“With retreats across the UK, Ireland and America we needed a central location to store company data that could be accessed and shared by all employees regardless of whereabouts in the world they are based. Our old on-premise VPN solution had become outdated and some of the more remote locations had no access to the server at all, which caused problems keeping company documents up to date and sharing information.”
Head of Business Systems, Natural Retreats
Natural Retreats is the UK’s number one luxury self-catering operator. Based in the North West, the firm offers self-catering and short break holidays at retreats across the UK, Ireland and in America.
With employees working out of numerous locations, Natural Retreats needed an IT solution that would let users access and share company data from multiple sites. Previously, the company had worked from an on premise server located at its head office in Cheshire. Users from all Natural Retreats’ sites connected to this server via a VPN (Virtual Private Network) connection. But, there was a problem. Due to the age of the system not all employees had access to the server meaning they were unable to view or update company documents. The solution had become old and outdated.
A new approach was needed that would provide a reliable means for users to share data from a central location and communicate effectively to improve productivity and reliability while giving the business flexibility for remote working.
Axon deployed Microsoft Office 365. Hosted by Microsoft, 365 is a cloud-based solution that lets businesses access and share documents across locations. You can make real-time contact via instant messaging, audio and video calling, run live web conferences and online meetings and access emails, calendars and contacts – all via a remote internet connection.
Our engineers set about decommissioning Natural Retreats’ old server, which was running Microsoft Small Business Server (SBS) 2003, moving all the company’s data onto a SharePoint site designed specifically to meet the business’s needs. Part of Microsoft Office 365, SharePoint Online is hosted by Microsoft in secure data centres and enables businesses to securely store and access company data and applications which they can then access from anywhere with an internet connection and on any device – PC, laptop, tablet or smartphone.
We also set up all users to connect to their emails using Microsoft Exchange Online giving Natural Retreats the ability to access emails, calendars and contacts from any location across multiple devices, as well as deploying Office Professional Plus for Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote plus Lync Online for instant messaging and video conferencing.
We then put together a training programme to make sure that all Natural Retreats users were fully up to date on how to get the most from the new system.
Microsoft’s highly secured data centres – where Office 365 customer data is stored – guarantee 99.9% uptime with information securely backed up in Microsoft data centres, meaning that Natural Retreats has round the clock access to its business critical services and all data is safe and accessible.
What’s more, if Natural Retreats offices become rendered out of action through disaster or emergency such as fire, flood or theft, then business information can accessed quickly from any location, contributing to the organisation’s disaster recovery and business continuity plans and ensuring that it’s business as usual if things go wrong.
Switching to Microsoft Office 365 has enabled us to streamline our IT infrastructure, adding increased flexibility in a far more cost effective way. The service is paid for monthly, effectively turning IT from a capital cost into a running cost and we no longer have to purchase and maintain expensive servers on-site at head office.Head of Business Systems, Natural Retreats
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