Lifetime Products was founded as a manufacturer of portable basketball systems. Its offerings have expanded to include other residential playground equipment, folding tables and chairs, sheds, utility trailers, and outdoor furniture. The company’s 1,400 employees are located in the United States, Mexico, and China, and work with supply chain partners and customers around the globe. Lifetime employees depend heavily on messaging technologies to keep everyone connected. To strengthen its lines of communication, Lifetime recently deployed Microsoft® Exchange Server 2010 with Unified Messaging. Employees not only receive their e-mail and voice mail in a single inbox, but also now get a text-transcription of voice-mail messages. The company expects the new capabilities to result in faster resolution of customer issues, better supply chain collaboration, and reduced IT and storage costs.
Lifetime Products was founded in 1986 as a maker of portable basketball systems. Headquartered in Clearfield, Utah, Lifetime now manufactures other residential playground equipment, folding tables and chairs, sheds, utility trailers, and outdoor furniture for customers in more than 50 countries. Its 1,400 workers are located in the United States, Mexico, and China.
Lifetime employees depend on effective communication and scheduling with suppliers, distributors, and other supply chain partners around the world. John Bowden, CIO at Lifetime Products, says, “When we are developing a new product, there are a lot of people outside our company helping us create the product. For example, one of our design engineers may need to coordinate timelines and meetings with the people who are helping make those parts, such as the mold creators. The product life-cycle timeline depends on effective coordination of our calendars.”
In 2007, to aid communication among its global workers and partners, Lifetime deployed Microsoft® Exchange Server 2007 with Unified Messaging, providing a standardized messaging environment for all Lifetime employees. Lifetime used three servers for the deployment: One server to support Client Access and Hub Transport functionality for North America; a second server to support mailboxes for North America and Unified Messaging services; and a third server in China to provide Mailbox, Client Access, and Hub Transport functionality. Lifetime deployed the Local Continuous Replication (LCR) feature in Exchange Server 2007 to provide protection against database failures.
Lifetime recognizes the benefit to staying on the cutting edge of technology and always tries to deploy the latest communications technology for its employees. Bowden says, “Lifetime is focused on continuous improvement. With each upgrade of our communications infrastructure, we are seeing a return on investment and improvements to our bottom line.”
To understand how it could improve its existing communications infrastructure, Lifetime decided to participate in the Microsoft Rapid Deployment Program for Microsoft Exchange Server 2010. In October 2009, Lifetime upgraded 150 mailboxes to Exchange Server 2010 and expects to have the entire migration to Exchange Server 2010 completed in November 2009.
||Exchange Server 2010 is the latest solution to help us deliver productivity improvements through better communications tools for our employees. We also lowered management costs.
CIO, Lifetime Products
With the expansion of Unified Messaging in Exchange Server 2010, Lifetime employees can receive a text-transcription of their voice-mail messages. Bowden says, “For a couple of years, people have been excited about unified messaging, but I had several requests such as ‘Can’t it just transcribe my voice mail?’ With Exchange Server 2010, our employees can view their voice mail in text format. Our sales people will be able to glance down at their phone and view the message, instead of waiting for a time when they can listen to the message.” Another advantage of Unified Messaging in Exchange Server 2010 is that Lifetime can centrally manage voice-mail and e-mail users using the Active Directory® service in the Windows Server® operating system, instead of having a separate voice-mail system with a separate directory.
Federation in Exchange Server 2010 will make it possible for Lifetime employees to share services such as calendars, meeting resources, distribution lists, and presence information externally with customers and supply chain partners as though they belonged to the same organization. Federation is expected to be used heavily during the research-and-development process to manage schedules and meetings as Lifetime works with partners on new products.
In the area of messaging reliability, database availability group (DAG) in Exchange Server 2010 will help Lifetime provide better resiliency. DAG combines on-site and off-site data replication into a single high-availability solution that helps safeguard the Exchange Server environment from experiencing downtime. With DAG, Lifetime can store multiple copies of its data on different servers and provide automatic failover, even to alternate locations.
Lifetime is also taking advantage of the 70 percent reduction in disk input/output (I/O) compared to Exchange Server 2007 by using lower-cost storage options. Bowden says, “We have decided to use direct-attached storage [DAS] instead of a SAN [storage area network] on Exchange Server 2010.”
For better antivirus and antispam protection, Lifetime decided to switch from MailWatch to Microsoft Online Services. Bowden says, “We subscribed to Microsoft Forefront™ Online Protection for Exchange, which provides our antivirus protection and antispam filtering. The Microsoft solution complements our existing infrastructure really well.”
With its deployment of Exchange Server 2010, Lifetime expects communication to be more efficient and problem resolution quicker, leading to improved customer satisfaction. In addition, improved communications with supply chain partners should help improve new product development. Lifetime has already achieved several IT cost savings, including an annual U.S.$43,000 savings by dropping its voice-mail maintenance contract.
||With Exchange Server 2010, our employees can view their voice mail in text format. Our sales people will be able to glance down at their phone and view the message, instead of waiting for a time when they can listen to the message.
CIO, Lifetime Products
Improved Communication with Customers and Partners
With Exchange Server 2010, Lifetime employees are better equipped to manage and prioritize communications from customers. Before Exchange Server 2010, employees had to wait until they were out of meetings or conferences before accessing their voice mail. Now, they can glance at their inbox on their laptop or mobile device to view the text of a voice mail. Lifetime will save time and be able to better respond to urgent requests from customers, which will help support customer satisfaction.
Many employees involved in research and development (R&D) at Lifetime have frequent meetings with the company’s supply chain partners. Says Bowden, “We work closely with our supply chain vendors. Calendars are always something our R&D people are dealing with, so Federation in Exchange Server 2010 should add value there.” With better access to calendars and tighter coordination, deadlines and timelines for new product development will be more transparent and easier to track and manage.
Reduced IT Costs
With Exchange Server 2010 Unified Messaging, Lifetime has been able to continue to avoid a third-party voice-mail maintenance contract, saving $43,000 per year. In addition, the IT support required for voice and messaging has been consolidated and reduced by more than 1,000 hours, resulting in an additional annual savings of $28,000.
Taking advantage of the reduced I/O disk requirements and storage flexibility of Exchange Server 2010, Lifetime is deploying DAS, a less expensive storage configuration than traditional SAN storage. The DAS storage will be up to 80 percent cheaper than SAN. In addition, Lifetime is saving on licenses for its messaging hygiene software by instead subscribing to Microsoft Forefront Online Protection for Exchange, a Microsoft Online Service.
Bowden concludes, “Exchange Server 2010 is the latest solution to help us deliver productivity improvements through better communications tools for our employees. We also lowered management costs.”
Microsoft Exchange Server 2010
Exchange Server 2010 can help you achieve better business outcomes while controlling the costs of deployment, administration, and compliance. Exchange Server delivers the widest range of deployment options, integrated information leakage protection, and advanced compliance capabilities, which combine to form the best messaging and collaboration solution available.
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