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10/12/2007
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All-You-Can-Eat IT Service

Sinu provides IT service and tech support to small businesses for a flat monthly fee, regardless of how much time is spent fixing technology problems.

Sinu provides IT service and tech support to small businesses for a flat monthly fee, regardless of how much time is spent fixing technology problems.The startup provides IT support services to companies with 10 to 200 employees. Its target market is organizations such as nonprofits and small businesses with technology needs that can't afford in-house IT.

It charges $125 per month per employee. In return, customers receive a package of IT services, including hosted Exchange, anti-spam, desktop AV, a managed firewall, and an appliance-based file server.

Also included is help desk support during regular business hours and a 24-hour call center. Sinu has designed its systems to be remotely manageable, but also can send a technician on site when necessary.

"If you're charging by the hour, it's hard to have an incentive to be proactive," says Larry Velez, founder and CTO. "We give our customers uptime and predictability of their budget."

Customers also use Sinu to consult about other technologies, such as VoIP and ERP. These consultations are included in the flat fee. "We bring our experience to our customers around business problems. That's what IT should be doing -- bringing value to the business."

LOW OVERHEAD Sinu, which was bootstrapped by its founders, has been profitable since its inception in 2004. Velez keeps costs down in a variety of ways. First, the company doesn't run its own data center. Instead, it aggregates services from providers, such as Postini (which was acquired by Google) for spam filtering. The company also partners with independent hosted Exchange providers.

The file-sharing appliance runs Linux and Samba, allowing for Windows file sharing at a very low price.

Sinu also keeps its employee costs low. Rather than maintain a large staff of technicians, it works with OnForce, which provides contract IT professionals across the country. Sinu uses OnForce to dispatch technicians to sites outside Sinu's New York City headquarters.

Contractors can be a gamble in terms of skill, and Sinu has requested certain contractors not be used on subsequent jobs. However, Velez says OnForce has a good feedback system to help control the quality of technicians. He also notes that contractors are primarily used to install systems, and that most support issues can be handled remotely by Sinu employees.

Sinu is looking at rolling out new services, including remote backup and mobile device management. "Our contracts are monthly, so our customers can fire us every month," says Velez. "We have incentive to add new services."

At present, Sinu operations are focused on the Northeast, including New York, Boston, and Washington, D.C. Velez says Sinu may expand nationally, but at present it's a regional player.

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