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Better email and information access with Microsoft Office 365

19 Feb 2013

For a busy vintner in a rural setting just outside Auckland, concentrating on producing top quality wines takes precedence over worrying about technology requirements. For Kumeu River Wines Director Michael Brajkovich, keeping the office side of things running effortlessly just got a whole lot easier with the winery’s move to Office 365, Microsoft’s cloud services productivity suite.

Situation

Just 25 kilometers northwest of Auckland lies the small town of Kumeu and the eponymous river from which the winery takes its name. Established in 1944, the family-owned business employs 20 people, including 5 family members, in the production of its renowned chardonnays, pinot gris and other wines. While the technology needs of the company are relatively low-key, they are nevertheless vital to the running of a successful business. Kumeu River Wines (KRW) depends on Auckland-based Microsoft partner All Systems Go for its technology requirements. Up until recently KRW had a machine running Microsoft Small Business Server 2003, with Microsoft Exchange 2003 and Office 2003.

“While this infrastructure served Kumeu River well over the years, it was reaching the limits of its usability. Interruptions had become common, with some security issues and other events causing email to get blocked; this was becoming an inhibitor and a cause of stress , as email is considered a key mission critical service,” Tim Adams, Director at All Systems Go, explains.

Brajkovich adds that his family are often on the road, however with the infrastructure at the time the need to enable staff to continue working remotely wasn’t possible. “We like to have everything accessible from our smartphones; we’d been using VPN-type systems to access email which was just a nightmare. Then, when overseas, there would be compatibility issues and roaming charges to access email through our phones…in short, it was just a hassle,” he explains.

The solution

Brajkovich is quite clear that wine is his forte, not technology. “We’ve been quite happy with Windows XP and Office 2003 for a very long time; back when we put in the Windows Small Business Server, I remember taking a deep breath before making the decision to purchase.” That’s because server hardware, the required software stack and user licenses come to a not-inconsequential capital outlay.

Brajkovich was receptive to the idea of a cloud solution which would avoid the capital expense, and was additionally helped by the confidence that All Systems Go conveyed in an Office 365 solution. Says Adams: “We’ve used it within our own business since the day it was launched. Understanding the solution thoroughly means we are able to present it to clients knowing that it does what it says it will.”

Adams says the only real concerns for any potential user of Office 365 relates to the availability of connectivity. “The migration from older systems into the cloud is straightforward, and for most businesses can be done over a weekend as was the case for KRW.”

But perhaps the greatest benefit for existing Office users is that Office 365 looks and feels familiar, so as Brajkovich confirms moving from the 2003 version to Office 365 was a piece of cake. “It’s very straightforward; the interface is excellent on the applications we use a lot: Outlook, Word, Excel and a bit of PowerPoint,” he relates.

Benefits

Transitioning from an on-premise to a cloud-based solution could be considered a ‘system shock’, but not so with the move to Office 365. Brajkovich attest to a practically non-existent learning curve for users, but he also confirms that there was no need to take another deep breath to upgrade the on-premise server. “We’ve definitely saved money, several thousands of dollars certainly, by avoiding buying new hardware,” he agrees.

Moving into the cloud, continues Brajkovich, makes a lot of sense to a business like KRW. With a low fixed monthly cost for its essential Microsoft Office 365 software, the business also has flexibility to add or remove user licenses as required.

But it isn’t the cost savings which he sees as the most significant benefit; instead, it is the performance and reliability of information access that comes with cloud services. “The biggest advantage is ease of access to email and documents. No matter where we are – be it in the office, at home, elsewhere in the country or overseas, and no matter what device is used, we can get our email and documents, which means the ability to communicate and collaborate effectively from anywhere.”

Microsoft Office 365, Brajkovich says, simply delivers on the promises it makes. “Without a doubt, it is a better way to access the resources you need to do your work. Especially emails: that should just be easy. For us it’s the most important thing and with this solution, it just works like it should.”

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