As growing numbers of organisations are now discovering in this era of Software as a Service, hosting offers a number of benefits, not least lower capital investment and a controlled, level IT spend. However, hosting only works well if the provider delivers the right level of support. For workplace services provider Amaryllis, despite a significant annual outlay with a well-known hosting provider, poor support combined with a lack of proactive service resulted in high levels of downtime – leading not only to interrupted business but also penalties associated with missing client Service Level Agreements (SLA).
Having migrated to CPiO Cloud Services, Amaryllis has not only seen costs reduced by 40% but also improved resilience and transformed business continuity. Critically, the company is enjoying the benefits of a proactive service provider constantly combining advice and guidance and problem resolution to maximise uptime and transform its confidence in on-going IT development to support business growth.
Offering products and services relating to furniture and equipment within the workplace, including workplace management, environmental recycling and workplace change programmes, Amaryllis has been in operation since 2001. The company employs 250 personnel across offices and warehouse sites in Birmingham, Brighouse, Bristol, Chelmsford, Livingston and Swansea – and has a number of international partnerships.
Since its inception, the company has been committed to the hosted IT model, preferring to locate equipment off site with trusted providers and run a small internal IT department. Over the years that approach has evolved to the Software as a Service (SaaS) model, enabling Amaryllis to move away from capital investment in hardware and attain a more controlled, stable IT cost base. As Mar Rainsby, IT Manager at Amaryllis explains, “The hosting strategy works very well – we have a small IT team and the capital expenditure required to go hosted was much lower than an in-house investment approach. Furthermore, the hosted scenario is far more cost efficient in terms of on-going upgrades.”
However, while the model has worked well in principle, the quality of support delivered by the hosted provider is absolutely critical. Unfortunately for Amaryllis, when the medium sized provider it signed up with was taken over by one of the big players six months into the contract the quality of service dropped immediately. Mar says, “The support was lacking in every aspect, from call response times to problem resolution and the ability to provide support for the environment. The company was very reactive; there was no proactive support and no vision to stop problems from happening.”
This created a significant financial impact for the company – not only was the contract extremely expensive but the continual failure in systems availability had a knock on business impact. Mar says, “We have a major contract with a client that includes a 24×7 interface to our Sage ERP 1000 system with high Service Level Agreements (SLA) based on two or four hours. If our servers are down for any extended time we can’t deliver on that SLA and incur big penalties at month end. Having a server down for two or three days was not acceptable – it was a huge business cost.”
Well before the contract was due to end, Amaryllis decided to look for an alternative provider to ensure a smooth and effective transition to a new environment as soon as possible. Having reviewed the market, Amaryllis opted for CPiO Cloud Services for a number of reasons, including access to a dedicated hosted platform and CPiO’s extensive experience with Sage support.
Mar says, “CPiO can offer support for our Sage ERP 1000 system which is not only our key business application but also very bespoke and complicated. We have to be very careful with upgrades – from browsers to operating systems – and ensure we have a fully controlled environment.”
“In fact, we are not a typical hosting customer – we have so much knowledge about our Sage systems and require regular access to the hosting environment which is different to the usual hosted model. CPiO Cloud Services was incredibly flexible, enabling us to negotiate more domain access and flexible SLAs.”
One of the company’s other prerequisites was to discover how CPiO Cloud Services would react when a problem occurred. As Mar says, “It is easy to provide support when everything is going well; it is how a company deals with an issue that reveals the quality of support. I spoke to a couple of reference sites and it was clear that CPiO Cloud Services had the right approach to resolve any problems swiftly and efficiently.”
The decision to move the environment to CPiO Cloud Services was taken 18 months before contract end, enabling the two companies to work closely to plan and deliver a smooth transition. With an outdated infrastructure and systems heavily dependent on IP addresses, it was essential for Amaryllis to both understand the complex network of servers and server dependency and to consider opportunities for improvement.
The migration of the Sage ERP 1000 system was extremely complex, due to the Amaryllis specific bespoke developments. This application was migrated across two months prior to the migration of the whole infrastructure, with links to third party applications from Infor and Defcapture warehouse management system. In addition, CPiO recommended upgrading Microsoft Exchange, Active Directory and Office, delivering a complete refresh. Moving from Citrix to terminal server has improved the security of the Virtual Private Network (VPN), ensuring users can access emails from any location; while the adoption of up to date software has provided Amaryllis with far more confidence in its ability to migrate or deploy new applications in the future.
Having planned effectively, the entire move across was achieved over one weekend with no interruption to business operations. One year on and Amaryllis is delighted by the transformation and proactive support. For example, during a recent system slow down CPiO Cloud Services went on site and spent a couple of days to identify and resolve the issue. This was not a CPiO problem but a combination of a complex application issue and the way in which Amaryllis was using the application – essentially a mix of factors that were hard to isolate but effectively resolved.
Mar confirms, “CPiO Cloud Services’ support and responsiveness are second to none. The company’s broad expertise combined with proactive attitude is making us far more confident; we have the infrastructure stability we were lacking before which is delivering not only a stable day to day business environment but also far more effective business continuity and disaster recovery.”
For example, any changes to the bespoke Sage ERP 1000 system are made within strict change control processes and tested in a controlled environment before being deployed to the live system. “CPiO Cloud Services undertakes due diligence on every change before it is applied and we also have the ability with this new infrastructure to roll back to a pre-change state if required – which provides far more resilience,” Mar says.
Despite the huge improvement in performance, service and support Amaryllis has actually seen annual costs reduced by 40% as a result of moving to CPiO Cloud Services. In addition, with no downtime the company has not incurred any of the SLA related penalties that were previously adding significant business cost. “The financial benefits are considerable,” Mar confirms. “With the business running efficiently, we are not incurring any penalties and we have a far more resilient and up to date infrastructure. Critically, we have a provider in CPiO Cloud Services that will always go above and beyond any contractual requirements – and that is a major benefit to any business.”
Having worked with CPiO for a number of years I felt confident that our Sage ERP 1000 upgrade would be a well-managed project. All members of the CPIO team were, as ever, extremely professional and helpful during the upgrade and I always felt fully supported.