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Quick glance summary.
- The agency had only ever worked in an office environment, with no existing remote working IT configuration in place.
- Due to the pandemic, it was essential for them to be able to continue working from home, with unrestricted access to their existing IT systems, applications, data and emails.
- It was also essential for the staff to have a communications solution that acts as an internal system, allowing them to make and receive internal calls, messaging and video calls between the office and any remote location.
- Transition from the existing on-premises IT systems (including Windows and Exchange Servers) to one or more Cloud services for hybrid working, including Microsoft 365 Business.
- Use Microsoft Teams for unified communications including phone calls, video calls and instant messaging.
- Setup and configure Microsoft Exchange Online and Azure Active Directory to deploy and support the company emails and user accounts.
- Implement Cloud-based backup solutions for backing up and archiving business critical data.
- Supply, configure and support any hardware required for the staff to work from home including laptops, desk phones and headsets, upgraded internet connectivity and improved wireless access points.
- Refresh the existing IT systems in the office in preparation for hybrid working.
- The client has made considerable savings by downsizing to a smaller office due to the transition to a hybrid workplace environment, which means that less staff are in the office at one time.
- The owners and the staff are now enjoying quality of life improvements due to less time spent commuting, in addition to enjoying huge savings on fuel and rail costs.
- Thanks to the implementation of Microsoft 365 Business and other Cloud-based apps, there has been no impact upon business productivity and the staff can work together as a team just as efficiently between the office, from home or any other remote location.
Continue reading the full case study below…
No remote working facilities.
As with many other organisations, the business owners and their employees had only ever worked from an office in the city before the pandemic started. Everyone enjoyed working together in the same office space and because of this, no remote working solution was ever introduced.
Then, the pandemic and changed the way that we work forever.
The company worked within an industry sector that continued to run throughout the pandemic and because of this, it was essential for them to evolve quickly into an organisation that could continue their normal day-to-day business operations after transitioning to remote working, then reverting to a hybrid workplace model once things stated to “return to normal”.
- Any impact on productivity was not an option and the transition needed to be as seamless as possible.
- The staff needed full access to their existing applications, emails and data so they could continue working full-time from home as normal.
- It was also essential for the staff to continue collaborating on new and ongoing projects through updating documents and files together in real time.
Communication was a concern.
In addition, the staff needed a unified communications solution that would allow them to make internal and external calls, setup video conference meetings and send one-to-one and group messages internally.
Although many of the staff had laptops at home, most of them were not suitable for use in a business environment and because of this, they needed new machines. Many of the team were also used to using desktop handsets in the office to make calls and requested similar handsets to use at home.
Internet connectivity was also a problem.
Some of the team had slow internet connectivity at home, in addition to poor wireless internet coverage that wasn’t suitable for multiple users working from home.
1. Conduct initial discovery meetings.
One of our project managers arranged an initial discovery meeting with the agency to discuss their challenges and requirements for working from home in detail, in addition to other essential information about the staff and their homeworking environments. This discovery meeting was also a fantastic opportunity for us to prove how effective Microsoft 365 and Teams can be for video conferencing and collaborating on documents remotely, such as the project scope for example.
2. Supply a project scope.
Once this and further meetings were completed, we supplied a final project scope of works to the business owners that detailed a full breakdown of costs including hardware, cloud services and engineering charges, in addition to a detailed timeline of works that included the estimated completion date of each project phase.
Once the project was signed off, we rolled up our virtual sleeves and continued to the implementation stage!
3. Migrate Company emails and data to Microsoft 365.
Our priority was to migrate the Company email accounts and mailboxes from their on-premises Exchange server to Microsoft Exchange Online and Azure Active Directory (which are included in their Microsoft 365 subscription). Once we signed the client up to a Microsoft 365 Business plan, we then continued to create the user accounts and then migrate all Company mailboxes into a test environment to ensure that all data, calendars and emails were transitioned over successfully and could be tested thoroughly.
We then asked the staff to access their accounts via Outlook webmail to ensure everything was in place before going live. Once everyone was happy, the next task was to configure each employee’s local Outlook settings on their new Computers so they could start accessing their emails from home immediately.
Once the email migration was completed, we continued to migrate any data from the Companies on-premises Windows Server to SharePoint Online (which again is included in Microsoft 365 subscription). This will allow the staff to store and access their work from a user-friendly SharePoint site that is accessed from a web browser including documents, files and images.
In addition, the team can also collaborate on many documents and files within SharePoint and see changes other users are making in real-time because SharePoint continuously synchronises any updates in the background.
4. Supply and configure new hardware.
Following a series of consultation meetings with the staff to discuss their requirements (and agreed a budget with the business owners!) we arranged for the supply and delivery of their chosen Dell laptops and Computers to their homes. Dell has been our hardware supplier of choice for many years because they have an excellent reputation for reliability and value for money, in addition to excellent after sales service and warranty support, on the rare occasion when it is needed.
Once the computers arrived, we configured and updated each machine by connecting to them remotely. We also installed and configured Microsoft 365 Business apps, including Teams for communication and Outlook for emails, in addition to any 3rd party apps being used, such as Adobe Creative Suite for example.
We also set up any existing peripherals that the staff were using at home, including printers and scanners.
Where requested, we also supplied and configured the latest Yealink desktop handsets and headsets that are compatible with Microsoft Teams. We helped the staff to install the Microsoft Teams app on their smartphones so they can make and receive calls using their internal extension on the move (they can also use this for video calls and messaging)!
5. Set up Microsoft Teams to unify communications.
Porting numbers and setting up phones.
Once we signed up to a call plan on our client’s behalf, our first job was to port their existing phone numbers to Microsoft Teams and recreate the internal extensions. Once this process was completed and the numbers were activated, we then configured everyone’s desktop and desk phones so they could start using the internal phone system from home in the same way they use their phones in the office.
Set up Messaging and video conferencing.
We had already set up and configured Microsoft 365 when the new company computers arrived, so all that was left to do was set up the required internal department and management chat groups in messenger. We then introduced the staff to Teams by conducting one-to-one training sessions, ensuring that everyone fully understood how to use all of the features of phone, messaging and video conferencing.
6. Set up Ubiquiti wireless access points for home users.
During our discovery meeting, one of the first things we discussed with the business owner was the importance of everyone having a fast and reliable internet connection at home. Thankfully, most of the staff had good internet connectivity and those that didn’t received help from our projects team to source an alternative Internet Services Provider.
Many staff were sharing their wireless connectivity with other family members that were making the transition to remote working and because of this, they were experiencing speed and connectivity issues. This is to be expected when so much demand is placed on a WAP that is manufactured for light usage.
Our solution to this problem was to replace the existing access points with a Ubiquiti “Unifi” AC Pro Access Point. This is a cost-effective Enterprise-class WAP that is up to five times faster than a conventional 802.11N access points you’d typically find in the home, with much broader wireless coverage. These access points were all configured remotely by our helpdesk team – and immediately solved any connectivity issues the users were experiencing.
7. Set up Online Data Backup solutions.
Contrary to widespread belief, Microsoft 365 does not incorporate a data backup service and because of this, we set up a cloud-based backup solution for the agency that is specifically designed to backup Microsoft 365 data, including Exchange Online and other data kept within SharePoint Online, OneDrive and Teams.
To ensure business continuity, we set up 3 x daily backups that are kept for 30 days, in addition to weekly backup sets that are kept for 90 days and monthly back-ups that are kept for 12 months.
We also provided the client with our separate Cloud data backup service that is used to archive all other business critical data. This data is replicated at a second data centre to greatly mitigate the possibility of any data loss.
8. Update the existing office IT systems for hybrid working.
Although the team were setup to work effectively from home, at some point they would return to the office in a part-time capacity. Once the client had downsized to a smaller office location, we fully managed the IT office move and then setup all the office PCs to access the company accounts, data and emails via Microsoft 365 and Azure Active Directory.
We then replaced the redundant desktop phones with the same Microsoft Teams compatible handsets that the staff were already using from home.
Lastly, we decommissioned the clients on-premises servers and arranged for them to be collected by an IT recycling company. A certificate of destruction was supplied after the hard drives were securely destroyed.
The transition to a hybrid workplace environment took less than two weeks to complete. In fact, the only delay we experienced was waiting for the new laptops to arrive because they were incredibly scarce due to the initial demand caused by the pandemic.
- Due to the successful transition to hybrid working, the agency has made the decision to allow the staff to work remotely for a set number of days every week and because of this, they have made considerable savings by moving to a smaller premises.
- The hybrid workplace model has greatly improved staff morale because the team are spending far less time and money on commuting to the office and more time at home with their families.
- The client’s annual IT expenditure has been greatly reduced by retiring the on-premises servers and replacing them with subscription-based cloud services, which are charged at a predictable fixed monthly fee.
- The introduction of Microsoft Teams means the same internal phone system is used between the office, at home or any other location that the staff choose to work from, whilst keeping the same landline number and internal extensions.
- Microsoft 365 has allowed the staff to continue collaborating on projects and other work from separate locations throughout the day, without compromising creativity, productivity and profitability.
After everything was put into place and the team had adjusted to a new way of working, the business owners contacted us to say how happy they were and how they wished they’d switched to hybrid working years ago! Working through the pandemic was challenging for our team, but receiving feedback like this made it all worthwhile 🙂