2 page Case Study
Posted: 2/13/2013
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Rakuten, Inc Internet Services Firm Chooses Office 365 over Google, Trims Costs, Reduces IT Burden

Rakuten is a global Internet services company whose goal is to become the lead in its field. To support its rapid expansion, Rakuten wanted to improve its messaging environment. After comparing Google Apps and Microsoft Office 365, Rakuten decided to adopt Exchange Online in Office 365. It now enjoys strong security, a lighter IT workload, and an integrated messaging system for both local and overseas personnel.

Business Needs
With its main offices in Tokyo, Japan, Rakuten ranks among the world’s top 10 Internet services companies, with more than 9,000 employees in several countries. Rakuten provides a variety of one-stop Internet services, including e-commerce, travel, media, finance, and online books.

In 2008, Rakuten began expanding its business overseas, with solid growth into the world market in Brazil, France, Germany, Taiwan, Thailand, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

* We carefully compared Microsoft Office 365 and Google Apps. In the end, we chose Exchange Online in Office 365 for its strong security, great usability, and global capability that includes China. *

Jonathan Levine
Executive Officer and Vice Executive Director, Rakuten

As its business has grown, personnel recruitment in Japan and overseas has increased. The number of employees in Japan now exceeds 9,000. This great increase in personnel, however, directly affected the mail system. For example, to add accounts and mailboxes for 100 users created a major IT burden, requiring a three-month project with a budget of several 100,000 units, providing servers and storage, and obtaining the necessary licenses.

“For corporate activities, email is essential. However, maintaining the necessary infrastructure of an on-premises system required a huge cost. Even members of the Group Information Systems Department had to allocate an incredibly large amount of time to the operation and management of the mail system,” says Jonathan Levine, Executive Officer at Rakuten. “We wanted to move to a cloud technology to unify communications across the enterprise and make it easier for employees to connect.”

To determine which product to use, Rakuten compared Google Apps with Microsoft Office 365, a subscription-based offering that unites familiar Microsoft Office applications with the power of Microsoft Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, and Lync Online into one connected, online solution. “We carefully compared Microsoft Office 365 and Google Apps. In the end, we chose Exchange Online in Office 365 for its strong security, great usability, and global capability that includes China,” says Levine.

Levine describes the decision. “Speed is a big part of our IT strategy. It is an essential element in gaining an advantage over the competition in the Internet services sector,” says Levine. “With a cloud platform, we can obtain the required infrastructure faster and easier. Simply by purchasing a service, we could quickly set up a messaging infrastructure to support Rakuten.”

The most important issue for Rakuten when migrating the messaging environment from an on-premises platform to a cloud-based platform was security. “Exchange Online was the only service that we could use to build a secure messaging environment accessible from anywhere,” says Katsutoshi Shiotani, Vice Department Manager of Global Information Systems Division at Rakuten.

Usually, with Exchange Online, users can access a network from any computer anywhere over the Internet. To restrict access to Exchange Online via a virtual private network (VPN) and ensure stronger security, Rakuten engaged Microsoft Cloud Vantage Services, a fully managed professional services offering that spans planning, delivery, and support of Microsoft Office 365 deployments for enterprise organizations. It also used Active Directory Federation Services for authenticated collaboration with the internal Active Directory service. An environment was set up so that employees who were logged in from outside the company with company-provided laptops were able to use Exchange Online with secure remote access to the VPN.

As a result, all employees can access Exchange Online simply by entering their IDs and passwords to log on to the internal system from anywhere.

By choosing Microsoft Office 365, Rakuten lowered costs and reduced its IT workload. Employees now have a security-enhanced messaging service they can use to communicate more effectively. “Some limited IT partners provide cloud services on a global scale,” says Levine. “We performed a detailed comparison with Google Apps, but only Office 365 could fulfill our desired security requirements.”

Reduced Costs
Rakuten notes a significant reduction in costs for the messaging environment. “Now, we can simply add licenses for Office 365 without having to do a large-scale project. We also do not have to worry about storage. In the past, it took three months to expand the infrastructure, now we can complete that in one or two weeks. The time and cost of the expansion work has been greatly reduced,” says Norihiro Isoda, Infrastructure Services Section, Global Information Systems Division at Rakuten.

Decreased IT Burden
IT staff now has a lighter workload. “By working with Cloud Vantage Services, we were able to reduce the load on the Information Systems Division and allocate those resources to other operations. In short, we both shortened the time needed to create an infrastructure and also sped up operations overall,” says Levine.

The reduced workload has freed staff to concentrate on core operations. “By implementing Office 365, we have been able to drastically reduce the amount of resources spent on maintenance and support of the mail system. We have freed the staff from day-to-day management so that the team and I can now concentrate on our core operations without being sidetracked by mail issues,” says Levine.

Improved Employee Experience
According to Isoda, the greatest benefit for employees is the vastly increased mailbox size. “When we built our on-premises messaging environment, mailbox size was only 350 megabytes. Now, we are able to provide a capacity of 25 gigabytes. Before, the size of each sent message was restricted; now, files can be freely attached without employees worrying about file size.”

Shiotani emphasizes that the company’s decision is part of a long-term vision. “Office 365 is a service that can be used globally. The interface supports various languages, and the service provides a global support system. Also, Microsoft has a very strong presence as an IT partner that we can rely on as we strengthen our global strategy.”

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Solution Overview

Organization Size: 9000 employees

Organization Profile

Formed in 1997, Rakuten began by creating the e-commerce site Rakuten Ichiba, and has since rapidly expanded into a global Internet services company. It is based in Tokyo, Japan.

Software and Services
  • Exchange Online
  • Active Directory Federation Services
  • Microsoft Office 365
  • Microsoft Consulting Services
  • Cloud Vantage - O365

Vertical Industries
Specialty Retail


Business Need
Cloud & Server Platform

IT Issue
Cloud Services