John Hodson had been on the job for less than three months when the unthinkable happened. With the pandemic grinding the Western United States to a standstill, the new head of IT for Cheetah, a wholesale food supplier in the Bay Area, had to lay off staff and relinquish the company’s managed IT services.

“The restaurant industry basically shut down,” says Hodson. “We went from explosive business growth to extreme contraction in a matter of days.”

As senior executives formulated new business-to-consumer and non-profit concepts to help the company stay afloat, Hodson had to find ways to revamp Cheetah’s IT model and cost structure – without a staff, budget, or the assistance of a managed services provider (MSP). And because the company was no longer protected by a third-party firm, time wasn’t on his side.

“I knew if I didn’t protect the business, we’d be done,” Hodson recalls. “There’s no way we would have been able to make it through a malware or ransomware attack in addition to all of the other challenges.”

No budget, no staff, no time…no problem

Hodson contacted Port53 Technologies, which helps small businesses leverage enterprise-grade, cloud-delivered, self-managed solutions. Port53 suggested Cisco Umbrella and Cisco SecureX to simplify Cheetah’s IT operations and protect its users and data. And because cash flow was an issue, Port53 also pointed Cheetah to Cisco Capital, which offers financing solutions tailored to small- and medium-sized businesses.

“We didn’t have a budget, but we had a need,” Hodson says. “Joshua at Port53 and the team at Cisco were amazing partners, and they helped us find creative ways to do something meaningful and compelling exactly when we needed it most.”

Slashing IT operating costs by $20,000 per month

With financing from Cisco Capital and guidance from Port53, Hodson quickly configured and deployed the solutions himself – while still supporting hundreds of users.

“It was remarkably easy,” he says, noting Cisco Umbrella was installed in a single afternoon. “It’s rare to have a deployment without any setbacks, but we’ve had zero problems.”

Although Hodson has far more visibility and control of Cheetah’s IT resources than he had when they were outsourced, he says the company’s new solution stack is largely hands-off.

“These are enterprise-grade technologies that are tailored for small businesses. They’re simplified but they don’t feel small or insufficient,” Hodson says. “And that’s important because we don’t have a service desk or team of systems administrators. It’s just me. Fortunately, I can see and manage everything with my mobile phone or tablet, so I’m not tethered to anything.”

Automating and integrating security

He’s also no longer concerned with security vulnerabilities, thanks to the combination of Cisco Umbrella, Cisco SecureX, and Cisco AMP for Endpoints.

“We have a lot of security challenges,” Hodson says, noting the company’s customer-facing application, cloud-based workloads, warehouse facilities, fleet of delivery vehicles, and distributed workforce. “But we’re very well protected now. All of our security solutions are integrated, they’re largely automated with the use of playbooks, and I can manage everything through a single pane of glass.”

Equally important are the cost savings Cheetah was able to achieve. By relinquishing its MSP and adopting a self-managed, SaaS-based IT model, the company is saving $20,000 every month.

“We have improved technology and better protection at a lower cost,” Hodson says. “This is truly a success story, and we’re in a position to rebuild our workforce and push our business forward because of these changes.”

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Andy Scholl

Marketing Manager- Small Business Segment

Small Business Marketing