Welding Industries Malaysia Slashes Support Costs by 50 per cent after dropping Linux for Windows Small Business Server 2003.
"With Windows Small Business Server 2003, we aren’t burdened by the worries that afflicted us under the Linux platform. We now spend less time worrying about our IT operations and more time on growing our business."
Leong Keng Foon, General Manager, Welding Industries Malaysia
When Welding Industries Malaysia, a welding products manufacturer, wanted to stretch its IT budget it migrated to a Linux system. The experiment soon ran into various unanticipated problems. Welding Industries discovered that the Linux environment was too complicated and Linux-based resources was lacking. And when it could not migrate its enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution to Linux, Welding Industries decided to drop the Linux platform and reverted back to Windows Small Business Server.
Windows Small Business Server has helped reduce IT support costs by half and enables it to leverage on Windows SharePoint Services for collaboration and information sharing. With the user friendly, secure and reliable platform firmly in place, Welding Industries now spends less time worrying about its IT operations and more time on growing its business.
Welding Industries Malaysia is one of the biggest manufacturers of welding products in Malaysia. Founded in the 1972 by the Leong brothers, it has demonstrated a remarkable ability to adapt to change.
Welding Industries has successfully penetrated into the international market and its products are exported to all corners of globe. Its manufacturing facility is based in Ipoh, the capital of Perak state. Welding Industries has also set up factory in Guangzhou, China.
The company also continuously invests in product development and new technology incorporating state-of-the-art computer systems. This investment has helped it forge a reputation as a world-class manufacturer.
As the company expanded in recent years, its IT investments grew as the number of users increased. This prompted Welding Industries to look at ways to stretch its IT budget.
“As our business grew, we began to have more IT users and so needed to purchase additional software user licenses,” says Leong Keng Foon, General Manager, Welding Industries.
“About two to three years ago, there was a lot of publicity about Open Source software such as Linux systems. We were attracted to idea of not having to pay user licenses for Linux operating systems,” he adds.
In 2005, Welding Industries management decided to migrate from Microsoft Small Business Server 4.5 to a Linux system. However, the Windows system was running parallel to the Linux deployment. “Our plan was to fully migrate to the Linux platform only if everything went smoothly,” says Leong.
At the same time, Welding Industries also deployed OpenOffice, an Open Source office productivity suite on a number of its desktops in a bid to phase out Microsoft Office.
However, the experiment to make Linux the platform for its IT systems soon ran into various unanticipated problems. Welding Industries quickly discovered that resources competent in Linux systems were extremely limited in Ipoh.
It finally had resorted to engaging a Linux service provider from the neighbouring state of Penang, almost 150km away. This was hardly an ideal situation as the service provider’s response time was less than satisfactory and Welding Industries had to bear the former’s traveling expenses.
Leong says that the Linux environment was too complicated for Welding Industries. Unlike the Windows platform, Linux does not have a user interface that was as intuitive or user friendly, he adds. This meant that the company was heavily dependent on the service provider to resolve problems and to answer staff queries on the Linux system.
“Our users were often unsure on how to use the Linux system. Whenever we encountered problems, we had to resort to summoning the consultant from Penang. Not only would they take at least a couple of days to come here, it became very a very costly affair,” he adds.
However, the problem which ultimately derailed the Linux experiment at Welding Industries was the failure to migrate its enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution to the Linux platform. And that was the last straw, prompting Welding Industries to pull the plug on the Linux platform.
“We can’t allow our business to be jeopardized because of problems with the IT system. Our business is so reliant on IT and if the system doesn’t run smoothly, our staff will be idle. And that means we will be losing money.”
Leong says the management became very concerned about the difficulties resulting from the Linux system. “After running the Linux system for several months, we realize we were spending too much time trying to resolve problems.”
“Though the consultant said it could be resolved but we didn’t share that confidence. As we didn’t want to spend more time on it, we decided to drop the Linux system after six months.”
Similarly, Welding Industries’ experiment with OpenOffice also failed to take off as expected. “We tested OpenOffice for several months but found it was not suitable. We have since moved back to Microsoft Office,” Leong confirms.
He says that the staff was more familiar and comfortable using Microsoft Office. “They preferred to use Microsoft Office as they don’t face the frustrations encountered with OpenOffice,” he adds.
These irritations included OpenOffice’s incompatibility with the Microsoft Office file formats. For example, layout formatting done on OpenOffice files would sometimes change after conversion to the Microsoft Office format.
Staff would then have to spend precious time fixing the problem so that they could share files with Microsoft Office users. Leong acknowledges that this was certainly not productive use of time and runs counter to the objective of having an office productivity suite.
For Welding Industries, the move to Linux failed to bring the anticipated dividends. In fact, it lost thousands of ringgit in engaging the Linux service provider and deploying internal resources to oversee the project over a six-month period.
When the Linux experiment came to an end, Welding Industries reverted back to a trusted platform - Windows Small Business Server. The company subsequently upgraded to Windows Small Business Server 2003 in November 2005 to take advantage of new and enhanced features.
Under Small Business Server, Welding Industries runs Windows Server 2003, Exchange 2003 and ISA Server, which provides for network security and system performance tools. The system currently supports about 50 users. The company is also leveraging on Windows SharePoint Services under Windows Server 2003 as the platform for its collaboration portal.
Microsoft Gold Certified Partner Alphamatic Systems Sdn Bhd was engaged to deploy the latest version of Small Business Server and ensure the ERP system was smoothly migrated to the platform.
According to Leong, the migration of the company’s ERP system to Windows Small Business Server 2003 was completed in just a week without any major issues arising. The management is happy with the smooth transition and that it didn’t have to face the problems which plagued the Linux implementation.
With a secure and reliable IT platform firmly established, Welding Industries now spends less time worrying about its IT operations and more time on growing its business. “With Windows Small Business Server 2003, we aren’t burdened by the worries that afflicted us under the Linux platform.”
Leong attests that Windows Small Business Server 2003 was well worth the investment given its extensive functionalities and integrated components such as Windows Server 2003 and Exchange Server 2003.
Business Continuity Assured
For Welding Industries, Windows Small Business Server 2003 has proven to be a stable, robust and relatively problem-free server platform. This provides the company with confidence that business operations will not be disrupted because of problems affecting the IT system.
“Windows Small Business Server is very stable and reliable, and we have not had any downtime,” confirms Leong. Most importantly, he adds that the ERP system easily migrated to Windows Server 2003 without any problems unlike the Linux option.
He says that the ERP system was crucial for the company’s business success and the management would not allow the system’s operations to be affected in any way. “We don’t want our business to be disrupted. We need to have updated data in order to make the right business decisions. Our IT systems should facilitate this.”
Leong acknowledges that whatever initial savings that Linux offered is meaningless if it jeopardizes the smooth running of its core IT applications. “Windows Small Business Server provides us with an IT platform that ensures business continuity and success,” he affirms.
IT Support Costs Halved
Windows Small Business Server 2003 is proving its worth to small and medium-sized companies like Welding Industries which have a limited IT budget. Its reliability, user friendliness and easy administration enabled the company to reduce its IT headcount by 50 per cent. Welding Industries used to have two IT staff, now it needs just one.
“With Windows Small Business Server 2003 running so smoothly, there’s not much for the IT staff to do!,” says Leong. This has allowed IT staff to focus less on operational issues and concentrate on leveraging IT to improve efficiencies and collaboration, and to grow the business.
In contrast, the company had to deploy two additional IT staff and an external consultant just to manage the Linux solution. Leong estimates that the cost for supporting the Linux platform, both internally and externally, was over 50 per cent higher compared to Windows Small Business Server 2003.
“We found that because Linux gave us more problems, we often had to summon the Linux consultant from Penang,” says Winson Tan, Accounts Manager, Welding Industries. In contrast, the Windows platform is user friendly, stable and is easier to integrate with third party applications, he adds. “With Windows Small Business Server 2003, we seldom need to engage external IT support to deal with operational problems,” he says.
“When we need support, we can easily get resources skilled in the Windows platform such as Alphamatic, even in Ipoh,” he adds.
With Windows Small Business Server 2003, Welding Industries is assured of continuous development and improvements in the software. This means that it does not need to worry about issues such as lack of support for “end-of-life products” and security vulnerabilities that is a feature of free Linux distributions.
When the company first implemented the free Linux distribution, they were not aware it was an end-of-life product which was no longer supported in terms of security alerts, patches, bug-fixes or software upgrades.
This is not an issue with Windows Small Business Server 2003 as patches and bug-fixes are issued periodically and available for free. It can also be configured to be automatically downloaded, ensuring that any security risk is dealt with speedily.
The additional functionalities of Windows Small Business Server 2003, which comes at no additional cost, enable Welding Industries to run its business more productively and efficiently.
For example, Windows SharePoint Services is a free download under Windows Server 2003 and represents a bonus to Welding Industries which had wanted to set up a collaboration portal for its staff. “For other platforms, we would probably have to purchase a third party collaboration solution and spend a tidy sum integrating it,” says Leong.
“With Windows Small Business Server 2003, we get an intranet portal and document management capabilities for free. This is indeed good value for businesses like ours. The Linux solution does not have these add-ons as part of the system,” says Leong.
He affirms that Windows Small Business Server 2003 was the ideal IT platform as the company builds on its impressive growth. For example, its plans to tap the potential of the Internet by embarking on an e-commerce venture soon. “The solution will definitely run on the Windows platform,” Leong adds.
Last Updated: Friday, April 14, 2006