APR Media, an online retailer, needed to replace an ageing server and, at the same time, support smartphone users and pave the way for improved database performance to enable their ecommerce platform to deal with growing transactions.Business Needs
Working with Microsoft Partner, NCI, deployed Windows Small Business Server 2011 Standard with Premium Add On for email and file sharing. This included a licence for Microsoft SQL Server 2008 for Small Businesses, which provided the latest database technology.
The new system has improved support for smartphones, remote working and offers better performance and reliability. Because Small Business Server 2011 includes several Microsoft products in one ‘suite’ with special licence terms, APR Media was able to save about 30 percent compared with the cost of buying the server software separately.
APR Media, based in Wellington, Somerset, comprises three main businesses: APR Media itself, which sells recordable media online, APR Audio, which hires PA equipment for concerts and APR Duplication a DVD and CD duplication and replication company.
The company faced several challenges. First, the company wanted to give its staff more remote access to files and email. APR Audio engineers spend a lot of their time on the road going from one concert venue to another and they needed to be able to access their work, including emails, from their smartphones and laptops.
The company also wanted to expand its successful online retail business to eBay and Amazon but this would increase the volume of transactions beyond the capacity of its existing database system. In particular, it needed a new interface to replace the bespoke system that linked its existing database with its website.
In addition, the duplication business handles large art files for DVD and CD covers and huge audio and video files. The company’s existing server was out of warranty and approaching the end of its life. Quite simply, it couldn’t cope very well. Because APR uses a mix of PCs and Apple Macs, it needed a server that worked equally well for both types of computer.
||Small Business Server 2011 has given APR Media a huge boost in capability. Now we have a server that can cope with anything we can throw at it and which lets us cope with problems much better. Not only that but it underpins our future growth plans for our ecommerce business and sets us up for the future.
||Leigh Sampson, Financial Controller, APR Media Ltd
APR Media turned to NCI Technologies, their IT consultants and Microsoft Partner, for help. NCI recommended Windows Small Business Server 2011 Standard with Premium (SBS 2011), which included the database software Microsoft SQL Server 2008 for Small Businesses and Microsoft’s latest email system, Microsoft Exchange Server 2010.
What this combination of software provided was a series of virtual servers running on two physical servers. Just like you can run multiple applications on your PC at the same time, today’s powerful servers can run several distinct virtual servers simultaneously. To the outside world, it looks like each virtual server is in fact a separate computer but they all run on the same system. Virtualisation lets companies like APR save money because they don’t have to buy so many servers.
This arrangement provides: file sharing, email, diary and contact management, a database and the ability for staff to log in and run Windows 7 and Windows applications for virtually any computer, including the company’s Macs.
“Hats off to NCI,” says Leigh Sampson, Financial Controller at APR Media Ltd., “there were no problems with the installation or upgrade and it went off very smoothly.”Benefits
Staff at APR Media now have excellent access to their emails and work, wherever they are. This means that engineers on the road can pick up messages on their smartphones and if staff are forced to work from home, for example during a snow storm, there’s “nothing they can do in the office that they can’t do at home,” according to Sampson.
Most of the company uses PCs with Windows 7 and Office 2010 and this software works best with the new SBS 2011 server. It is closely integrated and helps to make staff more productive and efficient. They find it easy to use and very responsive.
On the database front, the new SQL Server includes software that connects the database directly to the ecommerce platform so that, when it is up and running, it will allow APR Media to deal with massive increases in volume and support sales through eBay and Amazon as well as the company’s existing website. “It’s the foundation stone for the next stage of our growth,” says Sampson.
Thanks to NCI’s expertise with licensing as a member of the Microsoft Small Business Specialist Community, they were able to put together a package that saved APR about 30 percent compared with the cost of buying all the different Microsoft products on an individual basis. In addition, because NCI used virtualisation, NCI only needed to buy two physical servers rather than three or four and this represented an immediate cost saving.
“Small Business Server 2011 has given APR Media a huge boost in capability,” concludes Sampson. “We have a server that can cope with anything we can throw at it and which lets us cope with problems much better. Not only that but it underpins our future growth plans for our ecommerce business and sets us up for the future.”This case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY.