Great Plains Communications Residential Blog

Keeping Your Family Connected

Tag: B2B

Business Appreciation – Red Willow County Courthouse

Great Plains Communications is proud to highlight another one of our business customers, Red Willow County Courthouse in McCook, NE.

The process began in 2014, when Red Willow County Courthouse completed the construction of its new Law Enforcement Center and jail in McCook and was looking into updating its more than 25-year-old phone system. Explains McNutt, “We initially had someone put in a different phone system, but it worked poorly and caused lots of frustration. We then made the decision to put our project out for bids, and included not only the phone system but our other communications services as well.”

He continues, “We received several bids including one from Great Plains Communications. I met multiple times with Philip Jensen and others from Great Plains Communications, as did our Commissioners, Head of Maintenance and all department heads. Great Plains Communications clearly did their research to determine our needs. I liked their approach and their willingness to make sure our needs would be met. We gave our business to Great Plains Communications — phone, Internet and TV — and have been customers for about a year.”

Great Plains Communications Installs Fiber and More

Philip Jensen is Sales Manager of Business Accounts at Great Plains Communications. He notes, “The first thing we needed to do was install fiber optic cable to the Red Willow County Courthouse. We also utilized as much existing cable and wiring in the Courthouse and Sheriff’s Department as we could, combining it with the new fiber optic cable. This allowed greater flexibility for their communications services, and helped prepare Red Willow County Courthouse and other county buildings for many years to come.”

For phone services, the Business Solutions department of Great Plains Communications installed a Panasonic NS700 Hybrid analog and digital IP PBX. All of the Red Willow County Courthouse phone lines were combined into one PRI (Primary Rate Interface) connection, which saved money. PRI also allowed for Caller ID service to every phone in the Courthouse and Sheriff’s Department, which they previously did not have on all phones.

Two Internet access connections are set up — one for the Red Willow County Courthouse and one for the Sheriff’s Department. The Sheriff needed a separate connection and more bandwidth in order to efficiently upload and download footage from cameras and conduct training. Inside the Courthouse, Great Plains Communications combined all connections into one, therefore providing more bandwidth with only one connection to maintain.

Jensen recalls, “We installed the phone system on Presidents’ Day 2015, since the Courthouse was closed that day and installation could be done with minimal downtime. Our PBX person did training by phone for County employees before the phone conversion to get them up to speed. Technicians from Great Plains Communications also stuck around another week to make sure everything was working well.”

Better, Faster Connections

McNutt is pleased with the upgrades to their phone and Internet services. “Great Plains Communications connected our Law Enforcement Center and Jail to the Red Willow County Courthouse. For the sake of efficiency, we really wanted those two facilities tied together in our communications stream. We’re also benefitting from much faster Internet speeds and clearer sound quality with our phone calls,” McNutt says.

He adds, “It’s not just me. Everybody is so enthusiastic about the people from Great Plains Communications. They’ve bent over backwards to accommodate our needs. They get right on it if we have questions or issues, and if they don’t have the answers immediately, they’ll find out and get right back to me. I can’t say enough about how courteous and easy to work with they are. I also appreciate having one designated person at Great Plains Communications who takes care of our account, so there’s just one phone call to make. We’re out here in rural Nebraska, and we’re still getting advanced services and great customer support.”

Ready for the Future

What’s ahead for the Red Willow County Courthouse? McNutt replies, “We don’t have any major technology upgrades planned for 2017. However, we will be working on getting additional facilities tied into our network. And now that we have the infrastructure in place, we may look at using new applications such as video conferencing for the Courthouse.” Jensen sums it up this way: “Thanks to fiber, they’re pretty well ‘future proofed’ as far as communications.”

Business Appreciation – Strategic Air & Space Museum

Great Plains Communications is proud to highlight another one of our business customers, The Strategic Air & Space Museum in Ashland, NE.

The Strategic Air & Space Museum is a 330,000-square-foot facility near Exit 426 on Interstate 80 next to Mahoney State Park, approximately midway between Lincoln and Omaha. A Smithsonian Affiliate, the Museum welcomes over 110,000 visitors annually and is considered one of the premier air and space museums in the United States. Its mission: “To ignite the thrill of innovation and discovery through the ultimate guest experience.”

Visitors can take a close look at about 40 aircraft and spacecraft that span 70 years of aviation history, mostly from the Cold War era. The Strategic Air & Space Museum includes two indoor exhibition hangars, an indoor restoration hangar, museum store, curatorial offices and storage, atrium, two education classrooms, a science demonstration room, theater with seating for 180, conference room, library, restaurant and administration offices. The Museum features a children’s science zone and is committed to the development of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) educational programs. It’s a recognized leader in informal out-of-the-classroom STEM education for the region.

The Need for Speed

Given the many online activities of visitors and employees, the Museum needs fast, reliable Internet service. Unfortunately, the previous communications provider failed to deliver. Deb Hermann, Director of Marketing & Public Relations, notes, “We only had 6 Mbps speed throughout the Strategic Air & Space Museum, which did not accommodate large events or rentals when many mobile devices were in use. Connectivity issues also caused problems with our cash registers in admissions and the museum store when we needed to execute credit card transactions, and our employees would often experience slow speeds which reduced their productivity.” To find a communications provider able to meet the Museum’s Internet requirements, the Museum initiated an RFP (Request for Proposal) process. Great Plains Communications won this RFP due to factors including quality, customer service and price. Jeff Mason, Network Account Manager for Great Plains Communications, says, “We welcomed the Strategic Air & Space Museum as a new customer in July 2015. Great Plains Communications now provides the Museum with 100 Mbps symmetrical Dedicated Internet Access — a huge upgrade from the 6 Mbps service from the previous provider.”

Boring Under the Interstate

Extensive underground construction was needed to connect the Museum with the Great Plains Communications fiber network. Explains Bob Marksmeier, OSP Field Engineer, “Start to finish, the project took us roughly two weeks, which was an accelerated pace to meet the Museum’s deadline. The most challenging part was making a 1,000-foot bore underneath Interstate 80 through limestone and sandstone rock, which is not an easy task.” Dr. Mike McGinnis, Brig. Gen. (Ret), is Executive Director of the Strategic Air & Space Museum. He greatly appreciates the construction work done by Great Plains Communications and the benefits the new Internet service brings to the Museum.

A Successful Partnership Takes Flight

Says McGinnis, “As a result of Great Plains Communications’ Dedicated Internet Access, employees of the Strategic Air & Space Museum are now able to work more efficiently and effectively. In addition, our guests have much better Wi-Fi connectivity, which greatly improves their experience while visiting the Museum. The increased speed and improved performance of our Internet service will also enable us to successfully host more large events, with assurance that attendees will be able to stay connected on their mobile devices.” In a place filled with aircraft and spacecraft, fast speeds seem right at home.

Business Appreciation – Paulman Farms

Great Plains Communications is proud to highlight another one of our business customers, Paulman Farms out of Sutherland, NE.

Paulman Farms is located in Sutherland in southwestern Nebraska, where Roric Paulman, his wife Deb and their son Zachary, farm nearly 5,000 acres. About 85 percent of the land is irrigated, and the annual cropping rotations include corn, popcorn, dry edible beans, soybeans, winter wheat and sugar beets. In its 40-year history, this family farm has weathered its share of storms, yet an innovative spirit keeps everything growing.

Farm Crisis and Family Crisis

Clearly the most difficult period for Paulman Farms occurred in the 1980s during the farm crisis, when thousands of families lost their farms because of low prices and overwhelming debt. Roric Paulman’s father had encouraged him to get career experience off the farm before joining the operation, which is why Roric and Deb Paulman were working in Omaha in 1985 when Roric’s father called and asked him to come back. Six months later, his father died. The 27-year-old and his wife faced a daunting list of challenges, including bankruptcy, at Paulman Farms that year. But they didn’t do it alone. They took a collaborative approach, assembling a team of advisors including an attorney, accountant and bankers, as well as meeting with the farm’s original landowners for support. While equipment had to be sold and land turned over to Farm Credit, Paulman Farms managed to begin a new chapter in what would ultimately become a tremendous success story. Today, the family owns all of the land it lost in the 1980s, and Paulman Farms has grown to become a $10 million business named as a 2015 finalist for Top Producer of the Year.

Doing More With Technology

In addition to collaboration, the use of technology has enabled Paulman Farms to meet and overcome challenges. This currently includes irrigation water and soil monitoring tools, precision farming equipment and new seed technologies. Roric Paulman notes, “Paulman Farms is a large farming operation, spread over a radius of approximately 26 miles. The low unemployment rate in Nebraska makes it difficult to find enough qualified people to work for us. So part of the answer is to use larger equipment and more technology to increase how much can be done with fewer people. We take advantage of technology such as cloud-based services and remote monitoring that sends alerts when something needs attention. We’re currently working on a system for real-time harvest, which instantly knows the inventory, yields and moisture content. Before using this system, data like this would only be available to us later. It’s a huge deal.”

Fiber Speeds Up Internet Connection

To take advantage of technology for improved cost-effectiveness and productivity, Paulman Farms needs substantial Internet service, which it gets from Great Plains Communications along with phone lines. “We recently upgraded to fiber for our Internet connection at Paulman Farms. We contracted with Great Plains Communications to put fiber in our area; they did the trenching and installation. This work was completed in 2015, and now with fiber, we get 20 Mbps/20 Mbps Internet speeds. Before fiber was installed, we were only able to get 8.5 Mbps/.6 Mbps. Besides being much faster, the fiber-based Internet from Great Plains Communications is also more reliable,” says Paulman. He adds, “We are generating tons of site-specific data in our farming operation, and the data piece is key to making better decisions. The other thing that’s important is maintaining efficient communication with our employees, agronomists, seed corn people and others. Our phone and Internet services from Great Plains Communications help make it all possible.” What does Paulman Farms appreciate most about Great Plains Communications? Paulman replies, “Great Plains Communications still has a live body in our community, which is not true of other communications providers. As a result, the customer service we receive is better; it’s top notch. What’s more, Great Plains Communications has the pulse of this community, and they contribute to making it better.

I appreciate the fact that Great Plains Communications helps businesses in rural areas get the technology they need not just to survive, but to thrive and grow.” It’s a philosophy that’s echoed in words Roric Paulman lives by: “If you want your community and your state to be a better place, you have to give your time to make it happen.”

COMPTEL PLUS Business Expo 2015

COMPTEL PLUS is produced by COMPTEL, the leading industry association representing competitive communications service providers and their supplier partners. COMPTEL members are entrepreneurial companies driving technological innovation and creating economic growth through competitive voice, video, and data offerings, as well as the development and deployment of next-generation IP-based networks and advanced services utilizing fiber, copper and wireless facilities.

The conference is held twice a year, providing attendees the opportunity to network and learn about the latest industry trends and products. In 2013, COMPTEL PLUS brought in over 180 exhibitors and just over 3,800 attendees. This year will be the first time Great Plains Communications makes the trip to Comptel being held in Orlando, Florida, April 12-15.

Three of the keynote speakers for this year’s conference are listed below.

  • Senator Bill Nelson, Ranking Democrat on Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. Nelson will be speaking on the outlook for the 114th Congress, as well as an array of communications-related issues.
  • Milo Medin, Vice President, Access Services, Google, Inc. Medin will be discussing the “Agenda for Broadband Abundance.”
  • Dow Draper, President, Spring Wholesale & Prepaid Services. Draper will present up and coming goals and visions for Sprint, while also touching on new products that are expected to “transform wireless communications.”

For more information on what to expect this year at the COMPTEL PLUS Business Expo 2015, check out their website at www.comptelplus.org. If you find yourself in the area, or plan to represent your own company in Orlando next week, be sure to stop by booth #218 and say hi to Great Plains Communications. We’re excited to see you there!

JL Enterprises Testimonial

We’re proud to be partners with many businesses across the state of Nebraska. Check out more testimonials on our YouTube channel at GreatPlainsComm

Don’t lose your business to lost files

It can be shocking how much data goes along with owning and operating a small business. Between accounting documents, contracts with vendors, customer receipts, human resources and so much more, you’re looking at hundreds of files. These files range from simply annoying to recreate to devastatingly irreplaceable should they ever be lost or damaged.

With viruses, hard drive failure, theft and more potentially putting your computer at risk, it’s important to make sure that your valuable files are securely backed up. Since external hard drives are susceptible to the same dangers as your computer, we recommend using an on-line backup system.

Fortunately, there are companies who understand the value of your business and all of the files that go along with it. Let’s explore a few options for backing up your files:

  • Dropbox – This online portal provides you 2GB storage for free with increasing amounts of storage available for a price. You can then access your account anywhere in the world, even from your mobile phone! Or you can use the site as a simple backup site. The only drawback is that dropbox doesn’t offer automatic backup, you literally have to “drop” files into your account.

 

  • Carbonite – This site does provide automatic updates so that you don’t have to worry about a sudden crash taking away your most recent documents. You also enjoy unlimited data storage for about $10 a month with the company’s small business plan. However Dropbox and Carbonite both stop at storage. If you wanted to keep your computer safe from further risk or enjoy 24/7 support, you need to try…

 

  • Online Backup – Online Backup provides unlimited computer installation, 50GB of storage space, 24/7 technical support and automatic backup for half the price of Carbonite. For the same monthly price as Carbonite, you can get everything mentioned above plus virus protection, 24/7 live tech support and the program will even scan for and run all of your Window’s updates!

No matter how you choose to protect your work files, the important thing is that you back them up! The hours of lost productivity, sales, income and possibly even your reputation isn’t worth putting it off.
Do you have a favorite backup program? Let us know in the comments section below.

It’s all about the data

So you read our post on why your small business needs a website (right?) and your company now has on-line presence.  So, it’s time to take the next step and figure out just how your customers are using your website and what you can do to make it even more likely to drive sales, which is the reason you started the site in the first place, right?

That’s where analytics comes in.  Analytics is the scary-sounding new buzzword being thrown around all over the business world but it really just refers to all of the data that is collected about visitors to your site.  This data can provide a wealth of information that can help you provide better services to your customers.

When you have a strong data gathering program you can discover a wealth of information.  For example, you can find out what city they live in, which can let you know where to invest your advertising dollars. It can also let you know what pages are being visited most, which may let you know where to put the most important information and promotions.

E-commerce sites can also track what items are being purchased and also what items are being viewed but passed over.  This data is especially important for companies who conduct actual sales through their website but it can also help businesses who prefer to make sales offline.

While installing tracking software that will collect this data can require knowledge of web coding, it doesn’t have to be that hard.  Here at Great Plains Communications, we offer a full analytics package for every website we host.

Want to find out more about what analytics can do for you?  Ask a question in the comments section or check out our web hosting experts at http://www.gpcom.com/business/web-hosting-and-design.

Don’t Fear the Blue Screen of Death

Things associated with computer failure tend to have ominous names (my personal favorite is the “blue screen of death”) and it’s no surprise why.  When your computer fails, it can be a heart-stopping experience.

While a complete computer meltdown is the worst case scenario, even smaller performance issues can wreak havoc on your productivity.  A slow computer, one that is constantly displaying error messages or that always seems to freeze at the most inopportune times, means hours of lost time and frustration.  If said computer is part of your payment processing system, then you may also be dealing with customers who become frustrated with slow processing.

You may be surprised to find out that Great Plains Communications can help with these problems.  That’s right; we have skilled computer technicians who can help get your computer back in perfect working order.  What’s even better is that we can perform most fixes online so you don’t have to ship your computer and wait for weeks to get it back.  That’s service most manufacturers won’t even attempt.

With so many features included in our computer repair services, it’s impossible to list them all here.  For more information, visit http://www.gpcom.com/residential/internet/online-pc-support.

And remember, if you have any questions, feel free to leave us a comment.

Welcome to the Small Business Series

There’s a reason why small businesses are called the backbone of our country.  According to the Department of Labor, small businesses account for 97% of all employment and 51% of sales in America.

As a statewide company that started as in one city, we understand the challenges of owning and operating a small business.  Making sure that you’re spending money in the right areas and, even more importantly, not spending in the wrong ones are constant considerations.

Our small business blog series will be aimed at helping your business thrive by finding the right mix of products and marketing efforts with an emphasis on the rural small business experience.  We’ll also focus on ways to save money including how to reduce operating costs and target your promotions.

We want this series to be highly useful for our business customers so if there’s a topic you want us to write about, let us know in the comments section below.