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Technology Helping Wildlife

To protect habitat, the Wildlife Heritage Foundation needs to keep its documents absolutely secure. That’s what Quest Cloud Services are all about.

Kelly Velasco, associate director of the Lincoln, CA–based Wildlife Heritage Foundation (WHF), says she and her colleagues were prepared when Governor Gavin Newsom issued a stay-at-home order on March 19.

“We’d seen that the six Bay Area counties had already issued similar orders,” Velasco recalls. “We basically knew this was coming down—so we had been ramping up.”

Still, overhauling an entire office operation in less than two days presented a daunting challenge. Velasco says she’s glad Quest was there to help.

On day one of the lockdown, a Quest technician came to her offices, where Velasco was working alone and caring for her two out-of-school children. On day two, she says, she was able to deploy 100-percent secure laptops to her now-remote workforce. “Security is extremely important to the WHF mission,” she says. “So, this was a very big deal.”

Velasco and Darla Guenzler, the foundation’s executive director, also participated in a Business Continuity and Pandemic Planning webinar hosted by Shawn Davidson, Quest’s VP of Enterprise Risk Management. The webinar, which was designed to help organizations position themselves to handle the suddenly transformed business landscape, included the development of secure work-from-home strategies and a playbook for performing central business processes under changed circumstances.

Velasco points out that having worked with Quest for two years, she was familiar with many of the nuts-and-bolts business practices discussed in the webinar. “But it was nice to be able to go through the list with a trusted ally, and not just in my head,” she says.

“We call Quest out to our office all the time,” says Kelly Velasco, Associate Director of Wildlife Heritage Foundation (WHF), “and we always appreciate their attentiveness. We don’t need to have an entire tech department because Quest is our tech department.”

 

In some ways, the timing of this catastrophe could have been much more perilous for WHF. A land trust currently sworn to preserving more than 100,000 acres across California, WHF holds almost 200 conservation easements—legal documents that must be preserved in perpetuity.

WHF’s stated mission is “to protect, enhance, and restore wildlife habitat on lands conserved for the benefit of future generations.” It does much of that work with what are essentially real-estate contracts that constrain whoever owns the properties under its protection from actions that might harm wildlife.

These documents, which are legally tied to a property’s deed, contain copious amounts of sensitive information—from the specific, enforceable terms of the deals to various parties’ financial data.

Two accrediting agencies—the Land Trust Alliance and the California Council of Land Trusts—have strict rules about protecting these documents in fireproof, flood-proof environments—something all land trusts take very seriously. Not long ago, WHF completed a process of transferring everything into the most secure environment possible—a cloud-based service run by Quest.

“We now depend on Quest to protect all of our information,” Velasco says. “For anyone in this position, that is one of our chief concerns. And it’s not something we have to worry about anymore.”

In addition to providing Cloud Services, Quest helps WHF by essentially managing all of the foundation’s technical infrastructure. Quest has been providing Managed Services to WHF since 2015, helping the organization migrate its email to a more flexible and secure platform and providing backup services, antivirus-protection, firewall monitoring, and help desk services.

“We call Quest out to our office all the time,” Velasco reports, “and we always appreciate their attentiveness. We don’t need to have an entire tech department because Quest is our tech department.”

Quest’s Emily Free, who has served as Account Manager for WHF for almost six years, says she has enjoyed helping the foundation evolve technologically. She recalls that when Quest helped WHF migrate to Microsoft Office 365 (now known as Microsoft 365) and move their email into the cloud several years ago, “they were early adopters.”

“They were one of my first clients,” Free says, “and it’s been gratifying to see them grow and be able to assist with that growth.”

In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, protecting the foundation and its information has become much more critical, Velasco says. And she predicts that the need for dramatically heightened security is here to stay.

“I’m afraid this is the new normal,” she says. “I think this is going to change how we work forever.”

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THE BOTTOM LINE

Kelly Velasco, Associate Director of Wildlife Heritage Foundation (WHF), counted on Quest’s help to deploy 100-percent of her newly remote workforce under California’s COVID-19 stay-at-home order.


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