Start-Up Prepares For Growth

Start-Up Prepares For Growth

Results #1
Solved network problems causing slow speeds and outages for in house and offsite development and business employees
Results #2
Saved $65K annually in SaaS storage fees
Results #3
Saved $8K per month in Amazon Web Services (AWS) costs
Results #4
CFO able to properly report on AWS dev, test and production environments
Results #5
Saved move costs associated with an urgent office re-location

A six year-old 130 employee B2C client was preparing to seek a Series D round. Existing investors and advisors noted that operational technology costs seemed excessive and there seemed to be numerous customer service and sales up-time problems. The CFO started the hunt for a VP of IT to find and solve the business technology expense and up-time issues. His problem was he didn’t know how to find a qualified person. In a inciteful move, he reached out to those same investors and asked if they could help.

One of them suggested he contact vCIO to ensure there were well defined expectations of the new role and help vet applicants. We set up a 60 minute meeting. In the first 30 minutes we were able to determine that the company did not need a VP level technology person. What the company required was a discovery audit of existing systems, solutions to problems, and implementation of those solutions.

An initial discovery was performed the first week. We were able to narrow the biggest pain points to four areas.

  • The IT infrastructure was causing downtime for everyone. It was especially painful for sales, customer service and development.
  • The monthly SaaS fees were exorbitant for the employee count.
  • The monthly Amazon Web Services (AWS) environment invoice was more than anyone could explain
  • Unexpected growth had caused an in planned increase in employee count and may require an urgent, and therefore VERY expensive move, to a new location.

The next two weeks were spent in discovery where we did high-level documentation of existing technologies, how each were used, and who used them. We used this information to determine our first efforts. .

  • Perform a full network audit and put together a plan to decrease network interruptions.
  • Consolidate the four existing file sharing services: Google Drive, Dropbox,, on-premise Windows file server.
  • Create a tagging system in AWS that allowed the CFO and CTO to see where the money was going.

The next three months constituted implementation and training on new systems and process. How did we solve?


Network Performance

As often happens in a start-up, anyone who knew how to plug-in a device had added network equipment. The higher-end network equipment was installed and configured by a recent graduate who was well intentioned but not experienced in the intricacies of networks. The big steps we took included:
Step #1
Firewalls: Negotiated with vendor to replace the two incorrectly sized firewalls.
Step #2
Fully utilized existing telecom: We found that one of the existing internet connections was not connected to anything. We brought into the network and added it for load-balancing and failover.
Step #3
Network Configuration: Configured existing network environment to prioritize voice, add redundancy, and solved internal + external DNS issues.

SaaS Expenses

As growth was occurring, each department was purchasing storage as they wanted. Each also thought their choice was being utilized by the entire company. That led to multiple storage providers and licensing for everyone at the company. After several user interviews, we found Google Drive was heavily used and already included in the company’s G-Suite purchase. It took a couple months but we consolidated everyone to Google Drive with only a few individual accounts remaining on other systems to solve for specific needs.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) Cost Control

The AWS environment contained development, QA, and production systems. Speed of development was priority so cost containment was not often considered. New AWS services were spun up and down as needed and the CFO only saw a growing monthly invoice on the company credit card. We sat with accounting and development to set out a tagging system that allowed the CFO so see AWS costs each month categorized by what mattered to the CFO and investors. If you’re interested in something similar, check out the AWS Tagging Strategies page for details.

Unplanned Move

While growth is great, it can have unexpected consequences. Earlier in the year, an increase in customer growth and the failure of an outsourced call center led the company bring sales and customer service in-house. The problem? Six months later there weren’t enough desks available and many of the developers were already working remote. An immediate and costly move was in the horizon.

We looked at why sales and customer service had to be on-site. Sales and Support were on Windows because the secondary phone systems only had a Windows client. No other Windows-only software was required. Within a week, we started a pilot of five Sales and five Customer Service people using Chromebooks. The pilot was a success using $350 Chromebooks. We negotiated an exit for the secondary phone system and discounts for the move to a new secondary phone system vendor that supported web-based communication. Additionally, we were able to remove the cost of the Windows servers.

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