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HiTechnique predicts growth to rise with the cloud [Journal of Business (Spokane, WA)]
[November 06, 2012]

HiTechnique predicts growth to rise with the cloud [Journal of Business (Spokane, WA)]

(Journal of Business (Spokane, WA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) HiTechnique LLC, a Spokane information-technology services provider, says it has enjoyed strong growth in the 10 years it has been operating here, and it expects to continue expanding at a brisk pace.

HiTechnique serves small to medium-sized businesses at 100 locations, each of which has between 20 and 200 users, says Dan Shuler, the company's founder and president.

"We're a managed-services provider - or outsourced IT," Shuler says. "From the get-go, it was designed as a services company and not a wholesaler and retailer." HiTechnique's services include round-the-clock network monitoring, preventive maintenance, online data backup and recovery, spam and web-content filtering, and data-center hosting.

Most of HiTechnique's customers are based in Eastern Washington and North Idaho, although some of its outlying customers are based in Western Washington, Oregon, and Alaska. Its customers here include Gat-co Construction Inc., IT Lifeline, Spokane Symphony, and the Fox Theater. Other industries in which its customers are involved include retail sales, health care, banking, and professional services.

Outlying customers usually have branch offices here, Shuler says, adding that some customers have up to 20 locations that HiTechnique also services.

"We'll work into branches of a company and sometimes end up taking care of the headquarters," he says, adding that HiTechnique can manage remotely any IT network with an Internet connection.

The company augments IT departments for some of its customers, and it serves other customers that are too small to have their own dedicated IT department or personnel.

HiTechnique occupies 4,000 square feet of space on the second floor of the Rock Pointe III building, at 1330.N. Washington, having moved there from smaller quarters in 2007.

"We're using about 80 percent of the space," Shuler says. "We still have a little room to grow here." The company in 2010 brought a data center online in Spokane Valley, where it operates its own piece of the cloud.

"Our hosted services are run out of there," Shuler says.

HiTechnique has 10 full-time employees, including Dan Sphuler's wife, Cathy Shuler, the company's bookkeeper, and is looking to hire two additional employees. The company also works with six independent contractors with specialized skills.

Shuler says it can be a challenge to find the right employee.

"We're always customer-facing," he says. "Employees have to have technical skills such as Cisco and Microsoft system engineering and administration." They also must have soft skills to be able to work directly with customers and as part of a team, he says.

"We're careful to find the right fit. One of our biggest assets is our team," Shuler says: "We like to keep people long term. Some have been with the company since the start." Shuler founded HiTechnique in 2002 with four employees and 20 customers when he bought the IT division of a Spokane company he declines to name. He asserts that starting HiTechnique fully as a services company gave it a jumpstart over IT product vendors that have had to adapt to the service model to survive.

"A lot of IT companies were selling specific solutions," he says. "I wanted a company to focus on providing services as opposed to being a hardware and software vendor." Shuler declines to disclose HiTechique's revenues, but says they've grown at an average annual rate of 15 percent, and the company hasn't had a single unprofitable quarter.

"The majority of our growth is from referrals," Shuler says. "You put together a good team and deliver good services and customers will find you." Several customers have been with HiTechnique since its inception, he says, adding, "We're looking for customers for the long term." The company's business model aims to maintain growth at a steady rate, even though it possibly could grow faster due to the potential of budding technology, such as cloud computing services, Shuler claims.

"We have to grow at a rate that doesn't affect services to customers," he says. "I think 15 percent is a doable pace." The nature of HiTechnique's services has helped it thrive during economic downturns, he says.

In a down market, businesses tend to delay implementing new technology, Shuler says. "There's more service work to do, taking care of older things." Companies also cut costs during a down market by outsourcing services. "We tend to see new opportunities in a down market," he says.

HiTechnique also is ready to help companies switch gears as the economy improves, Shuler asserts.

When business rebounds, companies invest in new technology, he says, "and their IT project needs grow." Shuler says about 20 percent of a company's IT needs are unique to that business, so it's important for HiTechnique's employees to maintain close relationships with customers.

"We take a consultative approach," Shuler says. "We come to understand their business plan and goals and how IT can play in and help meet their business needs." All of HiTechnique's services are sold by monthly subscription and are customized, with customers paying between $500 and $8,000 a month depending on services needed. Shuler likens HiTechnique's IT services selection to a pizza, and customers buy the slices that they want.

The IT industry is evolving constantly, he says. A decade ago, the focus was on traditional, internal IT systems, but more recently, demand has grown for cloud services on one end of the IT spectrum and server virtualization on the other, he says.

Cloud services are hosted off site and can reduce users' needs for on-premise hardware, while server virtualization often is used to improve on-premise network performance.

Cloud services started with hosted applications such as email, and the field has grown to include online backup, cloud-backed disaster recovery, security offerings, and hosted infrastructure, Shuler says.

"We have developed a cloud strategy," he says. "The cloud is going to be the next big thing for a while. The marketplace is just starting to adapt to cloud services taking over much larger pieces of networks." HiTechnique evaluates services and advises companies when and for which services it's appropriate to step up to the cloud, Shuler says.

"For many, it doesn't make sense yet," he says.

The presumption is that off-site services are less expensive than on-premise systems, but that's not always the case, Shuler says. The majority of customers still rely on internal, or on-premise, IT systems, but many of those small and mid-sized businesses are moving toward sewer virtualization, he says.

Virtualization enables servers shared by computers and other devices within a network to spread some of the system workload to underused hardware.

Virtualization can make the heart of a network more robust and fault-tolerant, Shuler says. The technology originally was developed for large enterprises with massive mainframe computers, but virtualization is becoming more economical for small and midsized endeavors, he says.

"We're staying on top of that," Shuler says.

(c) 2012 Northwest Business Press Inc.

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