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Case study: the computer crashes

BUSINESS may be cranking up but the limitations and/or failures of the company’s ageing computer hardware and software systems are becoming more apparent and inc-reasingly costly in a number of ways. It’s a problem faced by most businesses at some time or other in their development, usually becoming glaringly obvious during an exp-ansion phase. How to resolve it? Small, successful and growing West Perth-based acc-ounttancy practice Marshall Michael was quick to respond when its IT systems – two Windows NT 4.0 servers supporting 15 work stations – started to break down regularly during a time of rapid expansion. Marshall Michael Corporate Consultants was formed in 1994 and provides general accounting, income tax and corporate advisory services. With a management and staff of 12 people, the company’s client base now provides an annual turnover of $1.6 million. Business manager Nick Phillips, who also handles basic in-house IT support, says the failing system was interrupting his work at least twice a day, requiring re-booting each time. With staff waiting to access their emails and computer files, business productivity suffered; Internet access was slow, frequently compromised by virus laden spam getting through the old firewall and IT consultants were making an increasing impact on the budget. A new cost effective system was required to address all these issues and deliver better performance, while providing room for further company growth. In consultation with its IT partner, Exabit Communication, Marshall Michael restored efficiency with a new HP server, preloaded with Microsoft Windows Small Business Server (SBS) 2003 for less than $12,800 fully installed. The HP Compaq Pro-Liant ML350 G4 server replaced one NT server and the newer of the existing servers was recycled, and migrated to the Microsoft Windows Server 2003 operating system.Twelve gigabytes of data were migrated from Microsoft Exchange 5.5 to Microsoft Exchange 2003 and 30 gigabytes moved from the old server to the new HP Server, with the inst-allation taking 72 hours. Mr Phillips said the new systems had resolved all the company’s IT problems and underpinned its future expansion. “It’s easier to use and faster, enabling quicker customer response, so our business productivity has increased significantly,” he said. “The time spent on client jobs has decreased by as much as 25 per cent. Because we now enjoy a much higher level of system reliability, our maintenance expenditure has also been reduced by about $10,000 per annum.” The savings in maintenance expenditure mean that Marshall Michael expects to recoup the cost of its new system in less than 15 months. WA Business News asked Perth company Realising-Potential, which provides business consulting services specialising in information and knowledge management, for its view of the problem and solution. Realising-Potential founder and director Jackie O’Dowd said the problem was an increasingly common one for successful, rapidly expanding businesses and not restricted to the accounting and corporate advice sector. “We are seeing it across the board, typically in companies with ageing technology and no IT strategy,” Ms O’Dowd said. “This lack of a technology strategy, not the case in this instance, can be alleviated by a good outside consultant providing implementation, integration and support.” Without having direct access to the existing equipment, Ms O’Dowd said the HP ProLiant server and Microsoft application set were appropriate and the asset reuse cost effective. She said that, typically, the migration process could be co-pleted faster than 72 hours. Data cleansing can slow things down but generally, in her view, the benefits and payback appeared realistic.• WA Business News is seeking case studies of business problems and solutions. Let us know about yours by emailing markm@wabusinessnews.com.au

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