Through organic expansion, and growth through acquisition, Adrenalin Publishing is a typical New Zealand small business, knocking on the door of becoming a medium-sized business.
With a stable of seven magazines, Adrenalin Publishing specialises in Business-to-Business and Automotive publications, plus organises the events associated with these. Its titles include: NZ Business, NZ Company Vehicle, NZ4WD, Motor equipment News, DEMM, Automation & Control and Electrical Technology.
Its visionary leader realised that a future-proofed IT system was crucial to support its current size, and the growth it hopes to achieve over the coming years.
With the help of technology partner Xanadu, Adrenalin Publishing has deployed Microsoft’s integrated technology stack – Microsoft Small Business Server 2003 (including Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 –Premium Edition) and Microsoft Office 2003 -Professional . The company has also utilised Microsoft’s Open License Value offering, dramatically improving its cash flow through staged license payments.
The company’s growth meant its cumbersome and insecure peer-to-peer network could no longer support the business, and didn’t provide for improved collaboration in the future.
Adrenalin implemented a solution based on a dedicated specialist file server from Hewlett-Packard (HP ML330) running Microsoft Small Business Server 2003 –Premium/Standard Edition, supported by a Cisco 837 Router with inbuilt firewall.
A typical New Zealand Small Business With A Technology Edge
Only 11 years ago, Adrenalin Publishing was a typical small and ambitious New Zealand business, with two people working on one computer in a residential basement office. With growth aspirations befitting any small business with potential, the company worked hard, growing to today’s permanent team of 16 (including four contractors).
The company’s growth has been both organic and through acquisition, with the purchase this year of NZ Business. The company is now knocking on the door of becoming a medium-sized business. In parallel with its increasing size was the necessary growth of its IT infrastructure.
Sam Parker, Publisher of Adrenalin Publishing, admits to having a strong personal interest in IT, which has been useful considering the relatively heavy technology use in publishing.
“Publishing has always been technology-based on the production side, so IT was part of our business from day one. Certainly today the scale of it has changed as we use technology across the administration, financial, editorial and sales sides of the business,” says Parker.
Over recent years, the company had increased its hardware from three PCs and one Mac, to 12 PCs, two laptops and two Mac computers.
The company used a peer-to-peer network system for data sharing on the PCs with one PC acting as a defacto file server, storing all the critical data files that could be accessed by staff as required. How the company used IT was also quite sophisticated, with six sales staff using a networked contact management program (ACT!), networked accounting and payroll (MYOB) and subscriptions databases (An in-house developed Microsoft Access database).
Parker says the complex network was starting to show signs of stress, and it was becoming cumbersome to administer.
“Adding a new or replacement machine took a lot of setting up to get network, internet and printers all working. Integration of the two Macs was also difficult and despite being networked they could only do very basic file sharing using a proprietary program.”
“The PC file server was also running slowly and crashing regularly, causing disruption to all staff and a lot of stress when files were lost.”
Parker explains he was also concerned about the level of security, “We had limited data security with only the use of a tape backup system, and we had issues with internet security as the router had no firewall capability.
“It comes down to the old adage about what keeps you up at night. For me the key things are whether I have enough cash flow to pay the bills, what staff issues are bubbling away, and is my business information secure.
“With these issues in mind, we decided to implement a solution based on a dedicated specialist file server from Hewlett-Packard (HP ML330) running Microsoft Small Business Server 2003 – Premium Edition, supported by a Cisco 837 Router with inbuilt firewall. We brought in a specialist IT partner (Xanadu) for the implementation and we’re keeping them on in an ongoing support role.
“We also purchased our Microsoft software through Open License Value, which meant I could manage my all important cash flow, while providing a system that would improve staff satisfaction and efficiency and ensure my data was safe.”
Improved Cash Flow Through Microsoft Open License Value (OLV)
Cash flow is key to any small business, and Sam Parker was acutely aware of his budget for his new software package.
While researching the IT solution he was alerted to the benefits of Microsoft Open License Value (OLV), a software volume licensing programme available under the Open License family.
OLV is designed for organisations with as few as five computers, and allows businesses to spread payments across the term of the agreement rather than incurring the entire cost up front.
OLV also offers the advantages of Software Assurance, which provides a powerful combination of benefits for businesses, including new version rights, so Adrenalin can more simply access new versions of licensed software that might be released during the term of their agreement.
Software Assurance also includes the Home Use Program which means employees can obtain licensed software for home, so they can work from home, and company access to various resources, technology tools, and IT training for staff.
“Through OLV we can pay in three instalments over three years, so it is brilliant for our cash flow and there are never any software budget surprises. We also get the other benefits under Software Assurance, which means we can access the software upgrades we are bound to need in the future,” says Parker.
“I could imagine OLV would be really attractive for many small businesses. The instalments mean we are paying as we use it, and yet we still own it.”
Rest-Assured With Centralised Security Approach
Managing Security and Software Updates With Ease
Parker admits he had an uneasy feeling about the potential security vulnerabilities in some areas of his network.
The company relied on individual staff to make sure their PCs were up-to-date and that they were registered to security update services, such as Microsoft Windows Update or Anti-Virus (AV) updates. This made it difficult for Adrenalin to monitor whether or not all 10 PCs had the security they needed.
By centralising to one server – Small Business Server 2003 – Premium Edition - Adrenalin’s PCs are no longer the gateway, instead everything is centrally managed on the one server. Adrenalin also uses Norton anti-virus software to further boost security.
“With Microsoft Small Business Server 2003 – Premium Edition we have one license and one update process. We only have to update once as the server automatically distributes security patches and AV updates to all the different machines, which has dramatically simplified the system,” says Parker.
“We also know that all our PCs are protected. We’ve had no viruses come through since we deployed, but we’ve had a lot of virus activity, so it shows how vulnerable we were.”
Parker adds that his internal document security has increased. Small Business Server – Premium Edition ensures confidential documents, such as financials, are protected down to the user level as staff now have to provide a user log on. This means the system can tell who has logged on, and therefore who has permission to access certain files.
Three levels of information data back-up
Previously, all of Adrenalin’s critical files were on one machine that acted as a de facto server. If something happened to this hard disk there would be major problems.
Meanwhile, it was the responsibility of individuals to back up their own PCs. If they ever forgot they could potentially lose their personal database and Parker would have to undertake a major recovery exercise.
Now, the company has in effect three levels of data back-up – a central server with a mirrored RAID drive, a remote drive for daily backups using Symantec V2i Server and back-up tapes.
Parker explains, “When Small Business Server 2003 – Premium Edition was installed a ‘RAID mirror drive’ was also installed to hold the same information as the key operational drive. This means if one goes down, the other has the company information. In addition, the other security step is to back up the server every day and store the information on a hard disk located in one of the PC’s using Symantecs V2i Server product.
“We have always had back-up tapes that we take off site every morning, in case there is something like a fire, and this is still really important. The key difference has been the mirror drive. This has taken our back-up procedures up another level. I know now that our data is safe – one less thing for me to worry about at night!”
As a publishing business Adrenalin’s messaging network (ie. email) manages the flow of large files, such as photographs or diagrams, as big as 10-20 megabits.
The company had been using an external Internet Service Provider (ISP) and each PC user had their own email address. This was proving expensive as the company had to pay for extended email boxes to cope with the large files coming through. Meanwhile, if email boxes reached their limit people had to go to the help desk, adding yet another thing to do in their day.
Even email sent between colleagues in the same office would go out one mailbox to an external network and then back into the company’s network to another mailbox, incurring costs each time.
Now, using the Microsoft Exchange Server component of Small Business Server 2003 – Premium Edition, internal emails now only move across the server so there is no multiple handling of files. Parker adds that previously it could take up to five minutes to receive an external or internal email but now it is instantaneous.
“The cost savings by not having an external ISP have been dramatic and the fact we can receive emails so much faster relieves a lot of pressure and stress in our deadline driven environment.”
Parker explains that they can also easily set up their own new users or alias, including generic email addresses that customers can use from the website.
“I can do the email alias set up myself, and it is so easy I can do other things at the same time.”
Microsoft Chosen Over Linux To Future Proof Business
To improve the integration of the company’s Mac and PC systems, Parker initially looked at Linux as a potential file server.
“Our existing server was not going to cope with the increased volume of material going through, so we looked at a Linux file server some time back,” says Parker.
“Once we evaluated it, we realised that it was going to give us some file sharing, and the option of add ons, but these add ons were at an additional cost. All-in-all, it was going to be more complicated and costly in the long term because of the additional services we would need.”
Parker explains that when Adrenalin bought NZ Business the company inherited Microsoft software, including a Microsoft SQL Server database.
“When we worked with the Microsoft SQL database looked at how it could integrate with our new websites which also use SQL we were really impressed. Looking forward we see SQL as having strong benefits to integrate many aspects of our business, several of the commercial software products we are considering to assist our business growth for subscription management and CRM are SQL driven which means we have some future proofing in our IT technology base.
“When we investigated all the integration opportunities with Microsoft technologies we saw the bigger picture – that with Microsoft we could get one system, one interface and one supplier. Managing our IT infrastructure is now much easier, less costly and more secure.
“It can appear on the surface that Microsoft’s software is more costly, but when you evaluate the entire IT spend over a period of time, the picture is different. For us, the software component was only 20% of the overall IT budget and when we looked at the increased capability, the full integration, and the ease of maintenance, Microsoft’s integrated offering on a Hewlett-Packard server was the stand-out winner.”
Improving Remote Working
Sam Parker and his business partner work approximately 15 hours a week from home, allowing them to manage their home commitments and their busy work lives. Sam also travels extensively both locally and internationally.
“In the past I had basic access at home to files at work through Jetstream. I could download a file, but I couldn’t really access the work network remotely in the true sense.
“Now, with Small Business Server 2003 – Premium Edition, with the built in Exchange Server, I have all the access I need from both my home computer and laptop from virtually anywhere in the world, this can be as simple as using the Outlook web client for email checking through to utilising full remote control access for my work PC. When away from home I can also access most of this functionality via a borrowed or public computer such as in an Internet Café.
“I can log in and take control of my own computer, access the server, do all the things I can do as if I was in the office.”
Remote access for internal staff was not the only access needed. Adrenalin had got to the stage where administering the previous IT infrastructure was a major exercise, so the company needed the ability for newly appointed IT administrators and other IT partners to have external access.
“We set up a Virtual Private Network (VPN), so the external IT support people could work remotely. In fact they can do the bulk of what they do over the VPN. This is not just a step up for us, it is proving to be three-to-four times better than what we had. It is remote access like we’ve never had before.”
Getting the support needed
With his natural technology bent Parker had looked after the company’s infrastructure himself in the past. However, as the company and its IT infrastructure grew he realised his time was best spent on the business, and it was time to bring in the IT specialists.
Relationships are important to Sam Parker, and as Adrenalin had worked with and received great service from PB Technologies for many years on desktop technologies, their support remains.
Xanadu was the partner of choice for the server and router installation and software deployment, as well as for Adrenalin’s ongoing support.
“Considering outside IT support is a big decision. We had to weigh up the cost factor against the advantages of ensuring our system, such as our security and technology updates, were completely up to the mark. I was also getting too busy to look after it properly, so it was a balance between opportunities cost and dollar cost. We decided it was well worth engaging a good partner half a day a month to look after the server and fix any issues we may have from time to time.”
Adrenalin bought their hardware through the on-line supplier, Acquire. Parker recommends that IT-aware small businesses consider buying their hardware through a direct seller.
“Most resellers bundle the hardware, software and services together, which is good if you don’t really know what you need, but it can be more costly.
“For me, because I knew what I wanted and I didn’t need a lot of support and advice, I could buy direct on-line through Acquire. The pricing was really good and allowed us to split our purchasing between Acquire for the infrastructure, and Xanadu for services.
“We also liked the idea of working with these smaller companies, as they had that nice small business touch. I’d had a long relationship with Acquire and knew they provided good service and reliability, so I was happy to stay with them.”
Looking to the future: Enhanced collaboration internally and externally
Sam Parker feels confident about the IT structures he has in place to support the company where it is today, and where he wants to take it in the future.
He sees further collaboration between staff and customers as a key area of added-value for the business for the future.
“Outlook 2003 has already brought our email and calendars together, so staff can share calendars and work together easier. Now that my PA can access my calendar and book my appointments we have noticed a huge difference in how we operate. We are also working on setting up the ability to book resources such as meeting rooms,” says Parker.
“This is a great start, but the next step is to look at Microsoft Customer Relationship Management (CRM). Currently, we have a separate contact management system, but I can see the benefits of tying in Outlook 2003. Microsoft CRM and Outlook work well together. It is tightly integrated, and as we use Microsoft software it is a nice progression to integrate with everything else we have.”
Parker adds that a basic intranet has been set up for key documents, giving staff easy access and cutting down the time it takes to find information.
“I see this intranet as just the first step to how we can collaborate more effectively. We’re looking at technologies such as Microsoft SharePoint Portal to extend this even further.
“Microsoft has given us the ability to deal with the now and look ahead. It is very exciting.”
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For more information about Adrenaline Publishing products and services, visit the Web site at: www.adrenalin.co.nz
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