Cound, a London-based an estate agency, is well known for responsive customer service, but staff at the satellite office had trouble accessing email and files on the firm’s server, and PCs were not backed up, increasing unscheduled downtime. Cound deployed Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials and subscribed to Microsoft Office 365. With regular PC backups and better remote access to data, everyone can work more productively as a team to sell more properties.

Business needs

Cound, an estate agency, has offices in Wandsworth and Earlsfield, in southwest London. Owner Nick Cound has seen his competitors purchased by large companies, but he thrives as a neighbourhood business. “The main differential we can offer the public is the quality of our staff and the service we provide,” says Cound. “So I need the latest technologies to make sure we continue to provide the excellent service our customers expect.”

In 2005, Cound engaged the IT services of Microsoft Gold Certified Partner The Full Circle. Owner Reuben Cook specified Windows Small Business Server 2003, which includes the Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 messaging and collaboration solution, in the main Wandsworth office.

“Small Business Server 2003 was great for Cound, but as the company grew, a few issues developed,” says Cook. “Employees in Earlsfield used a clunky virtual private network [VPN] solution to connect to Exchange, access business data, and use PC Homes, a real estate application from Estates IT. The ADSL [asymmetric digital subscriber line] caused a disparity in information access between the offices. Staff in Wandsworth easily accessed files from the local server and downloaded data from the Internet through a 5-MB connection. But staff in Earlsfield had to access data from the Wandsworth server over a half-megabyte connection.”

“The solution wasn’t scalable and the slow connection affected productivity,” says Cound. “Earlsfield staff avoided checking in with their colleagues and looking at the latest information on the server.”

 I’m not interested in managing technology, but I am interested in giving my staff the tools they need to do their jobs well. Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials is a perfect solution for our business. Nick Cound, Owner, Cound

Cound wanted better business continuity and data security. Every time Estates IT upgraded PC Homes, The Full Circle had to restart the server, disrupting business. When a PC failed, it took The Full Circle half a day to reconfigure a computer and install the latest security updates. Also, Cound relied on The Full Circle to do manual backups for the agency’s 15 desktop computers and his portable computer.

Solution

To solve these issues, Cound asked The Full Circle to update the company’s business technology. It suggested the latest user-friendly business server solution from Microsoft. Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials is designed for businesses with up to 25 users. The solution provides regular backups and automatic updates on the server and client PCs. Also Cound can take advantage of Microsoft Office 365, a suite of cloud-based services, including Microsoft Exchange Online, Microsoft SharePoint Online, and Microsoft Lync Online, as well as Microsoft Office Professional Plus desktop software and Microsoft Office Web Apps.

“Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials is the hybrid solution that solves Cound’s scalability and communications issues,” says Cook, whose business administers the Cound network. “Cound can store business data, PC Homes, and server and client PC backups on-premises, and move email to the cloud. Instead of using a VPN, Earlsfield employees can access the server using Remote Web Access, through a web browser. And all employees will have the same reliable Microsoft-hosted email service, accessed at the same ADSL rates. The same will hold true of corporate data when we move that to SharePoint Online.”

In early June 2011, The Full Circle installed an HP ML series server at the Wandsworth office. They virtualised the solution on Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 to simplify future migrations. Cound also has the capability to virtualise PC Homes to run in isolation on the same server so that if Estates IT requires a restart, it won’t affect the business. Nick Cound’s portable computer was added to the new server first, with the remainder of the 15 PCs migrated to Exchange Online by the end of June.

“The upgrade has been virtually transparent,” says Cound. “The other day, I asked Reuben when it was all going to start, and he said he’d already migrated my laptop last week!”

Benefits

With his easy-to-use server solution from Microsoft, Cound and his staff can focus on what they do best: buying, selling, and letting homes in their neighbourhoods. “I’m not interested in managing technology, but I am interested in giving my staff the tools they need to do their jobs well,” says Cound. “Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials is a perfect solution for our business.”

When the solution is fully deployed, Cound expects the following benefits:

Reduced downtime improves productivity. With automatic computer updates and improved real-time status alerts, it’s easier for The Full Circle to keep the Cound estate agency’s PCs and portable computer running at optimal performance. “Now we have ‘health’ insight at the client level, and if something happens to a machine, the backup and restore tools are a dream,” Cook says. “Restoring a computer only takes half an hour. Nick’s employees are not waiting half a day for their PCs, and we can get on to other things as well. It’s good for all of us.”

Increased scalability supports growth. Cound is opening a third office in Southfields. “We have had issues with links between offices, but with the improved remote access to files on the server, I feel comfortable that we can add more offices and expand our business,” Cound says. “If I need to add more employees, it’s simple to sign them up for cloud-based email.”

Improved teamwork drives sales. Because Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials provides the option of moving data to the cloud - where it can be downloaded by everyone at the same rate - the solution helps reduce disparities in information access for Cound employees working in different offices.

“We are all selling the same thing. Everyone should be able to jump on an online offer or access a customer’s rental history with the same ease,” concludes Cound. “We’ll be using Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials to build a stronger team and sell more properties.”

Learn more about Windows Small Business Server 2011 (Essentials) and Office 365