||Managing our e-mail system had become a business issue for us. Exchange Online has taken that issue and turned it into a non-issue. It has enabled our employees to get on with doing what they do best.
Asia City Media Group
Headquartered in Hong Kong, and with offices in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok and Shanghai, Asia City Media Group is the region’s leading media company specializing in city living and lifestyle content. The group was the first to introduce city living magazines to Asia, and pioneered the concept of free-distribution publications in the region. Its 140 employees now provide a comprehensive range of premium media content and services, reaching out regularly to more than one million of Asia’s top demographic every month. Asia City Media Group publishes such well-known titles as HK Magazine, BK Magazine, The List, I-S Magazine, WHERE Hong Kong, WHERE Singapore and the KL Map.
“From internally reviewing content to delivering it to clients, we rely heavily on e-mail communications,” says Greg Crandall, Country Manager, Asia City Media Group. “However, as an SME [small and medium-sized enterprise], we don’t have the luxury of dedicating a lot of IT team resources to managing e-mail servers.”
Asia City Media Group depends on its IT staff to ensure high standards of service delivery to its clients. The group has a database of 10,000 clients and 30,000 subscribers to weekly e-mail newsletters. “Our newsletters go out every Friday and our clients rely on these subscriptions to stay informed about what is happening in their cities every weekend,” says Crandall. “These products are completely dependent on e-mail and very time-sensitive.”
The company identified a resource-allocation problem with its on-premise e-mail solution. “In-house servers require maintenance and upkeep,” says Crandall. “Even mundane processes such as adding user accounts eat into time that could be devoted to tasks that are a much higher priority for our business, such as managing and improving our [Web] portal and client databases.”
Additionally, the group was concerned about the safety of hosting e-mail servers in house. “Coming from disaster-prone California, I am highly conscious of the importance of backing up critical business assets,” says Crandall. “Any disruption to our e-mail capabilities would have serious consequences for our service delivery standards. We also need to store e-mail communications for internal compliance purposes. Having all these assets stored in one location is a clear business risk.”
Limitations on e-mail inbox sizes also posed a challenge for Asia City Media Group employees. “A lot of the e-mails we need to share internally and with clients contain data-heavy content such as graphics,” says Crandall. “[Mailbox] size limits were a problem for us. Quite often, we had to resort to personal e-mail accounts, which looks unprofessional and makes it difficult for us to maintain records.”
To address these challenges, Asia City Media Group started considering cloud computing solutions. “EmployeeConnectTM (Greater China) Limited has been our client for more than 10 years. In March, we started working closely on the set of marketing collaterals
|Greg Crandall |
Country Manager, Asia City Media Group
for Microsoft® Online Services, and in a brainstorm with EmployeeConnectTM, we began to ask ourselves why managing e-mail servers should be an issue we need to deal with,” says Crandall. “Why not outsource this to EmployeeConnectTM and free up our own IT resources to focus on tasks that actually add value to our business? Why risk losing all our data and our ability to function in the event of a disaster? From the beginning, we were very open to the concept of cloud computing. This is the future of technology and an obvious direction for us to take.”
The company contemplated using Gmail but after studying the system they concluded that it was not a business-class e-mail solution, In June 2010, EmployeeConnectTM, a Microsoft Gold Certified partner, formulated an email migration plan and detailed project schedule for Asia City, giving them total peace of mind during the migration. In July, thanks to the strategic planning of EmployeeConnectTM, Asia City successfully deployed Microsoft Exchange Online to 140 users in their offices across the region.
Exchange Online has helped Asia City Media Group to meet its business challenges:
Affordability; “For an SME, the cost of a new IT investment will always be a significant consideration,” says Crandall. “From an affordability point of view, Microsoft Exchange Online was very attractive. What’s more, since deploying it, we have seen a 30 percent reduction in costs, and man hours reduced from an hour a day to just ten minutes, enabling us to devote more time to service innovation, which increases the return on investment.”
Robust disaster recovery; With e-mails now hosted in a Microsoft data centre, Asia City Media Group has peace of mind that data assets are safe. “For me, it is just intuitive that a system so critical to our business should not be housed in our facilities and vulnerable to disruption or damage,” says Crandall. “Now that our e-mail is hosted by Microsoft, and backed up by world-class ISO27001, ISO27002 & SAS 70 security standards, we can stop worrying about ‘what if’ and get on with building our business.”
Rapid deployment; “When we decided to go with an online e-mail service, the first concern, after cost, was how disruptive a major system change would be,” says Crandall. “For an SME that runs weekly publications, we can’t afford any downtime.” Advised by EmployeeConnectTM, they devised a non-disruptive deployment plan for Asia City Media Group that involved running Exchange Online in parallel with the company’s on-premise e-mail. “Within 10 days we were able to switch over to the online service across the regions without disruption. The EmployeeConnectTM consultant team’s expertise and guidance ensured we could enjoy the new email services right away,” says Crandall.
Enhanced performance; Asia City Media Group’s sales team is constantly on the move but still needs e-mail access to collaborate with clients and colleagues. Employees also use a number of devices, including BlackBerry, Windows Phone, iPhone and Android smart phones. Exchange Online integrates with all of these devices, enabling the sales team to stay connected and be productive wherever business takes them.
“We have also noticed an improvement in e-mail performance when working remotely,” says Crandall. “Otherwise, the online version works just as well as the on-premise one. You get the same results but with much less management and maintenance. The only noticeable difference is the much larger inboxes – 25GB, more than enough for our needs, and all of our clients enjoy having a much larger attachment limit.”
Scaled for future growth; the flexibility of Exchange Online, which allows Asia City Media Group to easily and rapidly tailor capacity to changes in demand, is also a benefit. “We know that as our company grows in the region, scaling the system will not be a challenge,” says Crandall.
“Managing our e-mail system had become a business issue for us,” says Crandall. “Exchange Online has taken that issue and turned it into a non-issue. It has enabled our employees to get on with doing what they do best.”
Based on the positive experience of Exchange Online, Asia City Media Group is considering other Microsoft Online Services. “Looking forward, we will explore other Microsoft cloud solutions, such as customer relations management,” says Crandall. “And, as Asia City starts to develop more cross-regional content, we will definitely be looking into SharePoint Online.”
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.
Microsoft Exchange Online is a hosted enterprise messaging solution based on Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 and provides improved e-mail security, “from virtually-anywhere" access to e-mail for your employees, enhanced operational efficiency for your IT staff and 25-gigabyte mailbox storage per standard license.
For more information about Microsoft Online Services, go to:http://www.microsoft.com/hk/online/