“Desktop Anywhere® has given us scalability and freedom. We have grown from five to 50 staff, all using enterprise-grade software without having to invest in any infrastructure.”
Quentin Shaw, Director, Eureka Funds Management.
Sydney-based OBT is a pioneer of private cloud hosted services in Australia, providing an affordable alternative to onsite, self-managed IT with a complete OBT Anywhere Suite™ for over a decade. Secure remote access to virtual desktops means employees always log on to the standardised desktop environment irrespective of the computer they are working on, and they can use all the corporate applications and specialised software they normally work with in their office environment.
To ensure rapid delivery of service, OBT have incorporated Microsoft® Remote Desktop Services, one of the core technologies available within Windows Server® 2008 R2. In 2010 OBT also implemented Microsoft® Dynamic Data Center Toolkit, built on Windows Server® 2008 R2 Hyper-V™ and Microsoft® System Center, to manage their complete environment, from hardware layer monitoring right through to the end applications.
By finding technologies that increase operational efficiencies, OBT have been able to expand their market. Customers are impressed by the simplicity, scalability, reliability and improved capabilities of the service, and free from the burden of IT maintenance, support, back-up and security, they have the flexibility to focus on their own core business.
|“Our strength is that we can provide high-grade data security and disaster recovery more efficiently than individual companies can achieve themselves, because our entire company is focused on running software as efficiently, reliably and securely as possible.” |
Founded in Sydney in 1999, OBT is a pioneering private cloud services company that offers a comprehensive hosting service and is a reliable technology partner. From the company’s data centre in Sydney, OBT delivers a customisable mix of office productivity software and industry-specific applications to a wide range of small and medium-sized customers including accountancy, legal, funds management, consultancy, recruitment and other businesses.
The company’s flagship service is called Desktop Anywhere®. It provides a complete remote desktop environment for every employee within a customer’s company.
“OBT Anywhere Suite™ encompasses all aspects of in-house IT solutions and bundles IT business expenditure for a fixed monthly fee,” says Shane Muller, Managing Director, OBT. “Our customers’ employees log in through a browser and then their desktop appears with all their tools, applications, and personalised modifications.
“Our commercial proposition is that employees should never be bound by their physical computers. Wherever they are, and whichever computer they are working on, they should always be able to work in their familiar desktop environment. The only difference is that everything is hosted in a purpose-built data centre, including virus protection, security and back-up.”
The OBT Desktop Anywhere® service includes a suite of Microsoft® Office applications, delivered using Windows-based Microsoft® Remote Desktop Services 2008 R2, as well as hosted versions of Microsoft Dynamics® CRM 2011, Microsoft® SQL Server® 2005/2008 and Microsoft® Office SharePoint® Server. The company bundled these services with specialised industry software into individual employee desktop environments.
“Customers identify best-of-breed applications, then ask us to host them, along with their regular office applications,” says Muller. “We have been particularly successful in providing full desktop services to companies in highly regulated industries, such as finance, where managing a fully compliant environment can be difficult.
“Our strength is that we can provide high-grade data security and disaster recovery more efficiently than individual companies can achieve themselves, because our entire company is focused on running software as efficiently, reliably and securely as possible.”
In pursuit of greater efficiencies, OBT are avid enthusiasts of virtualisation, and initially used VMware to deliver their virtual private server offering.
“Virtualisation means we use less space and consume less power,” says Muller. “Economies of scale mean that using less infrastructure we can provide higher resilience and better reliability than our customers can provide for themselves.”
OBT is a long-term Microsoft partner, and in late 2009 Microsoft staff contacted Muller to inform him about a new data centre management platform that could help OBT manage virtualised environments.
“Microsoft Dynamic Data Center Toolkit provides us with an entire environment management platform, including Microsoft System Center and Hyper-V,” says Muller.
|“Our customers can add services incrementally. We offer infrastructure, platforms, software and desktops all as a service, integrating them seamlessly, and dramatically enhancing our customers’ commercial agility.”|
“Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager makes the whole virtualised environment easy to manage and enables us to set a benchmark across our entire platform. When we experimented with it, we found that all our tools and applications worked well together, and required minimal integration. The toolkit would enable us to provide services more efficiently.”
In 2010 OBT became the first company in Australia to receive accreditation with the Microsoft® Dynamic Data Center Toolkit, when it launched its Dynamic Server Platform service, which is a fully managed, Infrastructure-as-a-Service offering. The company now provides Microsoft® Office 2010, Microsoft® Exchange Server 2010, Microsoft® SQL Server® 2008 R2 and Microsoft® SharePoint® 2010 to customers via Remote Desktop Services, which is part of Windows Server® 2008 R2.
By lowering the cost of hosted applications, OBT has helped establish a growing market for hosted desktop services.
“Customers can quickly change their IT services to exactly match the changing profile and prospects of their business,” says Muller. “This means their pace of change isn’t dictated by IT projects. Instead, IT moves in step with our customers, giving them the agility to meet dynamic business demands in a timely manner.”
Low-risk, adaptable IT procurement
For Sydney-based Eureka Funds Management, OBT Desktop Anywhere® has proved doubly helpful: it provided a low-risk method for providing a start-up company with sophisticated software; and it has helped the company expand quickly to its current 50-strong headcount without investing capital in IT infrastructure.
“When we set up in 2004, we went straight into the cloud,” says Quentin Shaw, Director, Eureka Funds Management. “We were only five people and none of us were technical. Desktop Anywhere® was the perfect service: I could work on a document, pull the plug on the computer, and wherever I next logged on, I would start up exactly where I left off.”
OBT provided Eureka Funds Management with the full suite of Microsoft Office applications and Microsoft® Exchange, eventually integrating email with calendars and diaries as Microsoft released upgrades. OBT also hosted the company’s MRI and accounting packages, and a cash flow forecasting package called DYNA, all of which can be accessed via thin-client terminals.
“Desktop Anywhere® has given us scalability and freedom,” says Shaw. “We have grown from five to 50 staff, all using enterprise-grade software without having to invest in any infrastructure. I can provide all the IT required for a new employee at the push of a button, and we avoid the need to employ staff to manage our IT systems.”
Improved reliability for small businesses
Hydraulic engineers, Planet Plumbing, switched to hosted desktop services because they wanted to improve systems reliability.
|“The tectonic plates of IT are shifting. Now, an organisation can grow without having any technical infrastructure or onsite expertise...Hosted service solutions is a generational shift, and we are positioning ourselves to be the next business norm.” |
Managing Director, OBT
“We started in 1995, and we have built ourselves into an Australia-wide company managing our own domain, mail, operating system and terminal servers,” says Anthony Alafaci, Managing Director, Planet Plumbing. “However, that environment required a technical support engineer for three days a week. Even then we regularly suffered downtime, which meant I had 50 staff who could not work.
“We moved to the OBT Desktop Anywhere® service last Christmas: the integration was seamless, and no-one had any issues accessing the platform from day one.
“Now we don’t have to worry about back-ups, we don’t have any major IT issues and our systems haven’t crashed once. Someone else is responsible for making sure our IT works, and as a result IT is just less stressful.”
Business coaching company Shirlaws first started using OBT hosted services in 2005 because it needed a simple way to support staff who work on client sites.
“When we started sending staff overseas, we needed our email and intranet to be available 24/7,” says Andrew Mackenzie, Chief Executive Officer, Shirlaws. “By hosting with OBT, we avoid having to employ someone to maintain them, or having to invest in hardware.”
To improve workshop scheduling, Shirlaws created an events management tool using Microsoft Dynamics® CRM. Now, customers can book and pay for workshops through the company’s Web site.
“This was a big step for a small company, because it’s quite sophisticated software,” says Mackenzie. “However, we get excellent uptake for our workshops, because customers find it easier to register using our CRM tool. By using a hosted service, we have saved on build costs, we don’t need specialist internal expertise, and best of all, we don’t have to worry about maintaining back-ups.”
A flexible, scalable and comprehensive solution
Part of the attraction of the OBT approach is that the company can offer and integrate each level of cloud service, from the infrastructure through to the application.
“Our customers can add services incrementally,” says Muller “We offer infrastructure, platforms, software and desktops all as a service, integrating them seamlessly, and dramatically enhancing our customers’ commercial agility.”
Easy to deploy and understand
In addition, the Desktop Anywhere® product is specifically designed for smaller companies that don’t maintain dedicated IT staff.
“Our customers only need minimal technical expertise to manage our cloud services,” says Muller. “Besides making hosted services more attractive, this approach helps reduce customers’ IT help support and operational overheads.”
Increased ability to expand markets
Watching how customers have grown with hosting services, Muller believes a new pattern of IT services is emerging.
“The tectonic plates of IT are shifting,” he says. “Now, an organisation can grow without having any technical infrastructure or onsite expertise. Our security specialists can ensure virus protection remains absolutely up to date across our hosted environments, we can tighten up data security and ensure that company IP remains safe.
“Hosted service solutions is a generational shift, and we are positioning ourselves to be the next business norm.”
Microsoft product that was featured
Using the Infrastructure-as-a-Service model, Microsoft® Dynamic Data Center Toolkit for hosting providers harnesses the full power of the cloud and delivers these services on your terms. The toolkit is built on Windows Server® 2008 R2 Hyper-V™ and Microsoft® System Center – and contains guidance to help you establish appropriate service level agreements and create portals that your customers can use to directly provision, manage, and monitor their infrastructure.
A Dynamic Data Center is a combination of automation, control, and resource management software with a well-defined topology of servers, storage, and networking hardware. The availability of the Hyper-V hypervisor in Windows Server® 2008 R2 has made creating a Dynamic Data Center an achievable goal, one that is secure and highly available so customers can quickly respond to rapid business fluctuations.
For More Information
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