ESL Industries tells us why Microsoft was the best decision in their move to cloud computing!

“We had tried Google Docs but found that it was a departure from the Microsoft software we’d already invested in. Sometimes the free offering is not always the best offering.”

-- Nick Beauchamp, Director of ESL Industries

ESL Industries
ESL Industries is a small manufacturer of office cabinets, museum exhibit cabinets, polycarbonate wine glasses, and stationery products, most of which are designed to custom specifications. The nine person firm, located in New Zealand, prides itself on customer service.

IT Challenges
To deliver excellent customer service, ESL aims to give employees and customers better insight into job progress while keeping business data safe. “Many of our products are custom-built for customers, who are very involved during the design and prototyping stages,” says Nick Beauchamp, Director of ESL Industries. “But once the jobs enter manufacturing, the process becomes invisible to them.” ESL wanted to find ways to better communicate with customers through the entire product life cycle—and also keep data safe.

ESL owns one server, which runs Windows Small Business Server 2008 plus design and accounting software, but Beauchamp worried about having all these business assets on one computer. “All our files, email messages, a production workflow database, and our finances have lived on that server,” he says. “After the February 2011 earthquake in Christchurch, many small businesses couldn't even get to their offices to retrieve computers and simply could not rebuild. If we had a fire or a hard drive failed, we would be out of action.”

IT Solution and Benefits
In late 2010, Beauchamp learned about Microsoft Office 365 for professionals and small businesses. He and two other employees tested Office 365 for several months, and now ESL plans to move all employees to the service when it is available. “Office 365 seemed a really good fit for our company,” he says. “We had tried Google Docs but found that it was a departure from the Microsoft software we’d already invested in. Sometimes the free offering is not always the best offering.”

ESL will migrate its email from Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 in Windows Small Business Server to Microsoft Exchange Online. “Employees will be able to get to their email messages more easily when offsite, but really, employees won’t notice much difference with Exchange Online, which is a good thing,” Beauchamp says. “We don't need to retrain people to use this service.”  Similarly, ESL will migrate documents and databases to Microsoft SharePoint Online.

ESL plans to use Microsoft Lync Online, the instant messaging and web conferencing component of Office 365, to enrich customer communications. And, by using Microsoft Office Web Apps, ESL employees can open engineering drawings, specifications, and other documents from almost any computing device to make customer visits more productive.

With online access to email, documents, and videoconferencing, ESL Industries will be able to enhance customer service, better protect its digital assets, and focus on growing its business. Beauchamp says. “With Office 365, customers will be able to view the progress of their jobs online and see exactly when their cabinet will be delivered. They can feel connected without physically being here.”

Beauchamp will also sleep better knowing that his business documents are safeguarded and regularly backed up in Microsoft data centers. “A business owner has so many other things to worry about including staff, marketing, and getting orders out on time,” he says. “With Office 365, I have employed the best IT staff to look after my information 365 days a year. That’s what Microsoft is good at, so we can get on with what we are good at.”

Read the full case study. Let us know how you use Office 365 in your small business.