Cloud Innovators

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PointBridge Introduces Game Changing IT Solutions for Business

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Founded in 2004, PointBridge was launched when three key executives formed a plan with a single purpose: to help large enterprises maximize their return. The co-founders, Mike Gersten, chief executive officer; Lance Russell, director of marketing and operations; and Todd Golden, director of alliances; had a vision as to where the industry was going and knew it was time to get on board with cloud computing.

Despite the conventional wisdom of the time that IT solutions — and IT consultants — required large data centers, expensive hardware and on-going investments in software upgrades, PointBridge took a different approach. PointBridge would find solutions in the cloud.

It’s About Security

The obstacles they knew their customers had to overcome to move to the cloud were security and scalability. Although the Internet has been around since the 1980s, only recently has this double-pronged issue been addressed. Microsoft’s cloud offerings made cloud computing a practical reality for enterprises.


Mike Gersten, CEO, PointBridge
“It really wasn’t until Microsoft’s investment in that marketplace that the obstacles of security and scalability, which would be expected with large-enterprise-class software — have been readily available,” Gersten said. “Microsoft, in essence, made the market, particularly as it relates to enterprise software. Our customers always wanted to go into the cloud. It was just those obstacles of security and scalability that had prevented them from getting there.”

Traditionally, large corporations have needed large data centers, and software and hardware quickly become outdated. The cloud lets multiple clients access one data center quickly, reliably and with confidence. The costs savings is realized in both staff and infrastructure.

For PointBridge customers, this means their initial migration to the cloud will, in essence, be their last migration. Going forward Microsoft will keep them on the most current versions of the software automatically. That means expending fewer resources to maintain their standing. Ultimately, that also means a significant cost savings, as well as an increase to functionality over time. An additional benefit is found in the ability for companies to shift capital expenses to operating expenses. It is this expansive offering from Microsoft that has given PointBridge the tools needed to advocate moving to the cloud.

Newfound Opportunities in the Cloud

While cost savings is the primary motivating factor behind a jump to the cloud, many companies are not using that as a way to eliminate staff, even during times of economic downturn. PointBridge’s clients are innovating ways to re-allocate those staff members, while simultaneously moving to a more advanced data platform.


Matt McGillen, Practice Manager,
PointBridge
“It wasn’t about moving to the cloud and cutting the staff,” Practice Manager Matt McGillen said. “They already had a lean staff. They just didn’t have enough people to continue to deliver the high quality and high service their employees needed. Moving to the cloud allowed them to keep the same basic resources, like Outlook and Exchange.

“The client replaced an outdated data center with a handful of 10-year-old servers with a geo-redundant, state-of-the-art, 24/7-operated, managed and updated back end.”

And, the benefits expand from there.

With fewer resources allocated to the daily operations of a burgeoning data center, companies are finding ways to branch out in new and different ways, like creating custom applications and developing ways to engage and interact not only in-house with those with whom they do business on a regular basis.

“Companies are seeing that they are able to re-invest the money they are saving and spend that money strategically,” McGillen said. “Whether it is to build a custom application or to re-invigorate their Web site, we are definitely seeing businesses use this as an opportunity to spend money on things that have a bigger impact on their users.”

One of the best ways to boast about the power of the system is by using it. PointBridge employees are highly trained on the latest technology and they use the Microsoft services to reach out to customers.

“We say that how we sell is a free sample of how we will work with our customers,” Gersten said. “We will often show off our use of the technologies, whether it be SharePoint in the Cloud (Microsoft SharePoint Online) or a custom application in the cloud built on Windows Azure or talking to them on a VOIP phone on [Microsoft’s] Lync.

Spanning the Globe

Other areas in which PointBridge clients are using the cloud to close the gaps for international corporations is less about the physical requirements of a data center and more about reducing the costs of day-to-day business. One such client traditionally held an annual meeting that required its leadership team to travel from the four corners of the globe to a single location.

This involved bringing together approximately 160 people for three or four days at one of their sites in Asia, Europe, North America, or elsewhere, crossing time zones, staying in hotels, loss of business time, etc. Turning it into a virtual meeting allowed its people to work out of their offices, and to go home in the evenings to their families.

“We built a solution in SharePoint online that focused on driving this annual meeting,” said David Greve, professional services manager. “When they logged on to SharePoint, they got their own customized schedule and customized work space. And, essentially, the schedule had the various meetings and activities that were required by each person.


David Greve, Professional Services Manager,
PointBridge
“These meetings were held through LiveMeeting (part of the Business Productivity Online Standard Suite), so they used the online conferencing service by Microsoft, and they had meetings with all regions participating.”

The company cut the overall schedule from four to two and a-half days.

“The feedback was that they felt, in some cases, they better connected with people than they would have in person,” Greve said. “They saved travel costs globally, and saved paper, IT costs in organizing, and much more.”

Getting Companies Together

PointBridge clients are also finding a tremendous advantage of cloud computing in mergers and acquisitions. When merging two companies, often there is the challenge of porting one company to the other’s systems — e-mail, communication, networking, etc. The solution is found in moving the new company to a cloud-based solution that expedites the integration of the two companies from a technology perspective.

The same holds true for companies that are preparing to be acquired. They will often move their systems to the cloud to make themselves more appealing to potential buyers.

PointBridge recently experienced this phenomenon with two of its existing, but seemingly dissimilar, customers. When a corporation that manufactures large, earth-moving equipment began acquisition of a company in the mining equipment industry, PointBridge was working in the middle to leverage the latest cloud computing technology for both; although, the duality of the project was unknown to the PointBridge staff at the time.

“That integration of the mail platforms required them to get both companies into a cloud environment,” Gersten said. “That was their motivation entirely. We are talking about large Fortune 100 or 500 companies that are leveraging the platform to expedite the integration post-acquisition. In that case, we had both of the customers separate from one another before we even knew that they were talking to one another about an acquisition.

PointBridge recently experienced this phenomenon with two of its existing, but seemingly dissimilar, customers. When a corporation that manufactures large, earth-moving equipment began acquisition of a company in the mining equipment industry, PointBridge was working in the middle to leverage the latest cloud computing technology for both; although, the duality of the project was unknown to the PointBridge staff at the time.

“One client was having us put them into the cloud to ready themselves to be acquired. And, for the other, we were putting a portion of their organization into the cloud to ready them for integrating potential acquisition targets.”

Reaching a Conclusion

The culmination of offering cloud computing as a service is found not only in the success of PointBridge, but also in the success of its clients and of the relationships they have fostered. PointBridge clients rely on the company to handle some of the most sensitive aspects of operating a 21st-century business.

“We are talking about fundamentally changing the way these customers deliver services to their users,” McGillen said. “We’re engaged with customers at a much higher level.”

At the end of the day, PointBridge is providing clients with a means to help keep their businesses moving into the future. And, with the ever-advancing nature of technology, the faster everyone is able to adapt to that pace, the more able they will be to meet the needs of their industries.

To read more about PointBridge and its cloud innovations, visit: online.wsj.com/ad/cloudinnovators.