Q: Please tell us about A.P. Eagers.Pearce: A.P. Eagers was founded in 1913, and we’re one of Australia’s largest automotive retailers. Our headquarters is in Brisbane, and we own and operate 100 motor vehicle dealerships across Australia representing 40 brands of cars and trucks, including all of the country’s top-selling cars. We also run a successful motor vehicle auction business called Brisbane Motor Auctions.
Q: Why did you want to manage your messaging and collaboration with cloud technology?Pearce: We had been running Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 for 10 years, with Microsoft Outlook as our email client, and we were happy with the software. But the company has grown rapidly in recent years, primarily through acquisitions, and it has become increasingly challenging for our IT staff to provide a consistent level of enterprise email service to all of our locations, some of which are fairly remote. A cloud-based architecture seemed like a perfect fit for our business model, because it makes it possible for us to deliver a high-quality email solution to all of our employees, no matter where they are located, as long as they have an Internet connection.
Q: Why did you choose Microsoft Office 365 instead of Google Mail? Pearce: After we compared the two options, the answer seemed obvious. We looked first to Google Mail because on the surface it seemed like a comprehensive and inexpensive solution. But when a group of our users tested it for three months, they ran into numerous problems. For example, email formatting got corrupted, Google Mail didn’t interoperate well with our Outlook email client, and we were concerned about the level of support. In order to get all the features we wanted, we had to use a number of the Google Mail Labs, which are new features that are currently being tested. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that these Labs won’t be discontinued, and none of them were covered by our support agreement. Additionally, all support was provided by a Google partner, rather than by Google itself, and we saw that as a problem.
After our Google Mail test, we started working with a beta version of Microsoft Office 365 and Microsoft Exchange Online. When we tested Exchange Online against the same criteria we’d used to evaluate Google Mail, we found that Exchange Online successfully addressed all of the trouble spots. We also got great support from Microsoft, and we had a very positive experience with InverseCurve, the local partner. Choosing Exchange Online also allowed us to make the transition fairly transparent for users without the need for additional training. If we’d chosen Google Mail, the time and effort to get everyone trained on the new system would have been extensive. Google mail appears less expensive at first, but once you add in partner fees and the labor required to get it running, it isn’t as cheap as it appears. Office 365 proved to be much more cost-effective for us.
Q: What benefits are you experiencing by using Office 365? Pearce: We are now able to offer employees at all of our locations a powerful, reliable, and highly available email solution, and this has improved communication across the company. The IT requirements for administering email are now greatly reduced, which has reduced our IT stress and given us time to focus on other projects for the business. In addition, we are looking forward to taking advantage of the other products that are part of our Office 365 licenses. We currently don’t have a collaboration platform, and Microsoft SharePoint Online looks like a perfect solution. And we plan to implement Microsoft Lync Online as a communications tool. Office 365 really is a powerful set of business productivity solutions.
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All support done by a partner doesn't sound like a problem. Is Microsoft moving away from using partners to support cloud services?