District Chooses Office 365 Over Google Apps to Reduce Costs and Improve Customer Service

Today we hear from Colonial Williamsburg on why Microsoft was the best decision for their organization in their move to enhance their business and embrace cloud computing!

“We quickly realized Google would not meet our needs, so asking our employees to put up with less functionality was not an option for us.”

--Sean Maisey, Director of Operations

Colonial Williamsburg
Located in Williamsburg, Virginia, Colonial Williamsburg is a living history museum that encompasses a 301-acre district, with buildings dating from 1699 to 1780. Visitors to Colonial Williamsburg see historical reenactments that demonstrate aspects of daily life in eighteenth-century Williamsburg, showing how people of different classes and races worked, dressed, and talked as they would have in colonial times in America. For visitors more interested in enjoying themselves in the present, Colonial Williamsburg also includes hotels, restaurants, and a golf course.

IT Challenges
The IT staff had deployed Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 for email messaging, and employees used Microsoft Office 2007. Some employees used public instant messaging programs to communicate in real time, but no unified communications solution had been deployed to provide presence and instant messaging across the organization.

With its messaging solution, Colonial Williamsburg had started to face some challenges.The IT team had set mailbox quotas at 100 megabytes (MB) to limit the growth of the storage system and to help keep costs down, but employees relied so much on email to communicate that they had a difficult time managing their information to stay inside the limit. They used Outlook data (PST) files to archive messages, which limited disk space on file servers. The IT team also spent a lot of time managing updates, patches, and third-party solutions that it had deployed to help control security and spam. Even with those challenges, Colonial Williamsburg was happy with Exchange Server 2007, but its hardware leases were expiring, so it began to look for a new messaging solution.

IT Solution and Benefits
Colonial Williamsburg decided to consider using a cloud-based messaging service to replace Exchange Server 2007 and the first solution it evaluated was Google Apps. To ensure employees could get the same functionality from Google Apps that they had in Office 2007, the company asked the accounting team to recreate some of the spreadsheets they had in Microsoft Excel in Google Spreadsheets and they found a lot of the business intelligence modeling features in Excel were not available in Google Apps. 

They also found Google didn't offer the breadth of functionality users were used to and quickly realized Google would not meet their needs.

By moving to Office 365, Colonial Williamsburg resolved challenges with its messaging solution and avoided expensive overhead costs. In addition, it found a solution that would enable it to provide a full unified communications and collaboration platform to help employees work more efficiently across all parts of the organization and enhance the customer experience.

Colonial Williamsburg reduced costs in several areas by transitioning to Office 365. It no longer has to worry about renewing hardware leases, and it avoids costly software upgrades, because upgrades are part of the Office 365 subscription costs. Because Microsoft manages the gateway, they have reduced Internet bandwidth from 18 MB to 16 MB, and have reduced T3 utilization by about 15 percent. The bandwidth, hardware, and software cost savings add up to $27,000 a year.

With the communication and collaboration tools that are available in Office 365, Colonial Williamsburg sees new opportunities to improve the visitor experience. The marketing team plans to use Excel in combination with SharePoint Online to collect and review data about customer behavior, so that it understands and can provide the kind of programs and services that visitors want.

Read the full story here.

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