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Security, Service Excellence Are Top Of Mind For Customers At Whalley Computer Associates' Foxwoods Conference

Steven Burke

The 1,000 customers converging on the Foxwoods casino in rural Ledyard, Conn., for the annual Whalley Computer Associates (WCA) technology conference on Thursday were more interested in beating back the barrage of cyber-security threats than beating the house at games of chance.

Thomas Guyer (pictured), director of information technology for the Clinton Health Access Initiative, a non-profit that has delivered HIV/Aids treatment in developing countries, was one of many customers at the show working with the national solution provider and top security vendors to stop hackers. He said security is absolutely "top of mind" for the Clinton Health Access Initiative, which supports 1,400 employees in over 30 countries.

Guyer, who has been at the last four WCA conferences, met with Carbon Black for end-point protection, Sophos for data encryption, and Barracuda for email protection and anti-spam. "We have a lot of standalone users, disconnected country offices with low bandwidth," he said. "These are high-theft environments, so we have got to make sure our data is secure."

[Related: The Most Innovative Security Products Of 2017]

Guyer said he is currently looking at expanding encryption capabilities with Sophos and upgrading to Carbon Black for end-point security. "Security is huge given all the reporting requirements," he said. "With reporting requirements, we need to make sure our laptops are encrypted and if they are lost or stolen the data is still safe and secure. We work around the world."

WCA, No, 225 on the CRN 2017 Solution Provider 500, has built the show over the last several years into the largest technology conference in the Northeast with 1,259 people and 63 manufacturers attending the conference this year.

Guyer says Whalley Computer Associates' customer service and responsiveness separates the company from the rest of the solution provider pack."I can pick up the phone and call one of their engineers at 10 pm on a Sunday night and they'll pick up a phone and resolve the issue," said Guyer. "That is huge. We just don't see that from others. We are a global organization. It is 24/7 for us. When I have that problem, I need to be able to pick up the phone and get the problem resolved. That customer service and responsiveness is Whalley's big differentiator."

That best-in-class customer service has proved to be a key differentiator time and time again, said Guyer. "That is the main reason we work with WCA," he said. "It is customer service and responsiveness. That is what we have to have and Whalley delivers."

Several years ago, a top Clinton Health Access Initaitive's laptop failed on a Thursday night and WCA shipped out a system that night so it was available the next day. WCA also fixed an Exchange outage on a July 4 holiday for the organization.

Guyer said Clinton Health Access Initiative worked with WCA for seven years and he has never had a project fail. Among the projects the organization has completed with WCA are SAN implementations and implementations of Exchange, VMware and Veeam.

Among the 63 manufacturers showing off their wares at the show were top security vendors including Carbon Black end-point protection, Sophos encryption, Barracuda security solutions, Faronics Technologies' layered security, Unitrends ransomware defender, Preempt adapt threat prevention, Mimecast email security, and PC Matic's innovative white listing end-point protection.

PC Matic founder and CEO Rob Cheng says security is the number one issue for any and all customers. He said ransomware is now a big business.

"Security breaches are in the news everyday," he said. "Everyone is in fear of losing their job because their systems got infected. There is a big blame game. Someone is always getting fired for these breaches."

Cheng said the key to stopping the barrage of breaches is to stop malware at endpoints and unauthorized access to the network. "Those are the two key issues," he said. "Right now we have PC Matic Pro, which solves the end point problem and we are working on stopping the unauthorized access to networks "

Glenn Clark, associate vice president and CIO of information technology for Salve Regina University, Newport, R.I., said security is "top of mind in everything we do.""Working in the [education] sector, we are one of the most attacked vectors in the world," he said noting that security monitoring is a crucial issue for the university. "For us security is always number one, but we have to balance that against functionality. We can't lock the doors. We have to leave the doors open and still secure it."

Clark, who has worked with WCA for the last six years, said he values the strong working relationship with WCA.

WCA, in fact, stepped in to help Salve Regina when another partner that was assisting the university with security solutions discontinued their services. "We reached out to Whalley and they were able to help us solve the problem immediately," he said. "Whalley stepped right in. It was pretty dicey. Our perimeter security is very important. Whalley was able to immediately come in, pick things up and keep things running so we didn’t have any interruptions in service."

Services is the number one reason that WCA is critical to the university,' said Clark. "We have a small staff, a big campus and we need staff augmentation a lot of times. We are here to talk about what kind of other services we might be able to engage with through Whalley."

Clark said WCA's history as a family business that has continued under the Whalley family distinguishes the company. "That culture of family is built into Whalley," he said. "They grew up working together in the technology business."

Paul Fontaine, associate vice president and chief information officer for Providence College, Providence R.I., said WCA offers "concierge" style services that distinguish them from competitors.
"They are large, but they are small enough to still offer that concierge service," he said. "We have had vendor partners that have grown through the years and they end up losing that personal touch that Whalley still offers. The last thing I want to do when I bring someone on campus to respond to an event is re-teach them our environment. Whalley has a very personal touch. It's family oriented as opposed to talking to somebody in another state, another country. With Whalley we have someone that is local. They know us and we know them."

Fontaine applauded Whalley for recently helping needy students afford laptop computers through a special program. "Whalley worked with us to provide laptops at cost to needy students," he said.

Thomas Haley, IT director of network and server operations for Assumption College in Worcester, Mass., said WCA brings a breadth and depth of technical talent to help solve any and all technology issues. "They bring us a lot of technical talent," he said. "We have moved business to them because of the talent. It is the people and the service that is the difference."

Ken Reno, the information technology manager for Southern Maine Community College, South Portland, Maine, said the annual WCA Foxwoods Technology conference has become a "must attend event" for IT executives. "I love coming year after year in order to network with colleagues and vendors," he said. "It helps us stay up-to-date with what is going on in the industry."

Reno says WCA's top-notch technology talent puts them head and shoulders above competitors. "They are a great bunch of guys to work with," he said, noting WCA has provided the college with storage and server virtualization and recently a Nimble deployment. "Being as large as they are, they are one of the top players in the business. WCA has it all.They help us stay current with the technology."

WCA is stepping up security managed services in the wake of the countless breaches, said Kevin Russell, manager of managed services for WCA.

WCA has added KnowBe4 security education training services, which include training employees about how to avoid phishing attacks and not to click on potential ransomware. "What we do is go back to the people that clicked on the emails so we can educate them on what not to do," Russell said."It's rolled into our managed service offering. We are here to help protect our customers."

Russell said smaller companies have become bigger targets in the ransomware and cybersecurity threat war. "It's easier to get into the smaller companies than the bigger companies," he said.

Russell said at his previous employer he personally saw 30 to 40 companies pay the ransomware over the last several years and then move to bring in security and backup services. "Security is the number one issue right now," he said.

WCA President Paul Whalley credits his son Chris, vice president of business development for WCA, for the success of the annual tradeshow. "I am so proud of the job that Chris has done with the show," he said. "I ran the show for 26 years and the largest attendance we ever had was 250 people. Since he has taken over the show six years ago it has grown to 1,259 attendees this year. It is unbelievable what Chris and his team of just five have done."

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