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Posted: 5/15/2013
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Snow+Rock Sports Retailer Moves Communications to the Cloud to Cut Costs and Operational Risk

UK-based winter sports retailer Snow+Rock Group wanted to replace its physical communications infrastructure with a cloud-based solution to reduce operational risk and save time and money. It chose Microsoft Exchange Online, the email component of Microsoft Office 365, and migrated the system in three phases for 300 users. The cloud-based system is ensuring business continuity, avoiding external consultancy costs, and giving the IT Director peace of mind.

Business Needs

Snow+Rock Group is best known as a skiing and mountaineering clothing and equipment retailer in the British Isles. The Guildford-based group includes the cycle specialist CycleSurgery and the sportswear brand Runners Need. It has 35 retail outlets, with an annual turnover of around £70 million (US$107 million).

Maintaining efficient, cost-effective communications was becoming a major challenge for Snow+Rock Group IT Director Shiva Kumar. Each of the three brands had an individual domain name linked into a single server at head office running Microsoft Exchange Server.

“We needed a fresh approach to reduce the risk and cost of any communications failure,” says Kumar. “We wanted to automate backup procedures and reduce downtime during software upgrades. Like many companies, we were physically backing up the server every night and took responsibility for activities such as restoring deleted emails. A large part of the IT budget went on fixing physical issues with the hardware, running disaster recovery exercises, and so on.”

Kumar was aware of the risks around dependence on a single server and wanted to avoid the cost of recruiting a specialist IT technician. He says: “Our worldwide operations relied on one server. If something happened to that box, group communications would have come to a stop until brought back using standard recovery procedures. We also had to buy a spam filter from a third-party provider.”


Snow+Rock worked with Program Framework—a Microsoft Cloud Accelerate Partner—to migrate its physical Exchange Server to Microsoft Office 365 using the Exchange Online component.

Kumar attended the Cloud Expo event in London before making the decision. He says: “I became convinced that the Microsoft Office 365 online service with guaranteed uptime was what we needed, and that Program Framework had the people to help us implement it across the group.”

Program Framework produced a project plan for a staged move to the cloud for 300 users, starting with the two smaller brands—Runners Need and CycleSurgery. Snow+Rock was moved last and the migration took a year from the first trial.

Lawrie Siteman, Director of Cloud Services, Program Framework, says: “The task was to migrate the brands one at a time to Office 365, linking all three brands with a shared address. We decided to use full Exchange Online accounts for head office users and the cost-effective Kiosk Exchange licences for the stores, because those users don’t require as many components or large mailboxes.”

Program Framework used the Microsoft built-in migration tool with the Windows PowerShell command-line interface to simplify the transition. Shared folders were closed down at the on-premises site and recreated as document libraries on the Snow+Rock on-premises SharePoint Server collaboration platform. Siteman says: “We overcame issues including reserving the shared room resources on the on-premises Exchange Server when some users had already migrated to Exchange Online. The transition was exceptionally smooth. Many users left on Friday and returned on Monday to the new email environment and didn’t notice the difference.”


Snow+Rock experienced an easy migration from an on-premises communications system to the cloud using Microsoft Office 365. Business continuity has been assured and the company has avoided the significant costs of hiring a Microsoft Exchange expert. It has dispensed with its third-party provider for spam filtering.

Office 365 gives Snow+Rock peace of mind about business continuity. Kumar says: “Microsoft Office 365 ticked all the boxes for us and has given me peace of mind about maintaining business continuity. Since the migration, we haven’t lost a single customer email.”

Solution helps leading retailer avoid unnecessary costs and stick to tight budget. If Snow+Rock had continued with its on-premises Exchange Server platform, Kumar would have needed to recruit a technician with expertise in Microsoft Exchange. “We’ve avoided that cost by migrating to Microsoft Office 365,” he says. “Our in-house IT technicians have been freed to focus on higher-value work because there’s no longer any need to handle tasks such as daily backups,” says Kumar.

Microsoft Forefront Online Protection for Exchange replaces third-party spam filter at no extra cost. Snow+Rock no longer requires a third-party spam filtering service because it’s using Forefront Online Protection for Exchange Server. Kumar says: “Microsoft Forefront Online Protection for Exchange does the spam filtering just as well as a specialised service. And the Microsoft service support facility is good if we need help.”

Program Framework provides partner support. Kumar says: “The level of service that Program Framework provided—and its efforts to understand and implement what we needed—was important to me as a client. If we have further requirements in the future, we will definitely call Program Framework again.”

This case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY.
Solution Overview

Organization Size: 500 employees

Organization Profile

Founded in 1982, Guildford-based Snow+Rock Group is a leading United Kingdom retailer with 35 outlets in the British Isles. It specialises in clothes and equipment for outdoor activities.

Software and Services
Microsoft Office 365

Vertical Industries
Consumer Goods

United Kingdom


Program Framework