Cortex Business Solutions delivers enterprise eProcurement solutions that help customers improve efficiencies, reduce costs and streamline procurement and supply chain processes. As a growing company, Cortex was looking at new ways to extend its messaging technology to help improve internal and external communication. With the help of Microsoft Cloud Accelerate Partner Betach Solutions Inc., Cortex migrated to Microsoft® Exchange Online, a cloud-based email service that is part of Microsoft® Online Services. Using Exchange Online, the company was able to avoid $150,000 in annual costs, reduce email maintenance work and deliver better service for its mobile workers.Situation
When it comes to the benefits of electronic invoicing — less paperwork, greater data accuracy and reduced processing costs — many companies have been slow to adopt the technology.
Cortex Business Solutions is working to change that.
The emerging Calgary-based firm develops enterprise eProcurement solutions — cloud-based technology that helps companies within the oil and gas sector improve efficiencies, reduce costs and streamline procurement and supply chain processes. Cortex solutions — including its Procure-to-Pay (P2P) and Order-to-Cash (O2C) Solutions — help companies reduce manual paper processes by helping to automate the invoicing, payment and procurement process online.
The company has created the innovative Cortex Trading Partner Network, a cloud-based service that oil and gas customers can use to automate the exchange of business critical documents such as purchase orders, receipts and invoices. What this means, says Cortex president Art Smith, is that companies can cut costs by generating less paperwork while having real-time visibility into purchase orders, inventory and invoicing data from suppliers.
Cortex customers are also seeing the value; the Calgary-based firm was recently named one of the TSX Venture Top 50 companies for 2011, an annual ranking of Canada's top 50 emerging publicly traded companies.
With over 4500 customers across North America and offices in Calgary, Houston and Denver, Cortex wanted to ensure that staff stay connected to deliver a high standard of customer service. Company staff are on the road most of the time and depend on their smartphones and laptops to stay in touch with partners, customers and fellow employees. To boost IT efficiency and give mobile employees enhanced access to email, Cortex looked to improve its communications and collaboration infrastructure.
“When you have a very mobile workforce that's distributed across a large geography, email and calendars are core to company success,” says Smith.
The company had been running Microsoft® Exchange 2003 as an on-premise solution and knew that it was time to update the company’s communication infrastructure to embrace unified communications (UC) technologies and have email, phone, text and other services on an integrated platform. The company was also looking to gain more flexibility in delivering email to mobile devices, including taking advantage of BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) for Microsoft Exchange to make email and other messaging functionality available for its 100 employees who use BlackBerry smartphones.
“We've basically doubled our size every year and we want to continue this pace,” says Smith. “We've grown from five staff to 100 in a short time and we were looking at new ways to use technology to improve the way we communicate and interact. At the same time, we did not wish incur the capital and operational cost of running an on-premise email solution moving forward.”
With this accelerated growth, Cortex would essentially have had to rethink and upgrade its on-premise servers on a near-annual basis in order to keep up as more employees came on board – this would mean wasted investment and time for everyone.
||Compared to what we might have spent on a new on-premise email environment, we are looking at some significant cost savings. IT costs simply can’t outstrip the costs of running the business and Exchange Online helps us ensure that this won’t be the case. Now when I have money to spend, I can spend it on trying to figure out how to win my next customer.
In 2010, Cortex implemented Microsoft® Exchange Online, a cloud-based messaging platform that is part of the Microsoft Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS). Exchange Online is a hosted, enterprise messaging solution based on Microsoft Exchange Server that provides web-based message access, 25 gigabytes (GB) of mailbox storage per licensed user, and financially-backed service-level agreements.
“We looked at other cloud-based options but we liked the fact that Exchange Online integrates with the same Microsoft Outlook and Office programs our staff already use and are familiar with,” says Smith.
Cortex worked with Microsoft technology partner Betach Solutions Inc. to help migrate more than 120 mailboxes to the cloud. In addition, Cortex adopted other solutions within the Business Productivity Online Standard Suite including Microsoft SharePoint Online for collaboration, Microsoft Office Communications Online for instant messaging and presence, and Microsoft Office Live Meeting for web conferencing.
While still running its on-premise installation of Exchange Server, Cortex worked with Betach to move mailbox data to an online environment and roll out Exchange Online to a small test group of users before deploying it across the organization. “Using Exchange Online, Cortex can save IT costs while gaining greater flexibility and capability with a hosted messaging platform,” says Lawrence Gordey, president, Betach Solutions.
Using the hosted solution ensures that mailbox data is automatically and continuously replicated to Microsoft data centers – the IT department no longer has to perform backup operations to ensure redundancy. Through the Exchange Online Administration Center website, the IT team at Cortex can quickly add and delete users, configure distribution lists and coordinate user support, including managing requests to reset staff passwords. Using the Microsoft Online Services Directory Synchronization tool, IT administrators can easily synchronize its on-premise Active Directory Domain Services database with user account data managed through the Exchange Online service.
In addition, Exchange Online features mobile support for Windows Phone, BlackBerry smartphones, and Exchange ActiveSync–enabled devices to quickly connect mobile users to email and other messaging functionality.
“What we like about the cloud is that it gives us is that true utility experience at the right price. We don’t have to worry about issues such as viruses, email backups or recovery within a hosted environment,” says Smith. Benefits
Cortex is taking advantage of Exchange Online to benefit from a rich messaging platform that helps improve internal and external communication. The new hosted messaging environment helps the company avoid paying $120,000 annually to maintain and upgrade its environment.
Cortex is using Exchange Online to support greater flexibility and lower its total cost of ownership (TCO). The new hosted communications environment at Cortex means the company is no longer considering buying and maintaining servers for its email and messaging requirements, which translates into savings that can go straight to the bottom line.
“IT costs simply can’t outstrip the costs of running the business and Exchange Online helps us ensure that this won’t be the case,” says Smith. “Compared to what we might have spent on a new on-premise email environment, we are looking at some significant cost savings. Now when I have money to spend, I can spend it on trying to figure out how to win my next customer.“
“Using a hosted solution like Exchange Online allows the company to keep costs down by not requiring additional staff to run and manage an on-premise infrastructure. In a growth industry like the one Cortex is in, having a cloud-based service allows Cortex to focus on other priorities, such as enhancing the wider IT infrastructure to support its growing business,” adds Gordey.
Enhanced business continuity
By migrating to Exchange Online as its sole email system, Cortex is benefiting from a strong disaster recovery solution that helps to provide a stronger level of business continuity compared to the previous on-premise email infrastructure.
Today, the company benefits from simplified data backup and recovery, improved mobile access to email, and the assurance of 99.9 per cent network availability, says Gordey.
“What we really like is that using the hosted solution gives the flexibility to scale for future growth and support our staff as we grow the company,” says Smith. “We were recently named one of TSX Venture’s top 50 companies for 2011 and we’re using technology such as Exchange Online to maintain our position as a leader in this growing industry.”
Improved operational efficiencies
Within the previous on-premise messaging environment, IT staff found that performing backup operations to safeguard against disk failures or other critical data loss events was extremely time consuming. Today, the Exchange Online environment means that the IT department no longer needs to perform backup operations to ensure redundancy for their messaging environment. As a result, the IT team has been able to reduce management time by 90 per cent.
Stronger communication and collaboration
Exchange Online provides Cortex with modern, extendable email functionality in the cloud. Mobile staff can use their BlackBerry devices to synch e-mail, calendar, contacts, tasks, and shared content through the Hosted BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) functionality of Exchange Online. Users can always stay connected, which helps improve communication across the organization. For example, mobile staff are now using the Exchange Online platform to schedule meetings and also have access to collaboration features like shared calendars, groups, global address list and external contacts.
“Whether staff are travelling to New York City, San Francisco or Houston, they know that they are always able to connect to the email. They do not have to worry if the email server is backed up or if they can quickly email that important sales presentation or report,” says Smith. “Availability is no longer an issue.”Microsoft Online Services
Microsoft Online Services are business-class communication and collaboration solutions delivered as a subscription service and hosted by Microsoft. With these offerings, customers can cost-effectively access the most up-to-date technologies and immediately benefit from streamlined communications, simplified management, and business-class reliability and security features. For IT staffers, Microsoft Online Services are backed by strong service level agreements and help reduce the burden of performing routine IT management, freeing up time to focus on core business initiatives.
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For more information about Betach Solutions Inc. products and services, visit the website at: http://www.betach.com/
For more information about Cortex Business Solutions products and services, visit the website at: http://www.cortex.netThis case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY.