In a market slowly climbing out of recession, quick response time is critical for UK clothing retailers. For sports clothier Musto Limited, this means speedy, reliable email. The company was due for an email system upgrade to keep its global business running smoothly. So it engaged telecom operator Vodafone and migrated to Microsoft Office 365. Now employees have the 24/7 email access they need while doing business almost anywhere.
Reliable communication is key to Musto's success
Musto was founded in 1965 when Keith Musto, an Olympic sailor and engineer, began designing kits for sailors and sailing teams. These early products reflected an ethos of innovation and reliability that extends to today's full line of sailing, equestrian and shooting gear, as well as casual clothing for men and women.
Reliability is key not just to Musto's products but to its business operations. Customer orders, invoices and credits, and collaboration with a global network of partners all take place via email – and the system needs to work seamlessly. "As the world has become much more real-time, our communication is expected to be real-time, 24/7. If we lost that communication, we wouldn't be able to get any product made." said Musto IT Director Frank Potts.
Musto has a large mobile workforce, and works with manufacturers all around the world, sending large files and drawings back and forth between factories and designers. Communication and collaboration across these teams is fundamental to the company's success. Until recently, Musto maintained a diverse infrastructure, including Exchange Server 2003 with "a real mixed bag of Outlook [versions]", Apple with Entourage and a BlackBerry suite of phone services and handsets backed by a BlackBerry Server. Described by IT staff as ageing, corrupted and lacking adequate back-up, the system was due for an upgrade beyond the bit-by-bit updating that had been the norm.
Flagging email system threatened to scuttle business
"One of the biggest challenges was our email server. It was very unstable," said Potts. According to the IT director, limited storage capacity and occasional deletions meant resynchronising heavily used mailboxes and losing time on the sales clock.
"We had a couple of times where people had deleted emails and we just had no way to recover any single emails or mailboxes without recovering the whole system. So we couldn't provide the service that people expect," Potts explained. "We got very nervous when anything went wrong with the server. It was a business risk."
Musto also needed secure data access for travelling employees. To cover for email outages and remote access challenges, the company provided USB flash drives. These presented their own risks, such as employees forgetting to save documents or data to their drives. Clearly Musto needed a more reliable email and collaboration system.
Vodafone UK captains Office 365, Nokia implementation
Musto approached its telecommunications operator of record, Vodafone UK, to update its inventory of handheld devices. It was delighted when Vodafone and its partner D R Communications LTD recommended an ideal business solution for the company's email problems: Office 365 plus Nokia Lumia Windows Phone 8 smartphones running on the Vodafone Network.
Office 365 cloud-based services would provide not only the email continuity Musto needed but the ability to implement additional applications with calendaring, collaboration, and web conferencing solutions easily. Added benefits would include ease of administration, robust security, IT-level phone support, geo-redundancy, disaster recovery and business-class privacy controls and standards. From the start, the solution promised to help employees improve their response time and productivity.
Deployment was smooth sailing
Musto carefully considered the move by sizing up costs, attending seminars, viewing demonstrations and setting up test accounts. The Vodafone partnership also seemed promising, since the operator had a reputation for several successful Office 365 implementations.
After demonstrating the advantages of the cloud-based system, Vodafone supported Musto's team with consultants who simplified the deployment and got the entire solution up and running in three weeks – "all in the background," said Potts – with only a single weekend of server downtime.
"It's probably the smoothest transition of any kind of server that I've ever done," Potts said. "I've been in IT 20 to 25 years and this has been the smoothest project I've ever worked on."
Better performance, lower costs help ensure headway in choppy economy
The benefits of the deployment are broad-ranging, putting Musto on course towards adopting additional Office 365 tools.
Getting work done on the go
Musto employees can now reliably connect to email and accomplish more, faster, from almost anywhere and any device. "We've got a much more user-friendly webmail system," Potts said, adding that email stores are on the web – in the cloud. Storage capacity of 25 GB per email account makes large files easier to send, receive and manage, allowing employees to keep a steady eye on sales, not email problems.
Musto's new system is a lot more stable, response times are much quicker, and because a virtual private network (VPN) is no longer needed to access email, the company's global fleet of mobile workers are noticing a big difference in how they work.
Reducing business risk
Redundancy between multiple off-site data centres helps to protect critical sales and business data from loss and corruption.
Simplifying and reducing costs
Musto pays for telecommunications and Office 365 services together in a single monthly direct debit. This "tight" payment system lends operational efficiency. And, moving from BlackBerry Enterprise to the Office 365 solution has reduced Musto's IT spending by 50 percent.
Looking to the future
To augment its newly streamlined Microsoft infrastructure, Musto is considering implementing other Office 365 collaboration tools, such as Lync Online, OneDrive Pro and SharePoint Online. Tablet PCs may soon join the company's device lineup.
Future software deployments will be simplified by the Office 365 services-based architecture, and automatic features updates will reduce deployment cycles and related costs.
Staying nimble in technology adoption is true to form for Musto, and Potts shared this advice: "Plan ahead, take your time, make sure that you use the right people."
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