Fashion designer Paul Smith showed his first collection in 1976, and now sells clothing, accessories, furniture, and upholstery in 35 countries. The company maintains 44 retail shops around the world, as well as two online shopping sites. As the company has grown, e-mail has become more important to its employees for communicating not only with each other, but also with the vendors and customers whose orders they must fulfil. With the help of Risual Group, Paul Smith expanded its communication and collaboration platform to a Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 environment, but realized it needed a more scalable solution that could grow with the company yet help it keep costs under control. Paul Smith deployed Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 to take advantage of improved capabilities for high availability in addition to enhancements to its unified communications solution.
Paul Smith is a global fashion designer with showrooms in Paris, Milan, New York, and Tokyo. Based in Nottingham and London, England, the company that began 20 years ago as a menswear label now sells a broad range of clothing and luxury goods. The company has 44 retail shops and more than 1,000 employees in worldwide locations.
As Paul Smith has grown as a business, facilitating communication and productivity across the fashion, wholesale, and retail divisions of the business has offered various challenges for its IT team. In 2005, the IT team enlisted a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner, Risual Group, to help design, implement, and manage a secure and available network that would ensure access to the applications and services Paul Smith employees need to do their jobs. About half those employees are located in the head offices in Nottingham and London, with the rest dispersed in branch offices in fashion capitals such as New York, Paris, and Milan, and in retail shops around the world.
E-mail usage in particular has expanded as the company has grown its retail business. “The retail dynamic has changed dramatically over the last four years with our presence online,” explains Lee Bingham, Head of IT for Paul Smith. “E-mail is the underpinning of the communication platform for customers who want to do business with us through our online retail sites.” While Paul Smith employees have long relied on e-mail to communicate and collaborate with one another, the company has now made e-mail a critical component of its customer relationship management (CRM) platform, which is based on Microsoft Dynamics CRM business software. Customer service employees rely almost exclusively on e-mail to communicate with customers who have placed orders, sending messages to confirm order status and tracking information, as well as to handle any issues that might arise with an order.
As e-mail communication has become more critical to the business, Paul Smith has worked with Risual to meet the growing demands on the service, and to find ways to increase communication and collaboration internally. Paul Smith had originally deployed Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 as the core of its messaging service, with two mailbox servers and one front-end server to support communication for all its locations. For storage, it relied on a fiber-channel storage area network (SAN), and it used Microsoft System Center Data Protection Manager 2007 to back up system data, which it also transferred to tape for recovery purposes.
With employees relying on e-mail more each day, however, the business soon found itself overwhelmed by the amount of data stored on the network and the long recovery times for restoring data in the event of system failures. Employees typically stored 500 megabytes (MB) to one gigabyte (GB) of data in their mailboxes, resulting in about 800 GB of data stored on the network. Paul Smith found itself spending significant amounts of money for storage to handle the growing volume of data. Recovery times in the event of a server or network failure were also affected and could take several days, which stole valuable resources away from the already overloaded IT team.
As the business grew and employees became more mobile, the company determined that it needed a communications solution that could support more robust messaging capabilities, as well as unified communications. It decided to deploy Microsoft Exchange Server 2007, which it could easily integrate with its existing Cisco Call Manager platform to replace Cisco Unity, and to offer Exchange Unified Messaging to its employees. With Unified Messaging, employees can receive voice-mail messages in their e-mail inboxes. Paul Smith also decided to deploy Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 R2 to complete its unified communications platform and offer instant messaging, presence, and conferencing capabilities.
While the Exchange Server 2007 deployment was taking place, Paul Smith and Risual learned about the upcoming release of Exchange Server 2010, which offered an even more robust set of communications capabilities and a more flexible architecture. The companies realized that the newer version could help Paul Smith reduce costs and take advantage of its three data centers to provide high availability and disaster recovery. Paul Smith decided to take part in the Microsoft Technology Adoption Program (TAP) and deploy a pilot of Exchange Server 2010, using the environment it had set up for its Exchange Server 2007 deployment.Solution
After Paul Smith decided to deploy a pilot of Exchange Server 2010, the first action it took was to roll back its messaging environment to Exchange Server 2003 and re-architect its messaging and storage system for Exchange Server 2010. This move made it possible to take advantage of several capabilities in this latest release that offer greater flexibility and redundancy.
||We’re seeing a huge cost savings in terms of the backup environment. We had 800 GB of data on Data Protection Manager in the Exchange Server 2003 environment. We can remove that cost from day one.
Head of IT, Paul Smith
For high availability and disaster recovery, Paul Smith implemented Database Availability Groups, which combine on-site and off-site replication into a single solution and provide an easier way to replicate e-mail to a remote location in order to safeguard the Exchange Server environment against site-level disasters. The ability to keep up to 16 database copies across multiple data centers helped Paul Smith rethink its strategy for service and disaster recovery. Its two Nottingham data centers provide site resilience, while a London data center serves as a disaster recovery site.
Because Exchange Server 2010 delivers a 90 percent reduction in disk input/output (I/O) when compared to Exchange Server 2003, Paul Smith can use cheaper disks for storage in its fiber-channel SAN without risking performance. The company will also deploy a lagged copy of the databases to its London data center, which will use inexpensive SCSI storage. The multiple database copies will provide all of the redundancy Paul Smith needs for backups and restores, so the company can stop using System Center Data Protection Manager and tape backups for its e-mail environment.
Paul Smith is also managing mailbox content using Retention Policies in Exchange Server 2010. Using Retention Policies, administrators can apply specific policies to folders in a mailbox. The retention policy applied to a folder appears inside messages in the folder, so employees can easily identify when e-mail messages are set to expire. Paul Smith plans to set a retention period of three months, after which mail will be moved to an Exchange Hosted Archive so that employees still have access to data.
The company will also apply mailbox quotas based on employee roles. “Because we have a greater level of control with the Exchange Server 2010 environment, we can create a policy-based solution for the business that allows us to keep the environment purged and optimized, and allows us to take advantage of the improved disk I/O to provide better performance,” says Richard Proud, Director at Risual Group. “We’re not just throwing storage at the problem.”
With Exchange Server 2010, the company will also see improvements to Exchange Unified Messaging. For example, with the Message Waiting Indicator feature, employees can receive notification of new or unread voice mail through their desk phones; they can also configure the system to notify them of new voice mail through SMS text messaging on their mobile phones. Voice-Mail Preview is another feature that will enhance the Unified Messaging experience: employees can access a text-based version of voice mail from a unified inbox in Microsoft Office Outlook, Outlook Web App, or Outlook Mobile, instead of calling to check voice mail from a mobile device or standard telephone. They can view the caller’s information, respond to messages via e-mail, file messages in folders, or tag them by conversation topic for easy access. Paul Smith also expects that enhancements to Outlook Web App that make it a more seamless experience similar to the Outlook desktop client will be popular with its increasingly mobile work force.Benefits
New features in the Exchange Server 2010 architecture will help Paul Smith reduce the cost of its overall unified communications solution while providing more reliable, resilient service to its employees. Employees will also benefit from improvements to Exchange Unified Messaging that help them be more effective at their jobs.
As part of the deployment for Exchange Server 2010, Paul Smith has reconfigured its storage network in a way that will help it reduce costs. The ability to provide tiered service with varying mailbox storage quotas for employees with different roles, along with automated archiving through Retention Policies, means that less storage will be required overall. The company saves money not only by not having to purchase more storage for a growing network, but also hopes that over time it can reclaim about one terabyte worth of storage across the network for other uses, achieving a significant cost efficiency.
The ability to lag database copies for recovery at its London disaster recovery site, along with redundant database copies across the database availability groups at its primary and secondary data centers in Nottingham, eliminates the need for backups. Paul Smith will be able to repurpose its System Center Data Protection Manager server for its file shares and entirely eliminate the expense of tape backups. “We’re seeing a huge cost savings in terms of the backup environment. We had 800 GB of data on Data Protection Manager in the Exchange Server 2003 environment, and now we can do everything without Data Protection Manager. We can remove that cost from day one and repurpose the Data Protection Manager server for the file server environment. It’s about £10,000 [about U.S.$16,000] in cost savings,” says Bingham.
Implementing the Message Waiting Indicator also leads to cost savings. With its current Cisco telephony platform, the company would have required an expensive third-party solution to provide the same service. Because the Message Waiting Indicator service is native to Exchange Server 2010 for customers who have implemented Unified Messaging, Paul Smith is able to save about £8,000 (U.S.$12,700).
||We’ve gone from a 24- to 48-hour response time down to a five-minute response time. The business was asking for a disaster recovery strategy and plan, and this is what we were able to provide.
Head of IT, Paul Smith
Because Exchange Server 2010 offers Paul Smith the ability to use readily available database copies for backup and recovery, the IT team is better able to recover from an outage at the server, site, or network level. “We’ve gone from a 24- to 48-hour response time down to a five-minute response time,” explains Bingham. “The business was asking for a disaster recovery strategy and plan, and this is what we were able to provide.”
With the migration to Exchange Server 2010, Paul Smith employees will experience enhanced productivity in a number of ways. The Message Waiting Indicator and Voice-Mail Preview features let employees know immediately whether they have voice mail, so important calls will not go unattended. Employees are notified through a light indicator on a desk phone, an SMS text message on their mobile phone, or an e-mail message in the inbox.
Employees can also take advantage of a more seamless messaging and collaboration experience, no matter how they access their Microsoft Outlook e-mail messages—through the Outlook client on the desktop, through Outlook Web App on a browser, or through the Outlook Mobile client on their mobile phone. “No matter what, they get the same level of service,” says Proud. “It’s a simple thing that people expect from their mobile applications today. The consistency and quality of experience is important to users. The enhancements in Exchange Server 2010 will make the user experience transparent to employees, no matter how they access e-mail.”
With its upgrade to Exchange Server 2010, Paul Smith has made an investment in its unified communications capabilities that help position it for future growth and cost savings as it continues to refine its infrastructure.
Microsoft Exchange Server 2010
Exchange 2010 can help you achieve better business outcomes while controlling the costs of deployment, administration, and compliance. Exchange delivers the widest range of deployment options, integrated information leakage protection, and advanced compliance capabilities, that combine to form the best messaging and collaboration solution available.
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