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Case Study – Migration to Dropbox & Office 365

Introduction

Established in 2005, Hamton are a forward-thinking and design-conscious developer who have set out to provide institutional investors with exposure to high-yielding residential developments.
They are always seeking opportunities to maximise outcomes, both financial and non-financial with a focus to think long-term – in terms of relationships, reputation and value. They are not a hit and run developer, rather they are about creating a lasting legacy. Their IT systems need to keep up with their busy workload, and staff need to have the flexibility to work on the move.

Summary

Hamton approached Automatica to migrate their ageing legacy infrastructure into the cloud. Dropbox, Microsoft Office 365 and Microsoft Azure were selected as best-of-breed solutions to replace on-premises infrastructure, transforming their IT environment into a completely serverless network with staff able to work from anywhere. Hamton realised thousands of dollars in saving by purchasing cloud subscriptions instead of buying into expensive and complicated hardware solutions that require ongoing maintenance and monitoring.

Background

Hamton were in need of a complete refresh of their IT infrastructure. Their aim was to replace legacy on-premises infrastructure that kept people in the office with flexible, cloud-based services that would allow communication and collaboration from anywhere.
The existing environment consisted of two physical servers hosting a number of virtual machines – an Active Directory Domain Controller, an Exchange mail server, an app server hosting a shared database and a File and Print server.

Challenges/Concerns

The hardware in use was ageing and there were concerns over it’s continued reliability. It was problematic to connect to a VPN to access the shared database from external locations and the Exchange server was running short on storage, thereby hampering it’s performance.
The workstations were reaching the end of their useful service life so they were running slowlyand the main server was experiencing physical disk errors in the RAID.

Solution

Dropbox

Dropbox was chosen as the premier solution to replace the file server infrastructure. While Microsoft offers sufficient storage space in OneDrive which is includedat no extra cost with Office 365 Business subscriptions, there were a number of compelling features that ensured Dropbox was at the top of the list.

Smart Sync

One of the main reasons for selecting Dropbox was the recent rollout of Smart Sync. This allows team members to quickly sync the entire Dropbox folder structure to their Surface tablets and laptops, without filling up the limited storage space and consuming vast amounts of internet bandwidth. With hundreds of gigabytes of documents, photos and other information stored in Dropbox, it was important that the 256 GB SSDs in people’s devices were not filled to capacity right from the word go. Smart Sync cleverly synchronises small pointers, or links, to the files living in the cloud and then downloads the full file contents on-demand as the files are opened. Team members can pre-select particular folders to be synchronised to their device ahead of time, or can simply open files as normal when connected to the internet and over time, the files they are using will end up synced locally.

LAN Sync

LAN Sync is another feature that helps save internet bandwidth. As bandwidth is generally limited in speed and expensive in Australia, to be able to have computers sync files to each other directly over the local network ensures that upload and download capacity is saved.

Office 365

Microsoft Office 365 was selected for cloud-hosted email, contacts and calendars. Business Premium licensing was obtained in order for all staff to have access to the latest version of Microsoft Office and easily keep it up to date.

Hosted Exchange

Exchange is the gold standard when it comes to business communications. One system providing email, shared contacts and shared calendars to computers and mobile devices. Migrating from on-premises Exchange to Office 365 was straightforward and painless – all user data was migrated with a minimum of hassle and everyone continued using Outlook and their mobile devices as if nothing had changed.

Exclaimer Cloud Signatures

Exclaimer is an excellent third-party addition to Exchange, both hosted and on-premises. It provides an easy-to-use web portal for centralised configuration and management of company email signatures and ensures that all business communications have consistent branding applied.

Office software

Having Microsoft Office licensing included with an Office 365 subscription means that team members get the software they need to share information with internal and external people, and that licensing compliance is easily taken care of due to licensing being allocated to individual staff. In addition to the traditional Office apps for Windows, an Office 365 Business Premium also unlocks full editing capabilities in the mobile versions of the Office suite apps.

Microsoft Azure

The custom database was migrated to Microsoft SQL Server running on Azure. Microsoft host Azure data centres in Sydney and Melbourne(andother places within Australia) and picking a datacenter physically close to where Hamton are conducting operations was important for reasons due to speed and latency.
Due to hardware failures on the app server, migration to Azure was initially stalled, however the Microsoft SQL Server database files were able to be recovered from backup. Uploading them to a Windows Server + SQL Server virtual machine on Azure was then quite straightforward. In addition to running the SQL database, the Azure VM also runs a licensing server that allows a number of floating software licences to be shared amongst 11 workstations.
Additional Azure Virtual Machines can be provisioned quickly and easily as the need arises with no fixed hardware costs, no additional software licensing costs and no time taken to install the Windows Server operating system.

Result

Despite some unexpected hurdles thrown into the mix caused by a significant piece of hardware failing before all data was retrieved from it, the migration was successful and has lead to a positive outcome for Hamton.
Staff are not limited to working in the office and can access everything they need from anywhere that they have an internet connection.
Staff are equipped with Microsoft Surface tablets or laptops, and these are ideally suited for site meetings with clients and contractors – often on development sites where previously they would have been unable to work efficiently.
The reliance on the internal office network has been almost completely eliminated – all company information is accessible by whoever needs to from wherever they are.
There was no requirement to purchase new server hardware. Even taking into account the costs of the subscriptions for Dropbox and Office 365, there will be a significant amount of money saved over purchasing, provisioning and deploying new hardware and upgrading software licensing to host the servers, including the Exchange server and the File and Print server. Based on our initial calculations, the total licensing cost over three years is similar to the initial purchase price for new server hardware. The cloud solutions require far less ongoing maintenance when compared to multiple on-premises Windows servers providing Active Directory, Exchange, SQL Server, and File and Print services.

Get in touch

Many businesses are realising the convenience and cost savings that are possible with today’s cloud services. If you’d like to chat about how we can help you plan what the best course is for your business, please reach out to Kai at Automatica for a chat.

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