CCCS of Buffalo - Microsoft Impact

Organization Information:

Organization Name:
Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Buffalo, Inc.
City & State:
West Seneca, 
New York
Organization Website:
Organization's Mission Statement

We provide knowledge and programs to assist individuals and households in Western New York achieve financial self-sufficiency by being better able to control, organize and manage their personal finances.

Submission Information

Impact Essay

My name is Mark Twarog and I am the Director of Information Technology for Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Buffalo, Inc. I was hired back in March of 2008 for the agency. The network infrastructure was in severe dire strains and needed a serious overhaul. I was brought on to help the agency better its network security and attempt to expand our services throughout Western New York. Our Agency helps individuals who have come across economic hardship. We help clients achieve financial self-sufficiency by organizing, controlling and managing their personal finances. Our collective mission is to provide services to consumers to help them achieve financial wellness through financial management counseling, financial education and when appropriate, debt repayment services through debt management plans.Having never worked for a non-profit, I had much to learn. There is very little in the budget for technology. Fortunately, I was pointed in the direction of the TechSoup website. I was fortunate enough to receive funds to upgrade our domain controller server. With the help of Microsoft donations, I was able to acquire Windows Server 2003 and Windows Exchange 2003 Server to install on my new hardware, along with the access licenses that are mandatory for our staff.

One of the main reasons for acquiring Windows Server 2003 was its enhanced security and ease of configuration. We are responsible for a database of very confidential information for our clients. With the upgrade to the 2003 environment, we can feel safe knowing this information is secure yet easily accessible for our dedicated staff. This agency was still using paper memos and offsite email to communicate within the agency. By acquiring Microsoft Exchange Server 2003, we have a more secure email platform onsite, along with a centralized global contact list and centralized calendars that make scheduling with other staff a breeze. Our inter-communications have helped us spend less time with office work and more time helping our clients. It has also helped us become greener. For example, we have had our action registers (to do lists) on paper, which were hand written. We needed to make copies of these and then place them into the appropriate staff mailboxes. Now we have added them as tasks for each department under public folders. The staff has access to the action registers they need at anytime, even offsite through Outlook Web Access. This is just one way our paper consumption has gone down tremendously.

Our main office is located in West Seneca, New York. The challenge we face is being accessible in the eight counties of Western New York we service. Clients who need our services in the outlying areas may need to drive a few hours to get to us. Many do not have the means to reach us. With Windows Server 2003, I was able to set up our counselors with laptops and secure VPN connections through Routing and Remote Access. Setting it up was simple with very little overhead and maintenance on my part. It was generally “set it and forget it.” Armed with a laptop, wireless network card, and a mobile printer, the counselors can do face to face counseling as if they were right here in our West Seneca office. It has worked wonderfully for me and the staff. The clients appreciate this flexibility they have been given. Now we are able to reach out to the community in ways this agency never could. We are now able to schedule appointments outside our walls, meaning we are reaching more and more clients who badly need our assistance. Besides our main office where we do our face to face appointments, we now have a presence in seven banks, two community centers, and two colleges. One of the community centers is the Hispanics United of Buffalo. We have been able to send counselors out to this location and the center provides a translator for those who do not speak English. The Spanish speaking client feels more comfortable and is more willing to be helped with us going out to him, instead of having to try and come out to our office. Along with our counselors being able to serve clients in an efficient manner, our educators can go out in the community and be able to connect securely to our network and access anything they need during seminars.

In these tough economic times, our services are needed more than ever. We continue to spread our word throughout our area. Thanks to Microsoft and TechSoup, our agency is technologically more secure, and also able to serve our community in ways that were never before possible.

Submission Category
Stable and Secure Technology
Supporting Work Files