4-page Case Study
Posted: 9/4/2011
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Foti Iconic fireworks company improves staff communication and collaboration with all-in-one small business IT server.

“We are a small business and don’t have the resources to employ an IT person on our staff. So the most important thing for us is that it works – and it does.”

Tino Foti, Marketing Director, Foti Fireworks

Australian fireworks company Foti Fireworks (Foti) have produced some of the most dramatic fireworks displays in the world, including the Sydney Harbour display each New Year’s Eve since 2000. However, as a small company, they did not have their own email system, nor could they provide remote access to files on the company server. As a result, staff could not easily collaborate or develop business opportunities when working overseas.

In March 2011, Foti deployed Windows® Small Business Server 2011 Standard, an all-in-one IT solution that provides features like e-mail, Internet connectivity, internal Web sites, remote access, and file and printer sharing. As a result staff can now work on all company files from any office or online, and they can access their email online or on their mobile devices. The managing director now has a centralised IT system that is up-to-date, yet easy to manage. This has reduced the company’s dependence on external IT support, while increasing everyone’s ability to communicate and collaborate efficiently.

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* "I wanted reliable email with large mailboxes that my staff could access online and from mobile phones." *

Tino Foti,
Marketing Director,
Foti Fireworks

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Business Needs

Foti Fireworks (Foti) is a Sydney-based business that designs and produces firework displays. Originally founded in Italy in 1793, Foti set up in Australia in the 1960s and under the stewardship of three generations of the Foti family, the company has become Australia’s largest fireworks company.

In 2000, the company won the contract to design and manage the iconic and world-famous New Year’s Eve firework display on Sydney Harbour. These annual shows have helped brand Sydney across the globe and boosted the company’s international reputation.

For such a high profile company, Foti remains modestly sized, with only 16 permanent staff across four sites in Australia. Partly because of its size, the company relied on nominal internal IT. Staff used Windows Server® 2003 for
file and print services, and POP3 email supplied by an internet service provider.

As their fireworks displays became more complex, so the size of the company’s display design documents increased.

“We struggled to email design documents once they reached
15–20 megabytes,” says Tino Foti, Marketing Director, Foti Fireworks. “As a result we had to use drop boxes to send designs to colleagues.

“In addition, when we were out of the office or overseas we didn’t have access to our central file server. My brother in Hong Kong runs our China business, and he would have to ask us to send him designs via drop box because he couldn’t access our files.”

By the beginning of 2011, staff were suffering productivity losses from system down time, and Tino Foti found himself repeatedly calling his external IT supplier for support. He decided it was time to invest in new IT capabilities.

“I wanted reliable email with large mailboxes that my staff could access online and from mobile phones,” he says. “I also wanted staff to be able to access applications and collaborate from any of our sites or online.”

Solution

Foti investigated two options: signing up to a variety of cloud-based services, and deploying a single packaged solution designed for small business.

“We trialled some cloud services, but they seemed a little sluggish,” says Tino Foti. “So I contacted Khodar Ali Ahmed, the managing director of a local IT support and managed services company that specialises in helping small and medium-sized enterprises.
He recommended a small
business server.”

“The new Windows Small Business Server 2011 was the most effective solution for Foti, because it bundles all mail, file remote access, security and security tools into a single easy to use solution,” says Khodar Ali Ahmed, Managing Director, Intrix Solutions.

Windows® Small Business Server 2011 (SBS 2011 Standard) is built on the Windows Server® 2008 R2 operating system, and includes Microsoft® Exchange Server 2010 Standard for email. This provides companies with Exchange ActiveSync, which synchronises email accounts to mobile devices, as well as Microsoft® Outlook Web App for online access to email.

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* "Productivity at our regional offices has improved because they don't have to call the head office to get colleagues to upload files. Email synchronises with my smart phone: it is alwalys updating in real-time and I know it's backed up." *

Tino Foti,
Marketing Director,
Foti Fireworks

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“SBS 2011 also includes a new feature, Remote Web Access,” says Khodar. “This would enable Foti to dispense with the drop box, because staff could access files remotely from the corporate Web site. A virtual private network could be used to allow staff to work from their notebooks when travelling – as if they were in the office. This would mean they could also access desktops remotely, allowing staff to use applications that are hosted at other sites.”

“Khodar also mentioned that we could virtualise our Small Business Server deployment, which would make it simpler for us to move our entire IT to an external hosting company later on if we chose,” says Tino Foti.

Within days of first consulting Khodar, Foti decided to invest in SBS 2011 Standard. The complete process – procurement of hardware, software and deployment – took one month.

“We bought the licence for Windows Server 2008 R2 separately, which enabled us to virtualise the entire Small Business Server platform using Hyper-V,” adds Tino.

Benefits

SBS 2011 Standard now provides Foti with centralised, easy-to-manage data, email and collaboration services. Staff at all four sites can collaborate securely across the internet, which increases their individual capabilities, and makes the business more flexible.

Easier business management

For Tino Foti, the principal direct benefit is that SBS 2011 Standard makes his business easier to manage.

“It takes a lot of pressure off me and my staff, because our IT is more manageable and everything works,” he says. “We have not had one
day where our systems have
gone down.”

Tino emphasises why this is so important for family firms like his.

“We are a small business without the resources to employ an IT person on our staff. So the most important thing for us is that it works – and it does.”

Better remote working

Off-site staff can now access company files using Remote Web Access, and their email accounts using Outlook Web App. This enables Tino’s brother in Hong Kong to access firework display files by logging straight on to the company server in Sydney.

“Our VPN makes us much more flexible,” says Tino “It has worked perfectly, and we are confident it
is secure.

“Recently our accounts staff member, who is not based at our head office, went away on extended leave. With Remote Web Access, we simply accessed the payroll application remotely and kept payments flowing without disruption.”

Improved productivity

Like any business owner, Tino had to balance the investment costs of technology upgrades against anticipated efficiencies or improved business capabilities.

“Small Business Server may cost more, but the productivity improvements make it well worthwhile,” he says. “We don’t need drop boxes anymore which is a big time saver, and we aren’t losing time when our systems
are down.

“Productivity at our regional offices has improved because they don’t have to call head office to get colleagues to upload files. Email synchronises with my smart phone: it is always updating in real-time and I know it’s backed up.”

“I am very happy with Small Business Server. It’s extremely reliable and it gives us everything we need.”

Microsoft Product that was featured

Windows® Small Business Server 2011 provides small businesses with many of the features used by large companies: email, Internet connection, remote access, support for mobile devices, file and printer sharing, backup and restore - all in one affordable, integrated solution.

It is simple to manage and allows companies to add users, servers and applications or expand into other Microsoft technologies as business needs evolve.

The inclusion of Hyper-V™ in Windows Server® 2008 R2 can help companies make the best use of their hardware investments by consolidating multiple servers into a virtualised environment they can use for applications, storage and back-up.

For More Information

For more inforamtion about Microsoft products and services call the sales and information line on 13 20 58 Monday to Friday 8am to 8pm AEST. To find a partner or solution, visit www.microsoft.com/australia/findapartner/

Solution Overview



Organization Size: 16 employees

Organization Profile

Foti Fireworks is Australia’s largest fireworks display company, responsible for the Sydney New Year’s Eve fireworks display since 2000, as well as numerous other public and private events. The family firm has three offices in Australia and two in China, including Hong Kong.


Business Situation

Staff used POP3 email, but relied on drop boxes to send very large files between offices and off-site workers. This was cumbersome and time-consuming.


Solution

In March 2011, Foti deployed Windows® Small Business Server 2011 Standard which enabled them to build a virtual private network, providing easy remote access to company files, as well as better email and a reliable IT platform.


Benefits
  • Easier business management

  • Better remote working        

  • Improved productivity


Software and Services
  • Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 Standard
  • Windows Small Business Server 2011 Standard
  • Windows Server 2008 R2
  • Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync

Vertical Industries
Manufacturing & Resources

Country/Region
Australia

Business Need
  • Data Management
  • Cloud & Server Platform
  • Business Productivity

IT Issue
  • Cloud Services
  • Enterprise Content Management
  • Document and Records Management
  • Personal Productivity
  • Virtualization

Languages
English

Partner(s)
Intrix Solutions

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