When Jackson Engineering Advisers sought a better way of delivering the IT services necessary to run its business, the company looked to Lancom Technology for answers. With the delivery of multiple Microsoft Azure and Microsoft 365 services, the company today enjoys improved security, the performance of state-of-the-art technology and ‘work anywhere’ flexibility for a more satisfied staff complement.
And it has achieved these benefits while avoiding the capital expenditure of yet another hardware upgrade cycle.
Jackson Engineering Advisers (Jacksons) is a leading international provider of engineered heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems. The company delivers high performance building environments to customers across New Zealand and around the world.
Jacksons had long used an on-premise computing solution due to working with extremely large files associated with Computer Aided Design and engineering. However, the emergence of server-side cloud solutions, coupled with the nationwide delivery of ultrafast broadband opened new opportunities.
But Managing Director, Lance Jimmieson had concerns. “We’re heavy lifters on the file size front, working with large documents and reports, and large CAD files. We were a bit sceptical about going to a cloud solution.”
Be that as it may, the company was well aware of the advantages, as it was using multiple cloud solutions for administrative systems including accounting, timesheets and CRM. Production systems were on-premise but had to be shared among clients and workers operating from different premises. “Until recently, this was reasonably painful. Working on big files required downloading, working and then re-saving across the internet. A problematic process.”
This also presented the frustrating challenge of managing versioning, with multiple iterations of large files impacting storage provisions.
The major issue with using on-premise hardware that is capable of handling very large files is the capital cost of regular upgrade cycles. When the cycle rolled around again, Lancom Technology recommended a move to Microsoft Azure, along with the introduction of Microsoft 365.
Jimmieson wanted to know was if his team could maintain performance with this architecture – a question Lancom addressed with a thorough testing programme, with the existing server hardware serving as a ‘just in case’ fallback.
The project kicked off with a migration to Microsoft 365, which combines Office 365 with security and mobile device management. Given Jacksons’ reliance on other cloud solutions for accounting, this was the straightforward part of the project; the move of production CAD and other systems to Azure would represent the ‘heavy lifting’.
For this infrastructure, Lancom recommended a combined Azure Infrastructure and Platform as a Service option for the creation of a hybrid cloud solution. This leveraged Jacksons’ existing hardware investments, extending the value of these assets to the business, with Azure File Sync acting as a key component for performance optimisation. This permits provisioning of local cache servers, managed entirely by Azure, delivering the availability and security associated with a local server.
Jimmieson applies a business philosophy of: “If we can’t be the best at something, we give it to someone else,” and notes that Lancom’s planning and preparation were key to the project’s success.
“Lancom went through a thorough testing programme and migrated us across a bit at a time. By the time we fully moved over, it was pretty seamless. There was a lot of work at their end, but we just got on with business as usual,” he says.
Thanks to careful architecting considering the nature of Jacksons’ business, the shift to Microsoft 365 and Azure went smoothly and delivered many great benefits. ‘Cloud native’ features like improved backup and disaster recovery posture has eliminated the risk of hardware failures or natural disasters, events which had in the past affected the engineering company.
“Lancom had done a good job for us with local servers at branches and the necessary backup systems,” says Jimmieson, adding that Lancom also takes responsibility for backups. “Running and maintaining those systems was quite a responsibility…the pain-point is gone now the servers are fully cloud-based.”
With security a priority for Jacksons, Jimmieson is pleased with the combination of technology and the approach delivered by Lancom. He says: “We are very controlled about what happens with our system because it is the lifeblood of our business [and] Lancom has always been very strong on security.”
The cloud system now means staff can work remotely, a long standing goal for a business with international customers, mobile staff and the challenge of delivering attractive employment conditions. Avoiding capex too is always advantageous. “From a financial point of view, it takes a big lump out of the middle with the pay-as-you-go services” Jimmieson confirms.
And then there’s flexibility, as users can be added or removed on demand, providing scope for growth, and with automatic upgrades and patches reducing administrative overhead. In fact, the technology is enabling new ways of working: “I think it is going to change the way we view leasing of offices going forward” he explains.
“The days of having an office housing the whole business at one time are numbered. Currently we can house our whole staff in each region, complete with meeting rooms. Today, space utilisation is low. In future, we’re more likely to have satellite offices and hire meeting rooms or go to a hot-desk environment. There are [more] cost savings to be had.”
The solution delivered for Jacksons is a good demonstration of the capability for appropriately configured cloud solutions to meet the needs of even the most demanding organisations. And when deployed, this combination of technology and management nous can make it easier to find and retain people who can now work from anywhere.