Technology Solutions

Get IT Together

Outsourcing technology systems allows companies to focus on their business.

Technology helps commercial real estate professionals to work faster, communicate better, and stay connected at all times. However, trying to figure out all the components of information technology is something that can take practitioners away from their daily business routines. Because of this, several commercial real estate companies have begun to out-source IT services, creating solutions that free up workers’ time so they can focus on the business of doing business.

When to Outsource

While some commercial real estate professionals may think their companies are too small to outsource IT, no company can afford to disappoint clients with issues such as e-mail service interruptions, computer virus infections, and unreliable access to key business support systems.

Managed IT service companies can evaluate brokerages’ technology needs and recommend the lowest cost solution for moving IT support outside the company. Most IT service companies will manage voice over Internet protocol, or VoIP, networks, e-mail and personal digital assistant servers, and business applications, as well as make recommendations for future business growth. Outsourcing does not mean moving tech functions to international locations, as there are local alternatives.

The following example highlights the outsourcing process for a 50-person commercial real estate company. By outsourcing, the company was able to turn technology into a strategic advantage, allowing its employees to focus on generating business for clients.

Starting the Process

Company X, which purchases and leases back automotive dealership properties, has more than $4 billion invested in more than 500 properties in 33 states. Originally the company had one dedicated IT person on staff, but clearly that was not enough support. Due to its rapid growth, the company’s infrastructure was breaking down on a regular basis, creating e-mail outages and disrupting Internet access. In addition, staff was unable to access critical property management, contract tracking, and accounting software that ran on the company’s servers. The company’s executives realized that they needed an IT assessment to determine how to improve the system.

Finding a Solution

Company X hired Alteritech to conduct an IT assessment, which uncovered several issues. IT improvements occurred in the following three phases to enhance Company X’s business efficiency.

Infrastructure Stabilization. The antiquated, inefficient IT structure was updated so that employees could expect better results from their phones, computers, and in-house applications. Because the network architecture was slow and did not support further growth, new network switches were added that increased speed and allowed for future expansion.

Since Company X’s e-mail servers constantly were running out of space and causing e-mail outages, improved server architecture was added to increase e-mail reliability to 100 percent.

Publicly traded Company X needed to comply with Sarbanes-Oxley regulations. New security, access controls, and computers-systems and hosting-facilities audits were added to ensure compliance.

Added Capabilities. For the second phase, Alteritech installed a Web server, BlackBerry server, and the newest version of the Microsoft Exchange server. It also replaced all employees’ laptops and workstations with more powerful, reliable hardware and standardized software. This helped to lower on-going maintenance costs and allow for more remote monitoring and support. Alteritech ordered and installed all of the equipment.

Based on the work in this phase, Company X decided to outsource its entire employee desktop and help-desk support to Alteritech. Employees with hardware or software problems could call directly and have issues immediately resolved.

Increased Capacity. In the project’s final phase, data-center capacity was increased, which included servers and storage. This gave Company X the ability to leverage new technological advances sooner than its competition. Alteritech also introduced server virtualization capabilities into the data center. This provided the ability to expand computer usage without buying servers for every new purpose or application.

Due to the volume of document storage, Company X installed an advanced storage area network as the most cost-effective way to add capacity across its network. This gave the company the ability to store more documents in a very cost-efficient manner.

Alteritech now serves as an outsourced chief information officer to advise Company X on its technology investments. It also assisted in the company’s data-center move by relocating and managing their telecommunications providers, Internet service providers, phone vendors, and cabling providers, as well as orchestrating the physical move of servers and hardware.

Outsourcing IT responsibilities gave Company X a better product with better service levels and enabled employees to focus on daily business activities rather than infrastructure issues.

Eric Nelson

Eric Nelson is the director of Alteritech, a managed services information technology company in McLean, Va. Contact him at (703) 600-2216 or enelson@alteritech.com. Results and Benefits To maintain the best service, Company X outsourced the following services: day-to-day monitoring and reliability; backup implementation; end-user help-desk support; IT storage, implementation, and ongoing management; management of all server patching and security updates; hardware replacement and upgrades; strategic IT planning and budgeting for future purchases and growth; integration of servers to maintain IT architecture; and Sarbanes-Oxley compliance check. Once the services were outsourced, Alteritech utilized the following technologies: Microsoft Windows Server 2003, a server operating system; VMware Server, a server virtualization platform; Microsoft Operations Manager 2004, a server and network management platform; EMC Clarion iSCSI SAN, a storage management platform; and Microsoft Exchange Server 2003, an e-mail application.

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