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Have you ever wanted to connect with an IT expert who understands nonprofit needs and issues? We'd like you to meet Linda
Widdop, Tech Impact’s, Director of Technology Services. On February 27, you can connect directly with Linda in our upcoming webinar, Tech 101: What Are
Managed IT Services, and When Should You Use Them?
Linda also runs Tech Impact’s Remote Managed
IT Support program, which provides affordable remote IT support. Linda is one of the great ones in nonprofit technology. Without further ado, check out my interview with this consulting expert.
TechSoup: Could you tell us a bit about your background - how long you've
been with Tech Impact, what work you do, and what you enjoy most about providing
tech consulting to nonprofits?
Linda Widdop: My tech background began in 1993 when I got a
job at a PC manufacturing company in Philadelphia working on an assembly line.
My job was assembling the PC cases – literally putting the rubber feet on the
bottom of the case! From there, I moved into QA testing
the new PCs before they were shipped to customers and finally managing the
From there, I
spent 8 years at CompUSA
providing software and network training to end-users. I also managed the
service department at a local store. I
started with Tech Impact (formerly NPower PA) in 2003, just when the NPower network
was growing. I was hired as the first Senior Consultant at the organization and
provided technical planning, network setup and support to local nonprofits. As
Tech Impact grew, I transitioned into Director of Technology Services where I
now provide technology advice and solution development to nonprofits around the
When not working,
I am an obsessed bird watcher and volunteer to conserve shorebird habitat for
endangered species. To balance out the super geekiness of that, I also play and
coach women’s ice hockey.
TechSoup: What are your particular areas of expertise?
Linda Widdop: Colleagues and clients rely on me to provide
technology planning advice. I provide the link between business goals and available
solutions for nonprofits. Sometimes, solutions require the organization to
spend money — I help them understand the Return on Investment. I am also known
to some as the “Excel Queen” (lol). You
can also count on me to help identify a bird that you might have seen in your
TechSoup: What are a few questions you hear most often from
nonprofits? And what are your answers to them?
Linda Widdop: Lately, the question that I answer most often is
“should we be moving to the cloud? And what exactly is the cloud?” My answer is emphatically — YES! Cloud solutions are transforming the way that
nonprofits work— providing enterprise class solutions at low cost. Very few
nonprofit organizations should be investing in servers or on-premise solutions.
I especially talk about the benefits of
using Microsoft Office 365 for email, file sharing and collaboration.
The second most
asked question is “what should we be doing about our data?” There are many
solutions available to nonprofits. I suggest that the organization take time to
understand their requirements before shopping for a solution. The requirements
usually begin with basic relationship management — whether that is with donors,
volunteers, clients or a combination. Once this is defined, we can begin to
look for solutions that meet the needs. Once again, Cloud solutions top my list
of recommendations in this area.
A fairly new area
of discussion is about phone solutions. Nonprofits typically have outdated
systems that they are paying too much to use and support. All of the buzz is
around VoIP systems so naturally, they want to know more about it.
TechSoup: What's a favorite nonprofit tech resource you like?
Linda Widdop: Obviously, I refer EVERYBODY to TechSoup for
advice and product! I also refer many
nonprofits to Idealware.org for solid information on software solutions.
TechSoup: How many nonprofits does Tech Impact serve?
Linda Widdop: That is a tough question to answer. We serve
thousands of nonprofits through our social media, eBook and web content. We
serve more than 300 individual nonprofits per year with project work. This
includes Office 365 implementations, SharePoint work, Salesforce.com consulting
and other network projects. We have more than 100 nonprofits that use our
support services in some capacity. 100
of those use our full Managed IT Support service.
TechSoup: Can you cite some examples of some improvements your customers
experienced by using your Managed IT service?
Linda Widdop: Many clients cite peace of mind as a benefit
of our service. They have never had someone monitoring their computers 24/7.
They have relied on ad hoc service which they only engage after something goes
wrong. This usually results in unexpected costs to resolve an issue. Our
technicians and Account Manager works with the client to prevent issues and/or
find the best solution to an issue.
Clients are also
relieved to have a fully staffed, professional Help Desk that they can call for
any reason without having to worry about additional costs. Our Help Desk
technicians are nonprofit experts who already have experience with most
software in use by nonprofits. This is a huge benefit to the caller since they
do not have to take time to explain the software.
TechSoup: What are the biggest challenges both your and your customers try
to tackle? To go a little deeper, what are some of the challenges of remote IT
staff versus someone physically at the same location?
Linda Widdop: The biggest challenge to our clients is old
hardware and outdated software in use. We tackle this by providing an
assessment of inventory and providing quotes for hardware and software updates.
The cost is usually well below other quotes that the client has received since
we source product through TechSoup and other low cost vendors when possible.
Related to this, the other big challenge is cleaning up the client’s network by
simplifying connectivity to the Internet and within the local area network (LAN). Many
nonprofits have relied on volunteer or local tech providers to set up networks
within a limited budget. These providers often try to work within this
constraint rather than making a case to configure it properly. Lately, this
conversation includes moving to cloud solutions rather than trying to keep the
donated server running.
TechSoup: What are some tech symptoms nonprofits often have that indicate
that they probably need some help with their infrastructure?
Linda Widdop: Beyond what I said above, we use our Managed
IT tool to provide us with data on existing hardware in order to make
recommendations for upgrades/replacements before issues arise. Use Windows XP
as an example. We know exactly how many Windows XP units are out there and have
proactively been working to replace or upgrade these before April 1st.
This is Microsoft’s End of Life date for XP which means that they will no
longer provide security updates. Many hackers already have attacks planned for
April 2nd which is going to cause pain for those organizations that
have not upgraded.
We also use call
volume to flag problems at client sites as well as across all clients. We
provide advice and training to individual users who call our Help Desk multiple
times with the same issue. We send out alerts and information to all clients if
we notice a trend or pattern in Help Desk requests.
TechSoup: When are managed IT services not
a good idea?
Linda Widdop: Managed IT Services are always a good
idea. The question should probably be
phrased as “When should an organization contract with outside Managed IT
Services?” I’ll explain:
are large enough to warrant a staff person dedicated to IT should use a
management tool or set of tools to provide inventory/asset management, patch
management, monitoring and alerts for critical functions as well as a system to
track help tickets. This allows the IT
Manager to provide reporting, see trends, etc.
We can provide service to this type of organization by providing our
tool to the IT Manager along with Tier 2 and 3 ticket escalation.
organizations often have someone on staff who is designated as the “Accidental
Techie”. This poor sole is responsible for answering questions, providing
troubleshooting and managing vendors even though they usually have another
primary job and little or no real tech skills. These organizations really
benefit from having a relationship with a Managed IT Service Provider. We work
directly with the Accidental Techie to provide planning and advice and also
take over all Help Desk functions so that this person can get back to doing the
job that they were hired to do – you know, making the world a better place.
organizations also benefit from Managed IT Support for many of the same reasons
as stated above. Often, these organizations have taken the “Do Nothing”
approach to IT which results in outdated computers and software.
TechSoup: Can you compare the cost benefits of using virtual tech support
as opposed to nonprofits doing their tech support themselves?
Linda Widdop: Using Managed IT Support through Tech Impact
provides the organization with a consistent monthly expense for maintenance and
support. Our Account Manager also provides help with annual budgeting for
upcoming projects as well as hardware and software replacement costs. This
reduces or eliminates unexpected costs.
TechSoup: OK - enough about work. What do you like to do for fun?
Linda Widdop: I spend a lot of time outdoors in Pennsylvania
and at the Jersey shore. You can usually find me birding and doing all of the
other stuff that people do at “The Shore”.
Not to harp on the same subject, but cloud solutions allow me to spend
much more time outdoors and at The Shore!
TechSoup: And what about your favorite soup?
Linda Widdop: Don’t laugh – Campbell’s
Italian Wedding Soup is my current go-to soup. I don’t know why but I love
it. My favorite homemade soup is chicken
noodle made with Pennsylvania
Dutch Egg Noodles and no fancy ingredients – just chicken, celery, carrots
and parsley. I know it’s boring but. . .
Images: Linda Widdop and Tech Impact; Chicken Soup Jessmonster on Flickr Creative Commons
Do you have some IT support experiences you’d
like to share? Please log in to comment.
Linda, we need CRM software. Is the cost to access the software $15.00? When the site indicates that we need one license, does the $15 include a license. Need direction before purchasing.
Cjctalley, which CRM software are you considering? Jim
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