Founded in 1827, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) is a not-for-profit organization serving over 16,000 members. With more than 100 employees, PHS provides events, activities and publications for novice gardeners, experienced horticulturists and flower lovers of all ages. PHS's award-winning Philadelphia Green program brings vibrant green spaces to Philadelphia's downtown area and neighborhoods. PHS also produces The Philadelphia Flower Show, the largest indoor flower show in the world.
As PHS has grown over the years, so too has its technology needs. Joe Robinson, PHS's network manager, not only has to manage the day-to-day IT systems for the society, but is also responsible for the backend technology infrastructure for the annual Flower Show. With approximately 3,500 volunteers helping run the event and approximately 265,000 visitors over the eight-day period, this can be a daunting task.
Robinson had outsourced his tech support in the past to an outside firm, but as PHS's IT challenges grew, he felt that it was outgrowing this service provider and was considering other options. In 2002, the firm was acquired by IT Solutions and Robinson decided to test the new firm's capabilities on a few projects. Within six months of working with IT Solutions, PHS had factored its new service provider into its expansion plans.
The first project was to address PHS's security issues. "We had been building onto our IT infrastructure with 'duct tape' and although it was fulfilling our needs, I was coming in at 4:00 a.m. to upgrade virus signatures," said Robinson. "We needed to cost-effectively automate our security function and better protect our users."
Before IT Solutions, the IT team had to go to each employee's desktop to do maintenance, upgrades, etc. PHS now manages its patching, upgrades, and routine troubleshooting utilizing remote and "push" technologies, enabling it to better protect its data and keep the network up and running.
IT Solutions also helped deploy a wireless solution, allowing PHS partners visiting its offices to access the Internet from its conference rooms, and at the same time ensuring the protection of PHS's network. An additional challenge was presented to PHS when the owner of Meadowbrook Farms willed his estate to PHS. IT Solutions installed a network at Meadowbrook to provide a reliable technology backbone.
Of all the IT challenges, the annual Flower Show is the most intense. Every year PHS moves into the Pennsylvania Convention Center for about three weeks for its Flower Show where it builds remote offices for its staff to handle the show operations. This requires the IT department to ensure that the staff has computers, printing and networking capabilities and access to their files during the event. It also requires a very sophisticated database to help calculate the sweepstakes of the Flower Show winners. With a fully-staffed application development department as part of its offering, IT Solutions was able to rewrite PHS's "Points Application" to provide a comprehensive database to calculate the points for the 3,000+ entries and provide details on the winners as well as provide online registration for the event.
Traditionally, employees would spend days preparing copies of their files to take down to the event. IT Solutions helped PHS provide remote access to their files back at the office - saving valuable time and adding to the success of the show.
"When working with IT Solutions, it was the first time I was given 'options'," commented Robinson. "IT Solutions understands our culture, gets the big picture and was willing to work with the option that best fit our needs."
Robinson is tech-savvy and knows what he wants to accomplish. "IT Solutions' team is a group of really good engineers in whom we have a lot of faith," said Robinson. "They listen to our needs, present various options and actually solve our challenges - helping me to accomplish my goals and eliminating the fear factor."
"IT Solutions listens to our needs, presents various options and actually solves our challenges."
Joe Robinson, Network Manager, Pennsylvania Horticultural Society