in real time; devices have become more portable. At the same time, rapid advances in wireless and cloud computing have given rise to everything-connected, always-on business environments. Together, they've changed the concept of work from a place that we go, to the things that we can accomplish. Over time, we've witnessed the growth of all kinds of user devices that are handling sensitive data, from places outside the protection of the corporate network. These trends, paired with a significant shortage of specialized cybersecurity skills, has made security management a critical issue for every organization. Along with factors like cashflow and marketing, being able to effectively manage your cyber risk should now be considered a business-defining endeavor. If done correctly, it's the best bet organizations have to level the playing field against the growing threat of fraud, data theft and cyber-extortion.
Now, more than ever, no organization can afford to take chances with their information technology and cybersecurity. When it comes to choosing a vendor, there's no substitute for making a careful, apples-to-apples comparison to ensure you end up with the right service partner. If your only criterion is price, there's a high probability you won't get the right level of service. Providers in the IT and cybersecurity space come from a wide variety of places. This makes it hard to decipher what they offer (or don't offer), their level of expertise and experience–whether they are worthy of trust. It's easy to get sucked into, and impressed by, the Veg-o-Matic buzzword blender that's pervasive within our industry. So, take note, even when it comes to technology, the old-fashioned way of looking at an important business relationship still prevails. Make a list that includes expertise, operational capabilities, capacity, financial stability, service reputation, and cultural compatibility. Our personal list also includes a firm handshake, good eye contact and people you know by name who'll help with the small things, but also meet you on-site if you're ever in a serious jam.
If nothing else, the upheaval of the past few years has shown us all the value of being able to accommodate business interruptions. Looking forward, the odds of dealing with other unexpected events–whatever form they take–are also inevitable. Having the right measures in place to manage the technology portion of your response can make all the difference. If you're not where you're want to be yet, you're not alone. We're here to help take the cost, complexity, and chaos out of the process of getting there.
We look forward to continuing to guide and support each of our clients for the next quarter century.