The Growth of IT Led the Former Commercial Photographer to Develop His Computer Company Into a Multi-Faceted Firm With an Innovative Approach to IT Support
If it seems that Brent Whitfield’s got a great eye for spotting innovative approaches to all facets of the IT industry, there’s great precedent for that. The Founder and CEO of the Los Angeles, California based DCG Technical Solutions – one of Southern California’s premiere IT support and consulting firms – is a successful former commercial photographer whose Los Angeles based studio specialized in large format product and food photography.
While working huge advertising, promotional and collateral material accounts for companies like Neutrogena, Carnation, Libby’s, Princess Cruise Lines and Robinson-May department store, his lifelong, outsized passion for computers and technology led him to help develop and deploy studio management software, aimed at helping photographers and other creative people computerize their businesses.
Whitfield’s fascination for computers grew alongside his love of photography. While he was studying at the Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara, CA, he also studied mainframe computer programming at a local college. Proud of a computer industries career that began long before Windows and Apple were household words, he notes that his first major machine was the portable Kaypro 4.
With his first son, Arland, on the way, Whitfield made a powerful, entrepreneurial move into the world of computers full time, launching Dependable Computer Guys to address the growing market for reliable expertise in the L.A. area. This was the era of computer megastore chains – many of which notoriously offered substandard help with their products – and he found a niche working with small businesses of 10-150 employees.
Since this was the mid-90s, his focus was on computers, not networks, and while he became Novell certified in the industry within a year, DCG primarily sold hardware and software and set up and fixed them when they broke. Within a year, his wife Elizabeth joined as full partner. By 2003, he was “no hardware, 100% services,” and, with the increased speed of the Internet and growing need for IT services, the company by 2006-2007 was dedicated 100% to providing IT support to small business.
As the Whitfields’ turned away from the PC and towards the Internet and networks, the corporate name changed to DCG Technical Solutions, Inc. The company has since become a top provider of outsourced IT help for small to mid-size companies out of their greater Los Angeles location. DCG provides PrivateCLOUD, Internet server and application hosting out of their Los Angeles data center.
In April 2015, DCG was listed by MSPmentor as one of the 10 fastest growing managed service providers for 2014. DCGLA landed the number three spot in MSPmentor’s annual “Best Of” list. DCG also placed on MSPmentor’s annual global ranking of the world’s top 501 managed service providers of 2014. MSPmentor is a guide to managed services and a global destination for MSPs.
“Our whole reason for existing is because we help clients choose and deploy managed, proven technologies that achieve worry free, always ‘on’ IT infrastructure,” Whitfield says. Successful businesses work with us because we deliver on our promise to give them that infrastructure. The industry evolved with my vision of how I wanted the company to grow. Just as the concept of managed IT support was becoming popular, we were feeling the need to shift from clients calling us when things broke to the idea of creating a system to prevent such shutdowns. So the whole managed service concept, being proactive, not reactive, fit our philosophy.”
The Michigan native remembers that it was a tough transition for some customers who preferred the “when it breaks, we call” methodology. “As the dependency on the server and PC network for all areas of business became greater and the cost of any downtime due to malfunction became untenable, more of them saw the value of a service level agreement. Many of those ‘trunk slammer’ guys who do house calls are pretty good, but if they’re busy on another site and you have an emergency, they might not get to you. All it takes is getting burned one time for companies to realize the need for managed services.”
DCG’s ongoing purpose drives everything the company does as it serves a multitude of clients in various “verticals” (industries) throughout Southern California and beyond. It states: “DCG exists to contribute to the success of our clients’ small businesses by helping them Monitor, Manage & Optimize their mission critical information technologies.”
There are many elements that set DCG apart from its competitors, from Whitfield’s decision not to limit his clientele to a single vertical to various core trademark systems that he and his team have developed to create efficiencies in everything from monitoring, backups and hosting. According to Whitfield, however, the true foundation of DCG’s success is their core values – which apply, like the company’s best managed service practices, to the specific needs and objectives of firms in many different industries.
The first of these is, “We do it now!” That is, deliver expert and friendly help, fast. Aware that the primary source of value in our society is time, DCG’s staff shows clients they care by addressing their concerns right away, with a strong bias for action. The second Core Value is Service to the clients, above all else. DCG engineers and support staff never quit on or drop a client issue. They are dedicated to coming through with thoughtful, reliable and permanent solutions to IT problems. Through careful communications via email and phone, the support staff manages client timelines and service window expectations.
Another Core Value of major importance, technically borrowed from the Disney playbook, is “No Cynicism,” i.e. representing DCG with positive language and actions, especially when speaking to or about our clients. Finally, and perhaps most obvious, is their dedication to hard work and continuous improvement. DCG team members work hard to fill their service hours with ways to improve the services they deliver. Always looking with great vision towards the future and trying to stay ahead of the curve, Whitfield and his team acknowledge that 80% of the products they support today won’t even exist in five years – so they are focused on integrating new technologies at their client sites as they mature and become viable.
DCG provides more than a generic set of services that any IT company could provide. They have developed five branded and trademarked products that run these services. These include DCG Maintenance Care™, for weekly maintenance visits; St. Bernard Monitoring™, for remote network device monitoring, patching and optimization; Dependable SafeSTOR™, for premise and internet based backups; DCG PrivateCLOUD™ for web, mail and application hosting; and BlaskGUARD™, an internet security and content filter.
DCG Maintenance Care™ is a complete on and offsite solution for computer and IT support. It’s features include a regular weekly maintenance visit; two engineers assigned to each company; St. Bernard Monitoring of all critical network devices ($100-$450 value per month), and 24/7 monitoring of things like server disk space, CPU utilization, memory utilization, client side internet routers, modems, firewalls, Telco/ISP side internet routers, internet connections, etc.
All DCG clients are required to have all servers on the St. Bernard Managed Care service. This unique, network saving technology is the foundation behind DCG’s ability to monitor, alert and remotely manage critical network issues. St. Bernard is designed to remotely manage networks; identify problems before they occur; minimize network downtime; report on uptime/downtime/performance stats; and provide proactive vs. reactive IT support.
Dependable SafeSTOR™ is DCG’s server backup and disaster recovery solution, designed to provide on-site storage of a company’s backups, while sending an encrypted copy to DCG’s off site data centers outside the state of California. Unlike off site only backup services, which can take days to retrieve lost data, DSS is able to recover it quickly and completely via a local area network. Since the image of a company’s server backups are encrypted and replicated to the cloud, DCG can recover the data in the event of a natural disaster or theft at the client site. Because they bring up the servers in the DCG PrivateCLOUD, clients can rest assured that their businesses can recover from any calamity. The PrivateCLOUD allows clients to quit buying and managing services for many applications, while giving local and remote users high-speed reliable access 24/7.
Whitfield explains DCG’s fifth trademarked innovation BlaskGUARD™ as “a web content filter with two purposes. It provides security to the sites that subscribe to it, and keeps users from stumbling onto ‘phishing’ sites, ‘ransomware’ and tricking sites. The tool is worth having for this security alone because crafty hackers easily trick human beings. Anti-virus software doesn’t prevent that from happening, but BlaskGUARD™ does. It quarantines part of the Internet from ‘honey pot sites’ that often originate in Russia, China and the Ukraine.
“Another part of BlaskGUARD™ that many business owners love,” he adds, “is preventing employees from spending time on personal sites like Facebook, and listening during their workday to music and videos, which hog bandwidth and makes the internet slower. By helping business owners maintain control of how their people are using the internet, and providing stats on all of these personal visits, we help them eliminate wasted social time and increase daily productivity.”
One of the most unique aspects of DCG’s website is its page about Opportunity – inviting prospective team members to be “more than an employee. Be a trusted advisor to our clients.” For those looking for a position early in their career, DCG may be the place to discover skills and leadership qualities “you didn’t know you had.” Sections of the page also talk about the chance to work with cutting edge technologies and with an elite team of engineers and client service analysts that communicate openly and are committed to helping new hires reach their full potential.
“The two things I love best about my job,” Whitfield says, “are what I call ‘client facing’ and ‘employee facing.’ I enjoy helping small business owners, because after Human Resources, IT is probably the most important thing one can leverage to help them transcend the competition. And I absolutely love my employees. Right now we have a team of 12, and I truly get a kick out of helping them develop their skills and careers in this industry. We like to hire based on college and industry credentials, but we also hire based on aptitude, and enjoy promoting employees to senior positions as new hires build up their skill sets and understand our corporate culture.”
“Our clients know that technologies evolve and change, but having a trustworthy partner to respond quickly and make sense of it all is critical to the success of their operation,” says Whitfield. “That’s why forward thinking and agile small businesses who need to leverage IT to beat their competitors count on DCG. We love to figure out what they’re going to need in three years and give it to them. That’s really the ‘secret sauce’ that drives our longevity.”