Gibbons Mannington & Phipps

Company Overview

Gibbons Mannington Phipps (GMP) are a full-service firm of chartered accountants based across three offices in Bexhill-on-Sea, Tenterden and Rye. The practice deals with business, company and charity accounts and provides audits and personal or business tax advice.

Business Challenge

Some years ago, GMP moved their key accounts production software to a hosted service provided by their software vendor; a forward-thinking approach which delivered a flexible working solution. However, whilst the platform delivered many benefits for both GMP and their clients, the solution also proved troublesome for GMP with performance and reliability issues, limited control of the environment, inadequate support and limited scope for future development of other IT functions.

Solution

As GMP’s IT partner, Astec looked at alternatives to the hosted services provided that would allow GMP to maintain their existing accounts production software and the advantages gained by using the service, whilst overcoming the issues and limitations and providing a platform for future development of the IT services. As a Microsoft Gold Partner specialising in cloud technology, Astec identified that a move to Microsoft Azure Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) for the software platform, utilising Microsoft Remote Desktop Services would deliver performance, resilience, security and flexibility. With Astec managing and supporting the environment, GMP would have all the control required and the right level of support when needed.

Additionally, a migration from Microsoft Exchange services within the hosted service to Office 365 Business Premium for email services and to allow fully collaborative working throughout the offices, significantly added to the user experience and capability.

Astec faced a number of challenges in carrying out the migration from the existing data centre to the Microsoft Azure infrastructure. It was important for GMP that service interruption was absolutely minimal as any lost production time would have a significant impact on productivity and potentially customer service. To overcome this, Astec implemented a real-time background migration of data which allowed GMP to keep working right up to the agreed ‘switch over’ date. In the meantime, the core infrastructure was built and loaded with the software applications which was then tested with sample data for both performance and functionality. Other challenges arose from the Exchange Server to Office 365 migration as the hosted service was based on a shared environment. This meant that normal tools and processes couldn’t be used and a new approach to the migration was required to provide a seamless transition for GMP users.

Outcome

Following the switch over, users were able to immediately access their virtual hosted desktops, software and data as they were used to. Significant performance improvements across the whole business were immediately noticed and previous system reliability issues disappeared. These two factors alone provided substantial productivity improvements across the whole business. And with Astec now managing and supporting the environment, service and support requests are dealt with quickly and efficiently, eliminating frustration for users.

Staff can access their desktops and software from any office or remotely, both securely and quickly, offering completely flexible working for all members of the team.

As a part of the migration, the new hosted server environment is fully replicated to other Microsoft data centres providing full business continuity in the unlikely event of a system failure. All data is held within Microsoft’s European data centres, ensuring that full regulatory compliance is adhered to.

Office 365 now provides a range of tools simply not available to the team previously. Whilst the team have only begun to exploit these tools, they are already seeing the benefit of more effective ways of working and communicating.

All costs relating to the new hosted Azure infrastructure, Office 365 and fully managed services and support, are paid for on a monthly, fixed price basis meaning that GMP have predictable IT costs and avoid the large capital expense of upgrading internal servers and infrastructure on a periodic basis.

Karen Crowley, Partner, commented:

“Since moving to our new platform, we have seen a major improvement with everything working quickly and smoothly. The team are happier and able to get on with their work without the interruptions and frustrations previously experienced. Astec just get on with managing the system in the background so we have the peace of mind that everything is being looked after and maintained as it should be. They’re always there and quick to respond when we need them. We’re also just getting to understand what Office 365 can do for us and we’re now really looking forward to learning more and improving how we do business in the future.”

What Next?

Astec will deliver on-going training around the Office 365 suite including features such as Microsoft Teams and Flow delivered to internal ‘Office Champions’ who will cascade their knowledge throughout the GMP team. Services such as SharePoint sites will be setup for internal document sharing and collaboration and also to provide external client data access. We will continue to evolve the environment and consider migration of some services to Microsoft Azure Platform as a Service (PaaS) when appropriate, with additional potential cost and performance benefits.

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