MINNEAPOLIS – July 7, 2005 – As Microsoft embarks upon its annual premier partner event, the Windows Server System group rolls out a new promotion demonstrating Microsoft’s commitment to meet the diverse needs of one the fastest-growing sectors of the IT market – midsize businesses. The offering is designed to enable midsize businesses to upgrade older systems with simplified IT infrastructure management, reduced costs and complexity, and improved security.
The three-day Worldwide Partner Conference brings together many of Microsoft’s more than 300,000 partner organizations to explore a wide range of IT products and services, including ways partners reach out to small businesses (fewer than 50 employees) and midsize firms (50 –1,000 employees) to help them benefit from technology, while saving time, reducing costs and building their businesses.
Two Midwest companies, Ubiquity Brands and RealityWorks demonstrate well how Microsoft solutions can add real business value for midsize businesses. With the help of two Microsoft partners, these companies recently replaced out-dated and outmoded legacy systems.
“We brought in Ric Opal of Peters & Associates because the legacy IT infrastructures we inherited from our acquisitions were relics,” says Tim Healy, CEO and Chairman of Ubiquity Brands. “We had decided that the benefits of just in time data, compatibility between businesses and the ability and need to add and subtract organizations from our IT systems over time justified a significant investment and upgrade.”
The existing infrastructure included NetWare and GroupWise, along with the Windows NT 4.0 environment and a variety of workstation operating systems. Each desktop had a static Internet provider. Redundancy was rampant.
Addressing Insecure IT Environments
Steven VanRoekel, Director, Mid-Market Solutions, Microsoft Windows Server Group
“Worse, yet, there were untrained IT staff, core infrastructure problems, e-mail problems – and most, if not all, of the environments were insecure,” Opal says.
The Chicago-based snack-food firm’s IT team was “fully consumed with end user support,” trying to address daily, urgent user needs, while others were struggling to integrate the aging systems of Ubiquity Brands recent acquisitions, such as Jays Foods Inc, well known in the Midwest for manufacturing and distributing and marketing Jays and Krunchers Potato Chips and O-Ke-Doke brands, along with Lincoln Snacks, which markets nationally known brands such as Poppycock and Fiddle Faddle.
Given its obligations to major retailers, along with other national and regional grocery chains, Ubiquity Brands needed a scalable, modular IT system so it could assimilate its diverse companies into the corporate infrastructure as well as have the capability to easily break off companies it no longer deemed profitable.
Opal and his colleagues at Peters & Associates installed key products of the Windows Server System promotion, including Windows Server 2003 and Exchange 2003. The features: a standardized platform for reduced support, patching works – group policy SUS, a terminal server providing access for sales staff and executives on the road to proprietary business applications.
As a result, the company realized savings in IT costs and staffing efficiencies across its IT department. “From my past experience, it would take us several months to understand the different transactions and look at our new companies’ financials,” says Bill Schumacher, CFO and COO of Ubiquity Brands. “Our partnership with Peters & Associates has given us the capability to analyze and address IT infrastructure needs faster and more efficiently than trying to understand and write the solutions ourselves. This new infrastructure will provide us greater capabilities in the future, as we make additional acquisitions. It’s more than we hoped for.”
Solving ‘Stifling’ IT Problems and 20 Percent Productivity Loss
Deb Severson, director of administration, and Buzz Burce, network admin for RealityWorks, an educational resources firm headquartered in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, were facing similar stifling IT problems before retaining Inacom, an IT business solutions firm and one of the few Microsoft value added resellers (VARs) that also is a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner for e-commerce solutions.
“About 25 percent of our staff was experiencing a 20 percent loss in productivity,” Burce says. “Our server, network connections and the media operating system were hanging up pages of our products within our CRM application, and causing a lot of computer reboots. You add a few more seconds here and there, and pretty soon you’ve wasted another half an hour over the course of day.”
Inacom’s Randall Blaisdell explains that RealityWorks’ problems were similar to those of other small to midsize firms.
“They had a legacy system that had not been upgraded to meet their current business needs, let alone plan for the future,” Blaisdell says. “They were using Windows 2000 and some older hardware for CRM, and a firewall that, essentially, was disabled, and allowed for the potential of attacks.”
Specifically, RealityWorks’ existing IT infrastructure included four servers – two NT4 and two Windows 2000. Communications between SalesLogix and SQL were having “fatal convulsions.”
Again, key elements of the Windows Server System promotion proved to be critical to addressing the problems. Inacom installed Windows Server 2003, including Active Directory, GPOs and software update services, Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) 2003 WE, Exchange 2003, Windows SharePoint Services (WSS) and Outlook 2003.
New Infrastructure Delivers 10-Fold Improvement in Response Time
The benefits to RealityWorks’ new IT infrastructure were equally impressive: overall reliability, increased network stability and faster network communication have decreased response time 10 fold; saved an estimated 30 hours a week lost to sales and administration due to network failure and rebooting; and network communications errors have been eliminated. The financial gain has been estimated at $100,000 annually.
Severson also points out a greater, though more intangible, benefit.
“The greatest thing we have gained is trust and confidence in the reliability of the system,” Severson says. “That our sales and customer service staff now can say, ‘If I go to my PC, I will get the information I want.’ That’s huge.”
Trust and confidence are the hallmarks of the Microsoft Partner Program, which both Blaisdell and Opal believe is taking the cost out of doing business across the business lifecycle through investment and engagement.
“Microsoft is reaching out to small and midsize firms – both directly and through its partners – to help these firms benefit from technology to build their businesses,” Blaisdell says.
Delivering Customized, Strategic Solutions
The Windows Server System offering enables partners to deliver customized, strategic solutions to help customers transform their businesses, Blaisdell says.
“Microsoft is providing its partners an unparalleled business opportunity to come alongside customers with the technology industry’s best and brightest, both in terms of products and services. Partners can build their businesses on Microsoft’s unique understanding of the IT market.
“We’re not just selling our customers hardware and leaving. We’re saying to the customer, ‘We’re with you for the long haul, implementing scalable IT systems that can grow easily and effectively as your business grows.’”
Growing a business is impossible without an effective IT infrastructure, yet, Opal says, some small business owners he encounters believe more technology represents a hindering, complicating obstacle.
“Regrettably, those who refuse to embrace technology as a strategic solution integral to all aspects of their businesses likely will be soon closing their doors,” Opal says. “Our firm’s experience with Ubiquity Brands – helping them transform their business by creating an infrastructure enabling them to grow effectively – has been a recurring theme with our other customers since Peters & Associates was created nearly 25 years ago. And it’s no accident that our success – that that of our customers – has been founded on Microsoft products and services.”
‘Uncompromising Commitment’ to Partners
Both Opal and Blaisdell contend that Microsoft’s Windows Server System promotion will help advance partners toward a stronger, more profitable position in their markets.
“Without question, Microsoft is helping our firm drive new and lucrative opportunities in the market,” Blaisdell says. “To complement this new promotion, there is a wide range of guidance and training available specifically for this size customer, including a new Midsize Business IT Center on TechNet and a new title from Microsoft Press called ‘Windows Server System Deployment Guide for Midsize Businesses.’ It’s really a package of best practices materials.”
Ubiquity Brands and RealityWorks are two of the 1.2 million customers around the world considered midsize companies. Industry analysts project this sector’s IT spending globally will increase at about 12 percent annually.
Recognizing this potential for explosive growth, Steven VanRoekel, Microsoft’s Director of Mid-Market Solutions in the Windows Server Group, believes both industry partners and customers need to look no farther than Redmond, Washington for the products, services, training and expertise Microsoft offers them.
“At the end of the day, Microsoft has an uncompromising commitment to understand our customers by segment,” VanRoekel says. “We invest in research to deliver the right products, resources and support to our customers, and we’re committed to offering software solutions in accordance with the needs of our customers and our industry partners.”
One such resource debuted this week when the Midsize Business IT Center launched on the Microsoft TechNet Web site at http://www.microsoft.com/technet/midsizebusiness.
This compilation of resources, tailored to the needs of IT professionals in midsize businesses, includes a focused collection of the best IT solutions and tools for organizations with 25-500 PCs. “The Midsize Business IT Center is a new site, and we want to make it as useful to midsize business IT pros as possible,” says VanRoekel.