IVCA Feature: New Member Profile of 7 Layer Solutions, Inc.

IVCA Feature: New Member Profile of 7 Layer Solutions, Inc.

February 15, 2017

In the many ways that the Illinois Venture Capital Association expands and evolves, the advantage is always with the membership, both current and new, in the opportunity to network and benefit from all that the IVCA offers. The latest new member is 7 Layer Solutions Inc., a full service IT consulting firm with over 14 years in the Chicagoland area.

The following is a Q&A profile with 7 Layer Solutions, which explores the firm’s background and their expectations for interacting with the IVCA.

New Member: 7 Layer Solutions, Inc.

Representative: Bernie Barbaric, Vice President Data Services

IVCA: What is the background of 7 Layer Solutions?

7 Layer Solutions: 7 Layer Solutions Inc. [7 Layer] is a privately held full service IT consulting firm based in Schaumburg, Illinois, with over 14 years of operations in the Chicagoland area. In September of 2014 – as Integrated Communications Group, Inc. – we acquired a voice services firm called Inspired Communications, and changed our name to 7 Layer Solutions Inc., to reflect our expanded services portfolio. The previous ownership of these two firms makes up a majority of the current 7 Layer ownership group today.

7 Layer has three service divisions which are horizontally shared across all of our clients – Managed IT Services and On-Site Support, Application Development Services, and Voice Systems. We have 33 employees involved in all areas of data, application development and voice support services, and four employees involved in sales, marketing and administration support, plus our client base spans numerous industries including Financial, Manufacturing, Health Care, Government, Non-For-Profit and Retail.

IVCA: Your IT Outsourcing Services include Private Equity and other Financial Industries as clients. What are the challenges of IT in those types of businesses, and how does 7 Layer Solutions tackle those challenges?

7 Layer Solutions: Many of our clients have to comply with evolving Compliance Regulations such as HIPAA, FINRA/SEC, SOX, PCI and DSS. This is an increasingly difficult task in today’s decentralized and increasingly mobile work environment. 7 Layer’s approach to servicing our clients has not changed with the publication of compliance recommendations.  Quite a bit of overlap exists between good IT hygiene and the information that may be reviewed during an examination surrounding cyber security.

Topics such as perimeter security, data backup, disaster recovery and business continuity are all cornerstones for every 7 Layer Managed Service client. Knowing that data is properly backed up and protected, and business continuity plans are in place if there is a disaster situation, is what allows us to sleep at night.

IVCA: What is your approach to the particulars of compliance?

Our approach to compliance is simple...if it makes good business practice to implement an IT solution, we will make our recommendations. If it’s simply to ‘check a box’ to satisfy a potential compliance requirement, we’ll discuss the risks versus associated costs to implement the solution with our clients, and document our decisions accordingly.

While the technical side takes up the majority of our efforts, it’s the last five percent where 7 Layer shows even more value. We understand the high-touch environment that PE firms expect, and we develop strong, personal relationships with all employees in these firms. We recognize that business operations do not stop after 5pm, and if a problem happens after-hours, employees prefer to speak with their primary or secondary on-site IT engineer directly. Our business model is built for high-touch, personal support. We’ve been fortunate to have quite a bit of history and experience in the Private Equity space over the past 15 years, both at the firm level and with portfolio companies, and appreciate the relationships we’ve developed.

IVCA: What is the simplest explanation as to how Cloud Integration works, and what are some examples of where it exists today?

7 Layer Solutions: Cloud integration is the change from purchasing, hosting, and maintaining systems within a company’s own server room, to leveraging these same services from an external public or private Cloud provider. From a financial perspective, it is the shift from having large Cap-Ex every three to five years, to an Op-Ex model where IT systems and services are leased and paid for monthly.

Most people first experienced public Cloud through Software as a Service [SaaS] with Salesforce, Intralinks, and Gmail/Office 365 email.  This area has continued to grow at a fast pace, especially with email migrations to Office 365. 7 Layer has seen a big trend with Infrastructure as a Service [IaaS], where our clients have completely eliminated their server rooms by hosting systems within a private Cloud environment. When configured properly, from a speed and latency perspective, employees do not notice a difference in performance.

IVCA: What is the latest Cloud-based innovation, that wasn't possible even five years ago?

7 Layer Solutions: The most recent innovation has been Disaster Recovery as a Service [DRaaS]. In a Business-to-Cloud configuration, DR systems are built within Cloud environments hundreds of miles away from corporate headquarters. Data is replicated off-site in near real-time.  In the event of disaster situation, data loss is measured in seconds and recovery time in minutes.  Cloud-to-Cloud DR configurations are also growing – this is the merging of IaaS and DRaaS systems.

Five years ago I attended the national Venture Capital/Private Equity IT group conference and a poll was taken on how many member firms used Cloud technologies.  At the time only 5% of the firms were using these services. Fast forward to the 2016 conference where the same group was polled, and the results were flipped...only 5% of member firms were not using Cloud technologies. It has been a dramatic shift in how companies operate their IT.

IVCA: One of the hottest trends in IT is the 'Internet of Things.' How is that technology and product line being integrated into the services that 7 Layer Solutions offers?

7 Layer Solutions: First off, the ‘Internet of Things’ makes our work a little more challenging as it adds even more devices to a network that can be compromised.  Even a ‘smart’ coffee maker now needs to be monitored to make sure its software cannot be exploited to gain access into a network!

Aside from security, the ‘Internet of Things’ technology has been a boon for our application developers to leverage. While we aren’t programming refrigerators, we do quite a bit of work developing custom PC and mobile device applications to access legacy systems. This new technology has helped 7 Layer to modernize systems that otherwise would have needed replacement.

IVCA: What does 7 Layer Solutions, Inc. hope to achieve in their interaction with the IVCA?

7 Layer Solutions: With all of the knowledge we’ve developed over the past 15 years working with companies in Private Equity and financial services, we hope to share these experiences with the entire IVCA group. It’s important to hear a different perspective, especially during times where technology is changing at such a fast pace. Learning how other firms operate and solve their problems is beneficial to 7 Layer as well. In IT there is never a single solution to a problem. If during these conversations we build and develop more personal relationships with IVCA member firms, then that would be a welcomed bonus.

For more information on 7 Layer Solutions, Inc., go to www.7LayerSolutions.com