Arizona Integrator Creates ‘Best Practice’ Home Networking Solutions
Former VIA member Cyber Technology Group in Scottsdale, Ariz., uses Access Networks as its networking foundation for 100 projects per year to establish fast turnaround time for deployment, reduce service calls and sell preventive maintenance agreements.
Jason Knott · February 1, 2017
Cyber Technology Group has never been shy about staying on the leading edge of the custom installation market. The company was among the first to recognize the need to expand into the line-voltage electrical business, create a “working showroom” to meet with its trade partners and end-user clients, and even be an original member of the now-defunct VIA International nationwide rollup experiment.
Lately, the company is on the forefront of the IT revolution as network specialists who deliver rock-solid home networks for clients using Access Networks as its vendor partner. The results have been reduced service calls and a much more efficient process to designing, assembling and deploying home networks for its clients, as well as the ability to sell service plans.
Depending on how you look at it, Cyber Technology Group is either 15 months old or 22 years old. As Cyber Sound & Security (it's previous name), the company had already been an established force in the local Phoenix-area market since 1995. Then, in 2013 it became of the founding members of VIA International. But when VIA collapsed in October 2015, the company had to reconstitute for legal reasons under its new name of Cyber Technology Group, which also includes its sister company Cyber Electric.
Today, the company has 42 employees in the Cyber Technology Group, many of whom have been with the company for 10 to 15 years, and another 35 staff members in Cyber Electric. The majority of the company’s business is new custom-built residential work through its network of builder relationships. Having said that, Cyber does a fair amount of retrofit work and stays attached to projects sometimes through second and third owners of the property. It also does light commercial work or “boutique commercial” as the team classifies it. In total, it is about 100 projects per year. The Cyber Electric branch of the business allows the company to not only provide a fully integrated system, but also act as the electrician on the job.
“We have always been a service-focused company, but our clients’ expectation of instant gratification and short response times has become even more magnified over the years,” explains Chris Easter, director of sales and marketing. He says the company receives calls from clients related to their iPhones, computers, satellite dish, Internet service, etc.
“They literally call us for anything technology related. They pretty much think anything with blinking lights is us. We are happy to help and have built our service team and company to support that level of engagement and detail.”
That service commitment is important, because Cyber realizes that while there are many customers who are still scared of technology, there are others that are highly informed.
“It is our responsibility to be good listeners and tailor the system to their needs and not what we think is cool or say, ‘For this type of house you really should…’ We don’t qualify clients based on zip code, or square footage,” he notes.
Standardizing a Home Network Spec
Just as client knowledge has evolved so have home networks themselves.
“With the rapid evolution of wireless standards we have been able to give our clients seamless coverage throughout a property,” says Mike Carnell, network service manager at Cyber. “Not too long ago clients had limited coverage inside and out of the home especially with some of the challenging building materials that are used like rammed earth, stone and metal. Now we are able to include even the most remote parts of a property including detached guest houses, pool/gazebo areas, and show-car garages on large projects. We are even doing a football-field-sized private equestrian center on an estate property right now.”
About four years ago, Cyber started working with Access Networks, initially using the Southern California-based supplier for simple fulfillment of components for home networks designed by the Cyber’s own design and engineering teams, as well as its project managers.
“A few years ago most of the networks consisted of pieced-together solutions using a variety of manufacturers,” recalls Carnell. “Many of the products were not really purpose-built or robust enough for what our industry needed. I think this is a challenge that many of us experienced and we needed to make a change for the better.”
Originally the specifications created by Cyber’s team did not vary widely from project to project, but still the company wanted to completely standardize its offering as much as possible. So, the team started working more closely with Access Networks to come up with a custom solution that works for the majority of its projects.
The company’s preferred system consists of a Cisco ASA router, Catalyst series switches, Ruckus Zone-Director and Access Points.
“All the hardware is built to the latest and greatest standards with room to grow in the future,” notes Carnell.
Easter adds, “As the demand on networks has increased exponentially over the past few years, it has become more and more essential for a rock-solid solution,” says Easter. “We tell clients that the network is the make-or-break factor of a system. While they don’t always see the value initially, we hold our ground and assure them that this is critical to their enjoyment of the overall system that we provide.”
Simple Questionnaire; Fast Turnaround; Service Plans
Today, Cyber presents a standardized networking solution to all its clients, which represented about new 100 projects in 2016. Part of the solution is the simplicity and efficiency to design the system. Access Networks has an intake questionnaire that the Cyber team simply fills out.
Easter explains: “Most of our work is new construction, so we start with construction plans and try to consider building materials, construction challenges and aesthetics. Nobody wants a WAP in the center of their Great Room. We determine wireless coverage demands including outdoor areas and other structures like guest houses. Then we work with Access Networks to arrive at the right solution. Once the project is ready, we rack all of the gear here at our office, and the final install team mounts all the access points throughout the house. Then we test, test, test. Turnaround time from Access Networks on these systems is no more than 10 days, which is usually never an issue with our construction/job cycle.
“We have made a solid commitment to implementing ‚ best practice’ network solutions as a company. So even if one of the custom solutions from Access Networks doesn’t fit a client’s budget or isn’t necessary for a given scope, we are still purchasing the product from them,” says Easter.
Carnell adds, “Now Access Networks provides us one direct source for all of our networking needs. We have a great working relationship and they have been a solid partner for us.”
There are additional benefits from the arrangement, including satisfied clients, fewer service calls going to the dedicated five-person service team, and the ability to sell service contracts.
“We believe that by leveraging engineered systems from Access Networks, we are reducing service calls by using higher-grade products that have been thoughtfully designed and deployed,” says Jonathan McNabb, client services manager at Cyber Technology Group. “This improves the overall client experience by delivering optimal coverage, speed and reliability on their network. It is hard to quantify how much it has reduced service calls by, but we are able to run a service department that acts as a profit center, rather than a cost center so that is a good sign.”
Using the networking hardware’s remote management capabilities, Cyber has developed multi-tier Preventative Maintenance Plans, according to McNabb. “We monitor and diagnose/resolve network and automation hardware issues remotely and reduce truck roll service calls. We utilize tools like ihiji and BlueBolt to interface with the Access Networks hardware. This extra level of service has been well received and the market has responded well to it.”
Overall, president Ben Lentz of Cyber Technology Group sums up the company’s relationship with Access Networks by saying, “At the end of the day, we are working our tails off to deliver the best experience our clients have ever had. That experience is dependent on the stability of their home network. With Access Networks we know that we have built the functions and features of a given project on a rock solid foundation. They are as committed to client happiness as we are; and that’s saying a lot!”
Jason has covered low-voltage electronics as an editor since 1990. He joined EH Publishing in 2000, and before that served as publisher and editor of Security Sales, a leading magazine for the security industry. He served as chairman of the Security Industry Association’s Education Committee from 2000-2004 and sat on the board of that association from 1998-2002. He is also a former board member of the Alarm Industry Research and Educational Foundation. He is currently a member of the CEDIA Education Action Team for Electronic Systems Business. Jason graduated from the University of Southern California. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Jason at firstname.lastname@example.org
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