International events producer dmg Events Middle East & Asia moved from an on-premises email system to the cloud-based Gmail system, and the move proved frustrating for employees and IT staff. When the Google contract came up from renewal, dmg decided it was time for a new email system. We recently spoke to Gehan Madhanayake, Head of IT at dmg Events Middle East & Asia, to learn why.
Q: Please tell us about dmg Events Middle East & Asia.
Gehan Madhanayake: dmg Events is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Daily Mail and General Trust, which is one of the largest media companies in the United Kingdom. We produce and manage conferences, exhibitions, publications, and online events for companies around the world in a variety of industries. We have 150 employees, and our Middle East & Asia headquarters is in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Q: Why did you move from on-premises email to a cloud-based solution?
Gehan: We were using an on-premises instance of Microsoft Exchange Server, which was running at our parent company’s data center in the UK and caused some logistical problems for us. Because of the time zone difference, and because our work week runs from Sunday through Thursday, it was difficult to get timely support for email problems.
Q: Why did you choose Gmail as your first cloud email solution?
Gehan: When we made the transition in 2011, I’d had an opportunity to try out Microsoft Office 365, and I was very impressed by it, but it was not yet available in the Middle East. We didn’t want to put off our move to the cloud, so we felt that Gmail was the best option at the time.
Q: Why did you end up replacing Gmail with Office 365?
Gehan: We had troubles with Gmail right from the beginning. Our users were losing mail, and they were not at all happy with the interface. It was too cluttered, and users had difficulty finding the features they were looking for. The email editor in the Google Chrome browser was also missing some of the robust HTML formatting we were used to in Microsoft Outlook. Our managers noticed that employee productivity was down as a result of email frustrations, and on the IT side, we were frustrated by difficulties we encountered getting support from Google to solve our problems.
By the time our Google contract came up for renewal in 2012, Office 365 had become available in our region, so we decided to adopt Office 365 and move our email to Exchange Online. LiveRoute, our technology partner for the project, was a tremendous asset. LiveRoute is an Office 365 specialist, and they provided the experience and tools needed to complete the migration with no lost email and no downtime for the business. We completed the entire migration in two weeks, and it went very smoothly.
Q: What benefits are you experiencing by using Exchange Online and Office 365?
Gehan: Our users love the email system and Outlook Web App. Our managers have seen productivity go up, and on the IT side, our support call volume is way down, so we can devote more time to other projects. That includes building a new company intranet with SharePoint Online, which is a great tool. We are also using Lync Online for messaging, and people love it. It’s easy to log on from anywhere and see who is online and send them a message. All in all, Office 365 is a brilliant solution that is easy to use and full of great features.