TekLinks provides technology services, network solutions, and support to organizations in a range of industries. Headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama, the company has eight other locations supporting 145 employees. TekLinks is a leading provider of IP telephony, network security, data storage, disaster recovery, and hosting services throughout Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, and the Gulf Coast. The company has forged close relationships with its clients, who rely on TekLinks for trusted advice, world-class service, and mission-critical IT support.
To maintain its trusted advisor status, TekLinks strives to expand and extend its service offerings to continue to meet the changing needs of its clients. The company has long been delivering cloud services, anticipating clients' desire for a scalable, cost-effective environment.
But managing disparate applications in a cloud environment can be daunting. TekLinks originally developed its own services management tool to provision new cloud clients and interact with the company's mail, DNS, and FTP servers. Later TekLinks opted to also use ExtendASP to support new services around Microsoft Hosted Exchange, Microsoft Internet Information Services, and a hosted version of Microsoft SharePoint Server. "We initially chose ExtendASP for its functionality and thought it was a platform we could grow on, but after a few years, we started experiencing a lot of support issues," recalls Ed McLain, Director of Cloud Architecture at TekLinks. "For instance, we had difficulties upgrading the system and adding new services."
Because TekLinks needed both its custom management tool and ExtendASP, administrators had to spend time maintaining two separate tools and clients had to log on to multiple systems to find information, diagnose problems, and conduct other routine tasks. As the limitations of ExtendASP became more prevalent, TekLinks decided to switch to a comprehensive services management solution. They sought one that would negate the need for custom development when applications were upgraded and that would provide a standardized mechanism for provisioning, general administration, and client self-service.
In late 2011, TekLinks reviewed several options for managing cloud services; some had unappealing licensing models, while others came from small startup vendors. And then there was Citrix CloudPortal Services Manager. "We saw CloudPortal Services Manager as an ideal solution for us," says McLain. "We were excited about its features and functionality, but we were also about to roll out Citrix hosted desktop services."
Through a series of reviews and tests, TekLinks proved to its satisfaction that CloudPortal Services Manager could provide staff the ability to handle just about any applications that the company wanted to offer its clients. "Our developers also confirmed that CloudPortal Services Manager would give us the extensibility we sought, enabling us to easily build additional modules by using its documented, published API," says McLain.
TekLinks has a goal is to use CloudPortal Services Manager as the single provisioning tool for all the services that the firm offers and plans to offer. "We're already impressed with CloudPortal Services Manager in the early stages—it's highly robust and intuitive," says McLain.
TekLinks finds the CloudPortal Services Manager "impersonate user" feature particularly helpful for troubleshooting and problem solving. "Our support staff can instantly see what the user is seeing when they call in for help," explains Andrew Graham, Managed Services Project Engineer at TekLinks. "This enables staff to quickly rule out user permission problems and identify what the caller is trying to communicate. Staff can resolve issues much faster this way, without having to resort to more cumbersome desktop-sharing means."
TekLinks and its reseller partners also activate the CloudPortal Services Manager self-service functionality for clients who want to give their end users the power to reset their own passwords, change settings, and conduct other similar tasks.
By establishing a more manageable cloud services environment, TekLinks increases both its reseller and client satisfaction, promotes IT staff efficiency, and fosters company growth. "We have a stable go-forward platform with CloudPortal Services Manager," says McLain. "It is vendor-supported and gives us a flexible foundation. With it, we can provide a single web-based portal for our clients, resellers, and internal employees for all of our products and services."
By using CloudPortal Services Manager, TekLinks can empower its implementation team with a point-and-click interface that makes it easier to provision new services for both clients and the company's resellers. "We've already seen that CloudPortal Services Manager excels as a provisioning tool because it simplifies the user data import process," says Graham. "We can provision accounts well in advance before the actual migration takes place. Previously, we had to do last-minute account provisioning to avoid routing troubles. Now we can balance the workload while ensuring prompt service to new clients."
Beyond provisioning, TekLinks has found CloudPortal Services Manager to be helpful in providing efficient, scalable customer care. "Between end users taking care of simpler needs themselves and our ability to simulate their onscreen experience, we and our resellers are easing the burden on support teams, achieving faster times to resolution, and generally creating more satisfied clients," says Scott Gulledge, Director of Client Care at TekLinks.
TekLinks no longer worries about application upgrades triggering the need for custom development, by standardizing its virtual desktops and delivery mechanisms to align with the roadmap for CloudPortal Services Manager, "Before, when crucial products like Microsoft Exchange Server were upgraded, we had to rewrite a lot of code," says McLain. "Now, when a new version rolls out, we know that Citrix will provide the updates to CloudPortal Services Manager to support the added features and functionality. Shifting to a management solution that Citrix supports saves us development time and lets us devote our resources to improving our products for our clients."
TekLinks clients not only benefit from improved customer service, but also from the centralized view into their own environments. "While some of our clients still prefer that we make changes or updates for them, many really like the ability to act on their own," says Gulledge. "That ability yields a lot of coaching moments for our staff and makes it easier to create working relationships that support the concept of being an empowered business partner—not just a group of engineers at a help desk fulfilling their requests."
The company's partner resellers have also embraced CloudPortal Services Manager. "It eases our support burden now that our partners and their customers can configure and change services through email and add aliases to accounts," says Graham. "We're enabling our partners to be more successful in the eyes of their customers because they're resolving issues faster."
TekLinks anticipates that its use of CloudPortal Services Manager will help achieve ambitious growth goals. "We would not be able to scale to where we want to go as a business without implementing CloudPortal Services Manager," says Gulledge.
"We're going to do more implementations this year than we've ever handled in the history of TekLinks," says McLain. "Right now, it takes several staff members a minimum of two days to provision a new TekVDI client; using CloudPortal Services Manager to automate components and minimize the number of resources involved, we should be able to complete the provisioning process in less than one day."
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Technology services, network solutions and support for range of vertical markets