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The view through Windows 7 shows SMEs a new world of productivity and performance

Published: May 2010


Many Irish businesses are more reliant than ever on technology for their day-to-day operations, often without any in-house IT support. Across almost any business sector, many of the concerns and challenges are constant: firms want fast, easy access to their information at any time and from anywhere, in order to be as productive as possible. They want technology that is stable and easily managed so there’s no time wasted troubleshooting problems – meaning they have more time to dedicate to customers and on day-to-day operations.

Situation

Here are three examples from the front line of business in Ireland – firms that have implemented Microsoft Windows 7, the latest version of the Microsoft PC operating system. Augustus Cullen Law (ACL), based in Wicklow Town, is one of Ireland’s fastest growing legal firms with a staff of 37 people. Catering provider With Taste has 40-strong full-time team managing food production, operations and event management, sales and marketing, and administrative functions such as finance and HR management. Control Aer, which supplies heating, ventilation and air conditioning units, started trading in 1998 and employs 25 people across Ireland and in the UK. While outwardly all three companies are different, in reality many of their needs are similar.

Now that working off-site is becoming more commonplace, staff need to have fast, easy access to their important information remotely. That also drives a related need for encryption technology, to ensure any data they have on their laptops is properly encrypted. Like many small firms in Ireland, none of the three companies featured here have a dedicated IT manager. Therefore they need an operating system that is fully functional, easy both to use and to maintain, while allowing people to work as they wish.

Microsoft Windows 7 meets all of these requirements and more, giving these firms the freedom and flexibility to be at their most productive. For the latest version of its popular operating system, Microsoft made several enhancements aimed at making navigation, applications, security easier to manage. From a user interface perspective, Windows 7 also boasts a slick new look with ‘glass’ effects on the display.

Solution

Over the course of the past year, all three firms upgraded to Microsoft Windows 7 and all of them have seen multiple benefits both from an operational and a financial standpoint. Normally an operating system upgrade tends to go hand in glove with a hardware upgrade but thanks to the changes in Microsoft’s licensing scheme, companies can avoid costly additional outlay on new hardware. Larry Doyle, technical director with Netforce, a Microsoft partner and the IT provider to all of the firms featured here, takes up the story. “From a licensing point of view, Microsoft Open Value Subscription Model suits each of the businesses in different ways. Basically it’s a rental model which automatically entitles customers to the latest versions of the software.” Otherwise, firms looking to upgrade would have to factor in an additional €120 approximately per machine if they were to buy the OEM version of the operating system on each new PC. “The advantage is you can go up or down in the licence count. If a company has to reduce its workforce, when annual renewal comes around, it has fewer users and the fee is reduced,” says Doyle.

In many cases, existing PCs can simply be fitted with additional RAM, allowing the firms to get more value from their existing equipment. The extra memory typically costs as little as €40 per PC, says Doyle. “Windows 7 has given a new lease of life to those machines that may have been retired.” The importance of this can’t be underestimated at a time when cash flow is tight for many businesses. Michael Reneghan, financial director of Control Aer agrees, and points out that Windows 7 performs extremely well on these machines, so there is no negative impact on staff productivity. “The upgrade to Windows 7 has standardised the requirement across the network for each machine so it’s very easy to maintain it to meet the minimum standard. RAM is the answer to that – add more memory and you’re in business.”

Having consistent desktop operating systems across an entire company makes IT easier to manage. Aaron Bohan, With Taste’s human resources and IT manager, says the level of user issues has virtually gone away. “I was probably logging 10 to 15 hours a week on really simple issues; now it’s less than 90 minutes.” Another advantage of having all staff in the company with a consistent ‘look and feel’ on their machines, is that colleagues can often help each other more easily, further reducing the technical support workload – and making staff more productive. It also reduces potential compatibility problems between different versions of Office software and operating systems, allowing With Taste staff to collaborate more efficiently. The speed of Windows 7 also reduces time spent waiting for computers to start up. “This is incredibly quick,” reports Bohan. “When I had XP you could be waiting five minutes for the PC to power up, with Windows 7 you’re talking about less than 90 seconds.”

One of the big improvements to Windows 7 has been the ease of allowing remote access, turning it from a complicated process involving virtual private networks to a matter of a few simple clicks. Gus Cullen, partner and general litigator with ACL, says this is a huge advantage, especially in his business where time is literally money, since solicitors typically bill by the hour. Currently five of the firm’s solicitors use laptops and spend a lot of time away from the office. “The remote access feature allows us to take our laptops out to court or to meet clients and we can have access to all emails and any documents on our desktops, so we effectively have a mirror image of our desktops. I can look at all the office files or accounts, so I can have full information for a client. I have no downtime while I’m waiting around,” he says.


“I was probably logging 10 to 15 hours a week on really simple issues; now with Windows 7 it’s less than 90 minutes.”
Aaron Bohan,HR/IT Manager, With Taste


“The search facility has improved since Windows 7 came out and the organization of documents has improved.”
Gus Cullen,Partner & General Litigator, ACL


“This was one of the good decisions. It was a positive experience all round.”
Michael Renaghan, Financial Director, Control Aer


“Windows 7 reduces IT support on the entire desktop fleet by around 70 per cent. “Deployment and rollout has proven to be trouble-free and this has reinforced the fact that Windows 7 offers a good experience. Application compatibility issues are proving to be a thing of the past. The upgrade hasn’t been a bumpy ride for O2.”
Larry Doyle, Technival Director, Netforce


“Early adoption has proven successful and has provided benefits to the companies that trial the product, as well as our development teams. Tayto were given the opportunity to get a feel for Windows 7 and assess whether or not it was the right fit for them. The feedback they provided has helped us to improve the operating system not only for their operations but also for future users.”
Ronnie Dockery, Business Manager, Client, Microsoft, Ireland

Benefits

Faster deployment means reduced downtime

Deploying Windows 7 is much faster than with previous operating systems, according to Larry Doyle. This has two benefits for companies – individual systems are offline for much less time so disruption to the business is minimised, while there is a cost advantage too. “Typically you would be talking about two hours per desktop but with the imaging and tools that Microsoft provides for free, we were able to reduce that to 30 minutes. It also allows us to be more predictable with our pricing. Typically there is a fixed fee but this way we know exactly how long the work will take,” says Doyle.

Less IT support is needed

Many companies find themselves with multiple versions of operating systems to support, which invariably leads to problems. Upgrading every PC in the company to the same version of Windows 7 addresses many of these technical issues, says Doyle. “From the customer point of view it means every machine is the same. It reduces IT support on the entire desktop fleet by around 70 per cent – we know that from our own statistics over the last six months.”

Information is secure at all times

Gus Cullen describes Windows 7’s BitLocker encryption feature as “hugely important”, given the nature of information a legal firm tends to have. “It gives you great security to know that the laptop is useless in anyone else’s hands. I would be at the loss of a laptop but not of the secure data on it. We would often be dealing with very sensitive information involving family law, or financial information – the kinds of things people would not want in the public domain,” he explains.

Improved system performance means higher productivity

Michael Reneghan says Windows 7 is much faster than previous versions. “Before, I would have had the machine going very slow but now that doesn’t happen – for example, you don’t have performance problems with the antivirus on the PCs. Everybody is in exactly the same position and that’s positive.”

Better search features to find information fast

The vastly improved search features in Windows 7 are a boon to anyone looking to locate information quickly, no matter where it is located on their PC. “I’ve noticed an improvement in text retrieval searches within PDF documents, for example if I have a 200-page technical report. I find the search facility has improved since Windows 7 came out and the organization of documents has improved,” says Gus Cullen of ACL.

Summary

Ultimately, the ideal scenario for any small business is one where technology is almost invisible – working efficiently in the background, leaving staff and managers free to concentrate on their business. Microsoft Windows 7 ticks all of those boxes, with a competitive pricing model, ease of maintenance and features designed to let people make the most of their working day. Like SMEs the world over, the stories of ACL, Control Aer and With Taste show that this balance of efficiency and ease of management can be achieved. Gus Cullen says ACL is already evaluating Microsoft customer relationship management software, following the successful implementation of Windows 7. “I see us being a long-term partner for Microsoft,” he declares, adding further praise for the remote access feature. “One of the big downsides of running a business is the loss of family time. The work/life balance is really where Windows 7 is at.” Aaron Bohan from With Taste says the slick Windows interface has helped to persuade sceptical users of its value. “It’s different but we like it. People warmed to it because it’s a nice interface – friendlier and warmer. With change comes fear, so you have to bring people along with you. The initial indicators are very positive.” Lastly, Control Aer’s Michael Renaghan sums up simply: “This was one of the good decisions. It was a positive experience all round.”

Solution Overview

Organisation
Augustus Cullen Law; With Taste; Control Aer

Certified Partners
Netforce Limited

Customer Profile
ACL is a fast-growing legal firm; With Taste is a catering provider and event management company; Control Aer supplies heating, ventilation and air conditioning units.

Industry
Small business

Business Situation
The companies wanted to standardize their operating systems, making the most of favourable licencing terms and a range of compelling features for users

Solution Description
Desktop operating system with strong search capability, fast bootup and shutdown and low power requirements

Benefits
Ease of IT management
Less support requirement
Simplified remote access.

Microsoft Software
Microsoft Windows 7

Country/Region
Ireland


For More Information

About Microsoft in Ireland:
The Irish Sales, Services and Marketing Operation of Microsoft was established in 1991. The full-time team market all Microsoft products and services in the island of Ireland, targeting customers both North and South. The team services customers across all segments including enterprise, small and medium sized businesses and home computer users. In addition to developing desktop products, Microsoft provides tailored consultancy services and solutions to suit enterprise businesses. Microsoft is continuing to concentrate on its relationship with the Irish enterprise market - the top 100 companies in the island of Ireland. Enterprise customers of Microsoft include the Department of Education in Northern Ireland and the Civil Service Commission, Dublin.
For more information on Microsoft’s products and solutions, please visit www.microsoft.com/ireland

About Microsoft:
Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq "MSFT") is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.

 

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