Co-Authored by Alexandra Zagury
Vice President, Partner Managed Services and aaS Sales,
Global Partner Organization
Three not-for-profit (NFP) organizations based in Indianapolis — Partners in Housing, the John H. Boner Community Center, and the Englewood Community Development Corporation — provided Internet access to their low-income residents by teaming with IT consulting firm Trajectory, Cisco Managed Service Partner Catalyst Technology Group and Cisco. This is their story.
Internet access: A required utility
The three NFPs’ combined mission is to help their community by providing affordable housing and stimulating economic and comprehensive community development. As part of this service to their community, these NFPs bring historic buildings back to life as modern, low-income housing in the Near Eastside neighborhood of Indianapolis, Indiana.
One of the things the NFPs have learned through their work in the community is that Internet access — while a service many of us can take for granted — can be life changing for the families they serve. In fact, many now view the Internet as an essential utility, like electricity and water.
For children with minds full of curiosity, access to the Internet opens a world of information to explore, driven by their interests and passions. For parents, among many other things, Internet access provides the ability to apply for jobs and access online learning. And in the long-term, Internet access can help households get into careers that provide living wages that lead to financial stability, while being foundational in helping students of all ages succeed and thrive in school.
Therefore, the NFPs knew it was critical that they provide their low-income-housing residents Internet access, so they not only could meet the needs of their households, but also help the residents to feel more connected to their community. This need to be connected has been amplified by the pandemic, as we’ve come to rely more on the Internet to communicate with each other.
To get the funding needed to provide residents with Internet access, the NFPs worked with Matt Belsaas, CEO of Trajectory, and his team. Trajectory worked with the City of Indianapolis on an RFP that enabled affordable housing providers within Indianapolis and the surrounding county to apply for and receive the capital funds needed to install Internet services in their buildings. Trajectory convinced the grant providers that Internet access is — “like oxygen”— essential to residents.
Adding outsourced IT expertise to the team
A major concern of the NFPs was that if residents were left to acquire Internet access on their own, they would likely either not get the service ordered or would struggle over time to keep it working. And then there’s the challenge of security. Even the most tech savvy of us can struggle with how best to keep our homes safe from cyberattacks.
Therefore, once the NFPs attained funding to provide Internet access, they turned their attention to finding the right partner to team up with — one that could help translate funding into deployed, 24×7 managed secure Internet access. The NFPs knew they needed help from IT professionals with deep technical knowledge in providing such services balanced with an understanding of the importance of total cost of ownership. So, they called in the Catalyst Technology Group (Catalyst), a Cisco Managed Service Provider for assistance.
A solution with Cisco Meraki
Upon hearing the NFPs’ requirements, Catalyst knew which product solution was needed: Cisco Meraki.
For one, Meraki enables remote management of the wireless and ethernet connections down to the port level to answer any support questions that might be asked by NFP residents. This level of efficiency is critical to lowering the overall cost of providing the Internet service to over 800 different apartment units located in 40 different apartment complexes. Bringing down the total cost of ownership was a critical factor in providing the managed Internet service at a cost that made everyone’s business model work.
Catalyst is also supported by Cisco. This means that the Catalyst team is comforted by the fact that they can contact the Cisco Technical Assistance Center at any time day or night to get questions answered.
In the end, Cisco provided a 10-year licensing and support contract for the Cisco Meraki components deployed for NFP residents. This long-term contract provides the combined Catalyst and Trajectory team with tremendous flexibility in putting together solutions that are enduring but can still be upgraded to fit future requirements. With market-leading Cisco security technologies in play, the team has peace of mind knowing it can deliver both reliable and secure Internet access to residents.
Delivering lasting value
Core to the NFP organizations’ combined value promise is that their residents feel like they belong to a community and that they know they belong and are loved and valued. Providing secure, reliable, and affordable Internet access is one way that Partners in Housing, the John H Boner Community Center, the Englewood Community Development Corporation, Trajectory, Catalyst and Cisco are working together to deliver on this promise.
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