Outside the Box I.T.—Offering IT Services at a Fraction of the Cost as an IT Department

Updated on June 28, 2013
Ken Cole
Ken Cole

Information technology (IT) is a key element to any organization’s success. While larger businesses and healthcare systems have the financial resources to employ a dedicated IT staff, many small businesses and independent consultants do not have the same luxury. Fortunately, the Pittsburgh region is home to several excellent independent IT companies that businesses can turn to for assistance on a long-term or per project basis.

Outside the Box IT is one such company. It offers information technology (IT) services to organizations in the Pittsburgh region to keep them connected, enhance productivity, and further their business potential—at much less the cost of a full-time IT department.

The company, formed in 1998 by Ken Cole, has offices in Monongahela and Bridgeville. Cole started as a Systems Administrator for a multi-million dollar packaging company. While he was there, Cole also started his current company and began supporting a few small businesses after hours. He was extremely successful with his business, and after his former employer was bought out and he downsized in 2010, Cole accepted a severance package and started Outside the Box I.T. business on a full time basis.

Cole was gracious enough to respond to our questions below about his growing enterprise and the IT field for our readers.

WPHN: Many of our readers are small business owners or manage a small medical practice. How can Outside the Box IT help these businesses? 

Ken: I feel that I am a perfect fit for any small business because I am a small business too and I face the same issues they do. I am able to come onboard and demonstrate the latest technology and processes. Often, my first initial visit presents solutions that were unknown to the client.

For example, I just picked up a new client and on my first visit I was able to save them over $600 per month by just reviewing their phone and Internet bills.

WPHN: What’s the benefit of outsourcing IT work to a company such as yours versus maintaining an IT staff? 

Ken: It really is a cut and dry answer once you see the cost savings. To employ a Systems Administrator full time would cost at least $65-$75k plus benefits per year (and a Sr. Sys Admin is even more). I can set up a business with one of my managed services plans and virtually give the same level of support for a fraction of the cost.

WPHN: What are some of the greatest IT challenges healthcare organizations are facing today? 

Ken: I would have to say security. With the advent of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) along with the need for ubiquitous access to company data, healthcare organization need to know that they still have control of their data while maintaining security.  I have a home health care company that I support that has its main office in the Pittsburgh area and five branch offices in Texas. They wanted a way to maintain control of their IT assets and functionality from their corporate office in Pennsylvania. We set them up with a remote access server here in PA that all of their employees access via remote connections. And we are able to give all of their offices top level support while never even stepping foot in Texas. Currently, I am in talks with them to move to the cloud to make their jobs and processes even better.

WPHN: What communication strategies do you use when explaining a new technology or process to clients? Are there effective ways to communicate new IT changes to gain buy-in and acceptance? 

Ken: The best way for me to communicate to a prospective client or a current client is with a live demo. Hands on is always the best way to convince someone how easy some of these products are. I like to tell people “just give it a try, you will wish you started using this years ago!”

WPHN: In your opinion, what is the most overrated and underrated technologies? 

Ken: I think the most overrated technology is Google Docs. Small businesses are attracted to it because it is free, but when they investigate further, they find that there is definitely a cost involved and a learning curve. Not to mention that 90% of businesses worldwide use Microsoft Office. The most underrated technology is Windows 8. People are so used to the typical graphical user interface (GUI) that dates back to 1995, that any are afraid to adapt to the new GUI. A good example is that my 6-year-old son uses Windows 8 and he knows almost instinctively how to navigate through it.

WPHN: What are some of your favorite tech applications/tools? 

Ken: Windows Intune is the foundation of my Managed Services. It gives me the ability to completely manage my clients PC’s and keep them up to date, secure, and running efficiently. It gives me early warning of any issues so I can take care of them without the end-user even knowing there was a problem. Not to mention I am able to install the latest Operating System at no cost to the client. I absolutely love it.

WPHN: Tell our readers about Office 365. We’ve heard that it’s a great email productivity software. What advantages does it offer over their current email software? 

Ken: Office 365 gives small businesses the same exact functionality that the large enterprises have been using for years at a fraction of the cost. I am able to give businesses as small as one person the ability to stay connected and updated with all their email, contacts, calendar, and business data the same way that PNC, Heinz, or any other large business does.

WPHN: More practices and healthcare organizations are moving their data into the cloud. What are some of the pros and cons they need to be aware of before making such a move? 

Ken: This points back to Office 365. Microsoft does not scan your data to improve their products and advertising like Google does. The last thing you want to worry about is your data security. You have to feel good about the products you choose and the IT firm you utilize to service them.

WPHN: Is there anything else our readers should know that I didn’t ask about? 

Ken: I pride myself and my company on actually caring about the people that hire me and their businesses. The best compliment that I receive on a continual basis is that I am always there when needed. I will always be available to help and resolve any problem that may arise.

For more information, visit www.otbit.com

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Daniel Casciato has his own business as a social media consultant, freelance copywriter, ghostwriter, and ghostblogger. The Pittsburgh native loves his Steelers, Penguins, and Pirates. Learn more at www.DanielCasciato.com.