Banque Libanaise pour le Commerce (BLC Bank) has been deepening its relationship with Microsoft Services for nine years. It has progressed from reactive to proactive services-specifically Microsoft Services Premier Support-to train its staff on best practices, optimize the availability and performance of critical applications, and free its IT staff to focus on rolling out new services.
Banque Libanaise pour le Commerce (BLC Bank) provides a complete range of commercial and personal banking services in Lebanon. In 2002, BLC Bank set out to upgrade its computers, which ran the Windows NT 4.0 operating system, and engaged Microsoft Services to help it perform the upgrade. Afterward, even though the bank was running the latest software, the IT staff still struggled with a complex environment that required constant problem-solving. BLC Bank had 54 Active Directory domain controllers, which consumed a great deal of management time, and certain critical applications, such as Active Directory Domain Services, Microsoft Exchange Server, and Microsoft SQL Server data management software failed occasionally.
"Our staff spent nearly all of its time responding to user complaints and reacting to problems," says Georges Deaibess, Head of Systems and Technical Support in the IT Department at BLC Bank. "We could not focus on researching, developing, and deploying new applications that could make the bank more competitive. At a minimum, we urgently needed to make our applications more stable so that we could eliminate failures that affected customer service and employee productivity."
BLC Bank returned to Microsoft Services and further strengthened its nine-year relationship. "We wanted to move from solving problems to avoiding problems altogether," Deaibess says.
BLC Bank decided to invest in the more proactive services provided by Microsoft Premier Support. Premier Support focuses on preemptive application assessments, frequent contact with dedicated Microsoft engineers and account managers who understand the customer's environment, and staff training to educate in Microsoft best practices.
Through its Premier Support agreement, BLC Bank configured its Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 and Microsoft SQL Server 2008 infrastructures for high availability with clustered, load-balanced servers. It also received assistance in implementing Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync technology and Microsoft Outlook Mobile, which employees use to access email from their smartphones, and email-archiving capabilities in Exchange Server 2010.
Nearly one-third of the bank's IT staff has taken more than a dozen advanced workshops on security, troubleshooting, Active Directory administration, Exchange Server administration, SQL Server performance optimization, and other infrastructure improvement topics. "Microsoft Premier Support workshops have boosted our staff's knowledge and given us the opportunity to use Microsoft programs more efficiently," Deaibess says.
The bank's Microsoft Premier Support Technical Account Manager (TAM) recommended assessments of its Active Directory and Exchange Server environments to gain in-depth information about their performance, configuration, and health. "We learned how to configure our systems in a way that is more secure, less complicated, and easier for employees to use," Deaibess says. "We consolidated 54 domain controllers to six and increased the stability and availability of key bank systems."
BLC Bank recently purchased an Operations Strategic Review, a Premier Support service that ensures that IT practices follow industry standards and aligns IT operations with top-level business objectives.
Through its relationship with Microsoft Services, BLC Bank has increased its appreciation of proactive Premier Support, which it has used to improve the availability and performance of critical applications and allow more time to deploy new IT services.
Higher Availability of Critical Systems
BLC Bank has dramatically improved the availability of its systems. "Since moving to proactive Premier Support, we have experienced nearly zero downtime for all our services," Deaibess says. "By investing more in proactive services, we are progressively eliminating downtime in our key operational systems. Bank management has higher trust in our systems now."
Even improvements in internal applications, such as email messaging, have a ripple effect on bank customers. When employees are able to do their jobs more efficiently, they can serve customers without interruption. "Thousands of customers rely on our SQL Server databases being up and running," Deaibess says. "With Premier Support, we are able to proactively keep these critical systems available at all times."
Better Application Performance
Not only are critical BLC Bank applications available, they are performing better due to the optimization assistance received through Premier Support. "With Exchange Server 2010 especially, we've experienced a huge increase in application responsiveness and more productivity from employees being able to access mail from smartphones," Deaibess says. "Employees are more productive throughout the day with better-performing, easily accessible systems."
Greater Awareness of New Technologies, More Time to Implement Them
Now that key systems are running well and according to best practices, the IT team has more time to deploy new IT services, such as Microsoft System Center data center solutions and Microsoft Lync Server 2010. "Our TAM knows our infrastructure very well, and he constantly gives us advice on which technologies would benefit us most," Deaibess says.
Plus, on-site skills transfer makes the BLC Bank staff more productive. Staff members learn all kinds of tips and tricks from working alongside a Microsoft expert, who also teaches the BLC Bank staff how to research problems on the Premier Support website. A smarter and more efficient IT staff helps BLC Bank remain competitive by equipping employees with the latest services and applications.
"Microsoft has thousands of employees, and we have access to all of them through our TAM," Deaibess says. "With one call, we are connected to everyone at Microsoft."
Microsoft Services is a global team of professionals who are dedicated to helping customers maximize the value of their investment in Microsoft software. Microsoft Services touches customers more than 715 million times a year, helping them plan, deploy, support and optimize our technologies. They also work closely with Microsoft Partners by sharing their technological expertise and product knowledge on a regular basis.
For More Information
For more information about Microsoft Services, go to: