London Drugs is a retail organization with more than 69 locations across Western Canada. To meet growing customer demand for its Web-based photofinishing service, London Drugs sought to boost the performance and scalability of its database server environment. London Drugs upgraded to Microsoft® SQL Server® 2008 Enterprise to take advantage of new features including data compression and enhanced storage capabilities. The company worked with Microsoft Services to help simplify the upgrade and deployment process. Today, the updated Windows®-based environment at London Drugs is helping to boost sales and deliver more satisfied customers of its popular digital photofinishing services.
||Performance is paramount for us in delivering exceptional customer service. We’ve been pleased with the ability for SQL Server 2008 to help us keep pace with the growing demands of our customer base.
Founded in 1945, London Drugs Ltd. today has 6,000 employees and operates a retail chain of 69 stores that serve the provinces of British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Alberta. The company specializes in pharmacy items, but also sells a wide range of consumer products.
Recognizing the consumer shift from traditional film-based photography to digital, London Drugs launched its Photo Station service in 1999, which provides customers with a fast and affordable way to create prints on demand or upload and share photos on the Web. At the time, the company’s Photo Station was the industry's first large-scale deployment of an online photofinishing service, and today, it is integrated across the London Drugs retail chain. Customer demand for the Photo Station service continues to increase and remains a key growth driver for the company.
As consumer awareness of digital imaging grows, so too does demand for the Photo Station. But with the offering becoming more popular, London Drugs was concerned by the dwindling amount of storage space available to customers. Each time a customer uploads a photo, the file remains on the company’s server until the user chooses to delete it from the system. So far, the images have consumed nearly 20 terabytes of storage capacity.
“We store and back up the digital images on our system for as long as the customer wants it. This is the main reason why our online photo service is so popular, but it also means the system has to be highly available and reliable from a storage perspective,” says Samantha Kinoshita, IT manager, London Drugs.
As well, London Drugs wanted to ensure that its IT infrastructure – which includes a network of more than 3,800 workstations and 775 servers – could scale to meet growing demand.
To do this, London Drugs needed a more scalable and cost-effective solution that would help conserve IT resources, reduce the number of database servers and streamline information sharing between its various front-end and back-end applications.
In 2008, London Drugs decided to upgrade its database infrastructure to Microsoft® SQL Server® 2008 Enterprise Edition, a platform that integrates data into the data warehouse faster, scales and manages growing volumes of data and users, and helps deliver better business insight. To assist in the implementation, London Drugs engaged technology partner, Microsoft Services, for its IT and business consulting expertise.
Kinoshita and her team worked with Microsoft Services to gain a clear understanding of the strategic direction for building a more efficient IT environment. SQL Server 2008 has helped London Drugs partition its large data sets into more manageable chunks.
The company is also using several new features, including enhanced Database Mirroring to ensure the high availability of data, Backup Compression to reduce storage loads and Resource Governor to allocate the processing resources needed to manage the system. The Backup Compression feature is particularly important to London Drugs due to the large and rapidly growing volume of files within its databases.
The FILESTREAM feature of Microsoft SQL Server 2008 also strengthens database integration by storing binary data as files on the system, helping to maintain transactional integrity. The London Drugs IT team was also eager to take advantage of the enhanced Policy-based Management functionality. Administered from the SQL Server Management Studio, Policy-based Management can be used to set and enforce policy for internal and external database developers and administrators.
“With Policy-Based Management, we’re no longer scrambling for storage space. This feature has helped make our operations more efficient,” says Kinoshita.
With the updated server environment in place, customers of the London Drugs Photo Station are benefiting from a faster and more reliable online photofinishing service experience.
Simplified data management
During the busy winter holiday season, London Drugs traditionally sees a large spike in demand for its Photo Station service. The company works with Microsoft Services to help simplify the migration process in time for this busy time period. The new SQL Server 2008 platform has helped the IT team better allocate resources on the back-end to accommodate more online photo requests on the front-end. This means that the new database environment can better handle seasonal surges and large volumes of transactions, helping to strengthen the company’s commitment to customer service.
“For a database administrator, there is nothing more frustrating than unexpected database activity. With SQL Server 2008, we’re now able to quickly establish policies around our data management to improve internal operations, which is a big win for us,” says Kinoshita. “And thanks to the new database compression and management features, our volume of data decreased substantially, as have the requirements for available disk storage.”
Reliability and scalability
Maximizing server usage helps London Drugs provide a more reliable server environment. The Policy-based Management feature allows staff to enforce naming standards, security settings, memory settings, and other elements designed to help simplify database management. This allows London Drugs to have one policy for its image server, and another policy for product order servers to help make database management more manageable.
“Upgrading to SQL Server 2008 has allowed us to extend the capacity of our IT environment without having to make new investments in hardware. We’re always mindful of costs and the Windows-based technology helps save us the expense of getting a whole new server, and allows us to extend the life of our existing assets,” says Kinoshita.
Foundation for growth
Demand for the photofinishing service continues to grow and with the SQL Server 2008 platform in place, London Drugs is looking at further extending the IT environment by taking advantage of business intelligence (BI) capabilities, including enhanced reporting and analysis capabilities. Moving to SQL Server 2008 will help London Drugs enjoy easier report management, support for better decision making, reduced reporting costs and more effective service line reporting and management.
“Performance is paramount for us in delivering exceptional customer service. We expect that the SQL Server 2008 platform will help us find new ways to keep pace with the growing demands of our customer base,” adds Kinoshita.
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