CES marks 25th year servicing computers

By ED HOWELL
Posted 6/27/18

After a quarter century in computer service, Jeff Blell is upfront on the go-to solution for a repair.

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CES marks 25th year servicing computers

Posted

After a quarter century in computer service, Jeff Blell is upfront on the go-to solution for a repair.

The owner of Computer Electronics Service, known as CES, notes the back of his business card shows white letter on a black background.

"Have you tried turning the power off and back again?" it says. 

Apparently, a large number of people still have to say "Yes," because they are still coming to him. 

The company is marking its 25th anniversary on July 1 and remains as busy as ever servicing desktops computers, as well as tablet and phone needs.

"I started doing the work before that. I was employed by another company (in Birmingham) and I was doing stuff on the side," he recalled at his office on 1709 Alabama Ave., across from the Walker County Board of Education Central Office. 

The Jasper native and 1988 Walker High School graduate is the son of the late Charles and Carol Blell. 

"Dad was born and raised in Chicago and Mom was born in Virginia. They met in California, moved back to Chicago and Top Dollar Stores brought Dad to Jasper. He worked with (Top Dollar Stores co-founder) George Mitnick and that group," Blell said. His mother died in 2001; his father in 2013. 

Blell, 48, said when he was young he was always interested in electronics, with computers just starting to name a name for themselves. 

He went to Walker State (now Bevill State Community College), graduating in 1990 with an electronics degree. Employed for more than two  years with a local company which moved then to Cullman, he then went to National Computer Print in Birmingham in 1992. After nine months, the scope of his work was being phased out, so he decided to go into business himself doing IT work, moving back to Jasper in the process in 1993. 

"I started a block down, across from the police department at 1611 where (attorney) Chaney Clark is now," he said. "We were there maybe a little over a year before we bought this building. My folks and I shared the building. They had an art gallery in the front. My Mom was an artist, so she had her art gallery here, and I was running out of the back part of the building. I took it over when she passed." 

Blell and technician Zach Jett maintain the business, which stays busy — and not just with businesses in Jasper. 

"It is a small town, so we do service work here. We service businesses in Tuscaloosa and Jefferson County, and some in Winston County as well," he said. 

CES does work with "anything IT related, whether it be networking, trouble shooting and infrastructure, and computer service and repair, software, implementation, support and remote support. 

"There's been great changes" over 25 years, he said, ranging from dial up internet to high speed internet. "Remote services have increased. Here in the office, in our walk-in traffic, desktop computers have given away to laptops, tablets and cellphones. That has changed greatly.

"But as far as businesses are concerned, they are still relying on their work stations. They are still relying on their printers, and we do printer repairs as well," he said. 

Some tablet and phone repair is done at CES, but "we don't take on a lot of that. There are limitations. We do screen repairs on that, but it is by appointment only. I don't let it interfere with my business customers," he said. 

The shop stays very busy with walk-in traffic, but Blell notes he stays on the road to deal with clients as much as possible. "That is where the real bread-and-butter is. Jasper has been good to me," he said. "I have a lot of long-term loyal customers. As long as I give them good service, they are pretty loyal." 

Asked about the common solution that many people don't think of, he pointed out the message on the back of the card, to turn the computer off and then back on. "That solves a lot of problems," he said. "But we have a lot of software updates that can cause a lot of issues. Many times upgrades can require computer upgrades, so we deal with that," 

Networking issues are pretty heavy issues, although they can be caused from such items as credential settings being changed, he said.

Asked what people could commonly do in maintaining computers that they might overlook, Blell said as far as security, one should always perform operating system updates when a request is made. "Not that you won't ever have problems, but that is your first line of defense," he said. 

"Next, some kind of anti-virus. For a business, I would highly recommend firewalls," he said. "Now with some of the legislation that has come down, anyone who deals in personal information, not just health care but other industries who carry employee information or so forth, you are pretty much held liable if there is a breach. It used to be just a HIPAA ( Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) thing with the healthcare industry, but now it is industry wide. It doesn't matter who you are. If you have a breach with customer information and they can trace back that it caused their information to be hacked or used somewhere else, if they can trace it back to you, there is a penalty. That is something you definately want to protect against."

For the company's future plans, he said he has picked up a few clients in Tuscaloosa and Birmingham this year. 

"We work with just about any industry. We do a lot of work with the dental industry," Blell said, noting they have become highly computerized with digital imaging. "It is a major need. It is more than it used to be." In creating crowns, many dentists have a small CNC machine, like a 3D printer that creates a crown on site. One of his oldest customers, Jasper Dental, has new technology to make a full jaw-and-mouth scan in 3D imaging that is still probably somewhat rare in the area.

Overall, Blell says he has 150 to 200 customers, including large and small clients. Some he won't hear from for a while until they have a computer need. 

"Usually one to 50 employees is most of my scope," he said. "Probably the largest employer-based business  would be maybe the Sheriff's Department. I do After-Hours Clinic. Both clinics, they have got quite a few employees. They are probably some of my larger ones."

Blell said he is humbled by the support he has received over the years.

"God has really blessed me with this business. I and my family are grateful for the business that we've had and we look forward to many, many more years. We're pretty flexible to any changes that happen in the industry, and we're willing to take on just about any project. We're just very thankful and we give God all the glory first," he said. 

He and his wife, Misty, have been married since 2005 and they have three girls, Lexi, 14, Maddie, 9, and Anna, 6. They go to Philidelphia Baptist Church in the Burrows Crossing community, where he and his wife have been the youth ministers for the past couple of years. 

The normal business hours of CES are 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, although for his business customers he is available 24/7, noting he has a number of customers who require that. The best way to contact him is to call the shop at 205-384-1222 or visit the website CESWebshop.com or email him at info@CESwebshop.com. 

"There is actually a form on my website if you have requests," Blell said, noting it comes to his email during after hours. "If I see it, I generally answer it. And we're also on Facebook" under Computer Electronics Service.