2-page Partner Case Study - Posted 10/14/2013
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Canadian IT Provider Keeps SMB Customers in Business During Floods with Cloud Solutions
When Alberta, Canada, experienced heavy flooding in June 2013, most F12 Networks small and midsize business (SMB) customers were able to keep operating, because they hosted their IT infrastructures at F12 or used Microsoft Office 365 for email
messaging. By using F12 and Windows Server cloud-based IT services, SMBs can instantly scale their IT infrastructures to meet business needs, deliver IT services to far-flung employees, and “disaster-proof” their business IT.
F12 Networks is an Alberta, Canada—based IT services and hosting company with offices in Calgary, Red Deer, and Edmonton. F12 is also a Microsoft Cloud Accelerate Partner—an expert in the design, deployment, and customization of web-based Microsoft products
and services. It offers Microsoft Office 365 and its own hosted Microsoft applications—running on a Windows Server operating system-based infrastructure—to help small and midsize businesses (SMBs) reduce IT overhead. Office 365 unites familiar Microsoft Office
applications with the power of Microsoft Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, and Lync Online to offer one connected, online solution.
Devon Gillard, General Manager of the F12 Calgary office, says that many of its SMB customers have grown rapidly and find that on-premises IT infrastructures adapt too slowly. “The hardware procurement and deployment cycle is so lengthy that it takes months
for an SMB to expand its IT infrastructure,” he says. “If business slows, they are stuck with underutilized servers and software.”
F12 customers also struggle to reliably deliver IT services to outlying regions. One third of F12 customers are in the oil and gas industry, where most employees work in the field rather than in the head office where IT services run. “When IT services are
centralized, any interruption in electrical, phone, or Internet service grinds the entire business to a halt,” Gillard says. “Businesses need to make key IT applications available without interruption to employees no matter where they work.”
To address these needs, F12 Networks encourages customers to host applications in its Edmonton data center, which is replicated to a disaster-recovery data center in Calgary for workload protection. All F12 servers run the Windows Server 2008 R2 operating
system, and soon will be upgraded to the Windows Server 2012 operating system. Customers use Remote Desktop Services (RDS) in Windows Server 2008 R2 to access their F12-hosted applications from remote computers over a network, using the Remote Desktop Protocol.
||It’s good to be able to recover quickly from a natural disaster, but it’s infinitely better to have no interruption whatsoever. That’s what we can deliver to our customers with Microsoft cloud services.
| Devon Gillard
General Manager, Calgary Office,
Also, half of F12 customers use Office 365, which provides highly scalable, low-cost communications and collaboration at a fixed cost per user. Customers that cannot use Office 365, such as healthcare companies legally forbidden from storing or transmitting
patient records outside Alberta, run hosted Microsoft Exchange Server through F12.
The F12 cloud-based software delivery model was put to a test in the days leading up to June 20, 2013, when Alberta experienced heavy rainfall that triggered catastrophic flooding. More than 100,000 people were displaced, and damages were estimated to be
more than CAN$5 billion (US$4.86 billion).
Fortunately, the F12 Calgary data center was on high ground and was bypassed by the floods. On the morning of June 21, F12 compiled a list of customers in the flood zone and was pleased to find that most ran critical business applications such as Microsoft
Exchange Server in the F12 data center or were using Office 365.
Still, there were several customers that had critical applications running on-premises and whose systems were at risk. One such customer was LandSolutions, which provides land acquisition, land management, public involvement, and environmental planning expertise
to companies in the energy and infrastructure sectors. LandSolutions has 110 employees in six locations. A year earlier, F12 had worked with LandSolutions to devise a more stable IT infrastructure, with email and other communications services provided through
Office 365 and other key applications hosted at F12. LandSolutions still kept one key Windows Server-based server on-premises for accounting data.
During the floods, F12 physically picked up and relocated this server to its Calgary data center, which allowed LandSolutions to operate without interruption during the week of flooding, even though its head office remained without power.
By offering customers Microsoft cloud solutions, F12 Networks can help SMBs scale their IT infrastructures to meet business needs, deliver IT services to remote locations, and ensure that their IT environments are disaster-proof—that is, functional even
if their own offices are under water or otherwise disabled.
Scale IT in Response to Fluctuating Business Needs
With cloud services, SMBs can match their IT investment to changing business needs. “Companies in the oil and gas and other industries often find themselves making sudden leaps in growth and struggling to have IT infrastructures that keep pace,” Gillard
says. “By using Microsoft cloud services, they can increase processor, memory, and storage resources in an instant.”
Provide IT Services Anywhere; Deliver Uninterrupted Business Continuity
With cloud-based software, employees in any location can access applications, even if the head office is disabled. And this access is more important than ever when natural disasters occur. During the 2013 Calgary floods, all F12 customers that used Office
365 or hosted applications in the F12 data center had uninterrupted IT services. “It’s one thing to talk hypothetically about disasters and another to live through one,” Gillard says. “Disasters are when customers most need to communicate, both internally
Melanie Ottenbreit-Smith, Chief Financial Officer for LandSolutions, adds, “Had our IT infrastructure been on-premises, our entire company would have been unable to do business for over a week. But because F12 had counseled us to restructure and cloud-enable
our IT, all our employees, including our field employees, were able to continue working. And email was critical in communicating with our staff and customers during this crisis.”
“You plan for disaster scenarios, but you never think they will happen to you,” adds Megan Miller, Marketing and IT Coordinator for LandSolutions. “When the floods came, we were prepared. No other business I know of—including very large companies with thousands
of employees—was still operating. Many were down the entire week.”
Gillard says that many larger organizations have looked to data centers for disaster preparedness for a decade or longer, but that SMBs are just now starting to have this discussion, thanks to advances in virtualization. “With Microsoft cloud services, smaller
companies can take advantage of resilient, georeplicated data centers without having to absorb the cost of that infrastructure. It’s good to be able to recover quickly from a natural disaster, but it’s infinitely better to have no interruption whatsoever.
That’s what we can deliver to our customers with Microsoft cloud services.”
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