ATHOL — TheSelectboard was brought up to date on work to upgrade the town’s information technology network during its meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 18. The town has contracted with Suzor IT of Orange to undertake the project.
The company’s founder, Adam Suzor, told the board that for several years before starting his own business, he had worked in IT in school districts and municipalities.
“It became pretty evident to me in the beginning that schools and towns and such, when it comes to technology and how quickly it changes, it’s really hard for them to keep up — especially as security becomes more advanced. We’re rolling out different types of technologies every year. It’s constantly changing and evolving.”
He said he ultimately decided to start his own company rather than working as an in-house employee.
“Today,” Suzor continued, “we support over 15,000 students, hundreds of municipal employees throughout Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Vermont. We’re hopefully signing our first New Hampshire contract in February.”
Suzor IT, he said, focuses on providing services solely to municipalities.
“The only thing we do is provide services to towns and schools — preferably rural towns and schools,” he said. “We’re trying to become experts in understanding the problems that these towns and schools face, because it is unique. You’re not a large city, where it’s easy to spin up a 25-person tech department. But just because you’re small, you’re not facing small tech issues.”
Suzor added that his firm puts together regional teams that are familiar with the area they will serve. As an example, he noted that Casey Chisholm, who will serve as Athol’s technical director, lives in Gardner and grew up in Ashburnham. He said the technicians who will provide support will also be from the region.
“They have access to project managers, security specialists, people with specialized skills to help them when — not if —a town, a school, faces a security problem or is rolling out a new network, which Athol will be doing. We have the specialized skills to make sure that stuff happens efficiently and effectively, but then we’re also able to provide that local level support to the town.
“So,” he continued, “what is that going to look like for your employees, for the team here in Athol? One of the most important parts to IT service is how customer-friendly is it?
“We have what we call our virtual office. Your team is going to be able to call or text us, they’ll also be a
ble to email us. We also have a website with live chat that people can go to to get help when they need it.”
On-site support, he told the board, will also be provided.
“Even if there’s no one with a tech issue,” said Suzor, “we’re going to send someone to the buildings here, and that’s kind of like their designated tech. For you guys, his name’s Tim; he comes here every Tuesday whether there’s an issue or not. If there’s an issue on Wednesday, he’s showing up Wednesday. But he’s here every Tuesday to build those relationships, talk to people, and hear about what’s going on with the technology within the town.”
Suzor said it’s important that town employees get to know the people servicing the town’s technology system and that they feel comfortable with the people who will be working with them.
He added that Town Manager Shaun Suhoski had reached out to him to bring Wi-Fi service to Town Hall and to assess the town’s email system. As a result, he explained, Wi-Fi has, in fact, been brought to the building, and Suzor IT has begun migrating documents and email to a platform called Office 365, which is Microsoft’s business suite for towns and businesses.
In response to a question from board member Mitch Grosky, Suzor said email and documents “are saved primarily to the cloud.”
“Someone can have a local copy, so if they don’t have internet, they can still access their files. But at the same time, if they lose their computer, they can still get to their files because they’re in the cloud.”WiFi upgrade
Suzor then added that a $75,000 grant from Community Compact will be used to upgrade Wi-Fi in all town buildings, switches, firewalls, and cross security. This will help provide an additional layer of protection to the system.
“I know that this is a fairly new area for the town to invest in,” said board Chair Rebecca Bialecki, “but we saw how important and how critical it was going to be. So, we’re really happy that you guys are here and local and available and the best at what you do.”
About two and a half years ago, someone hacked into the computer network of Athol’s Police Department, demanding first $50,000, then $30,000 to restore the system. Rather than pay the ransom, vital data was manually transferred from hard copies to the network server. Some records were irretrievably lost.
Greg Vine can be reached at email@example.com