Microsoft Office 365 delivers for on-the-move environmental services company
For many growing businesses, technology needs change substantially with the addition of a second premises. Doing so creates a new paradigm for information sharing, something that Scrub Growers and Scrub Consultants appreciated when it separated the locations of its offices and native plant nursery/depot. Despite complexities associated with additional locations, the introduction of Microsoft Office 365 cloud services has enabled them to easily and inexpensively share and access all information no matter where personnel are located: in either office, the nursery, at work sites or in between.
With two divisions to its business, Scrub Growers and Scrub Consultants, Director Rodney Straka explains that the organisation produces up to 300,000 native plants per year in its Wainui-based nursery. “That’s the Scrub Growers side of the company, a plant nursery and implementation team; the Scrub Consultants part involves the ecological planning and design of small to large scale ecosystem rehabilitation and re-vegetation projects,” Straka says.
Clients serviced by Scrub’s 12 staff are predominantly private owners seeking to restore natural habitats on their land, while local councils also make use of the company’s services. “We work in predominantly rural areas – and that presents its own challenges technology-wise,” Straka notes.
Like many businesses, the ability to communicate and collaborate by email is considered an essential service for Scrub Growers and Scrub Consultants. “When we separated the businesses into two locations – the nursery at Wainui, and the office located in Puhoi, both rural areas north of Auckland – we needed a platform which would enable us to walk out of one location and into another but still have the same email, calendaring and access to information. We also wanted to be able to keep in touch with teams working in the field on sites around the region and wanted email to be the primary communication service,” Straka explains.
The company had depended on a traditional email system from a local provider in conjunction with Microsoft Outlook as an email and calendaring client until separating the office from the nursery. While this had served them well without any sharing facilities, its ability to be leveraged across multiple offices was limited. “When we moved, it proved to be less than ideal” comments Straka.
To find the appropriate solution, Scrub’s turned to Gorilla Technology, a leading provider of IT management and consulting services in the region.
Gorilla Technology Director, Paul Spain, says Scrub’s changing requirements are somewhat typical of a growing business which expands to multiple locations. “In examining the business to provide a better technology configuration, it was apparent that the traditional methods of creating the ability to share calendars and other information would be pretty expensive,” he says.
That’s because server hardware and expensive WAN (Wide Area Network) links would be required. Additionally, software with a high acquisition cost would also have to be purchased, configured and deployed on the server, while ongoing maintenance and support is always required for such solutions.
All of that is completely removed with Microsoft Office 365 cloud services, says Spain. “The emergence of this solution set really is ideal, especially for a small to medium business. By leveraging cloud offerings, it is now possible for these companies to gain the benefit of services which you’d typically only see in much larger customers – at a fraction of the price,” says Spain.
The idea of shifting into the cloud, says Straka, presented no particular concerns for his company; he reveals an interest in the concept of cloud computing which helped support the decision to switch.
By implementing Microsoft Office 365 – specifically, the Exchange and SharePoint services – Scrub Growers and Scrub Consultants has shifted from a basic technology platform to something with advanced features, says Spain. “Remarkably, it now has services and features which, just a few years back, would have cost tens of thousands of dollars in hardware, implementation and connectivity costs,” he notes.
Straka says that while he enjoys a good understanding of technology, the real measure of its value is how easy it is to use. “Computing services for the office should enable you to just get on with work. Microsoft Office 365 is exactly what we were after; with the sharing of calendars and information always available in SharePoint, accessible no matter where our team members might be or what device they are using, it has ticked all the boxes.” Spain says transitioning from old systems to the new Office 365 solution was a straightforward process.
Straka says that the ability to access information anywhere is a substantial benefit; “Regardless of whether I am using my tablet, computer or my phone, accessing and using email is simple and seamless. It means I can respond to important issues right away – and where additional information is required, SharePoint means I essentially have the whole business accessible at my fingertips, at any time.”
Spain adds that through the use of Microsoft Office 365 services, Scrub Growers and Scrub Consultants also benefits from peace of mind in terms of data storage. “Everything in the cloud is replicated; if anything happens, there is no need to worry about information being lost – and there is no need for manual processes to back up data.”
With Microsoft Office 365, Spain notes, companies like Scrub Growers and Scrub Consultants can completely avoid buying expensive hardware. “Benefiting from ‘big company’ solutions for tens or hundreds of dollars per month is a very attractive value proposition. In the coming years, it is likely that most businesses, particularly in the small to medium space, will continue to move to predominantly cloud solutions given the low cost and substantial benefits it delivers,” he concludes.