Raycom Media, an employee-owned company based in Montgomery, Alabama, is a growing television broadcaster, currently serving more than 12.6 percent of American households. After a minor flood at its main data center, Raycom Media decided to test cloud-based business productivity tools. We recently spoke to Lotte Hileman, Director of Systems Administration, to learn about the company’s journey to Microsoft Office 365.
Q: Please tell us about Raycom Media.
Lotte Hileman: Raycom Media is a television broadcasting company based in Montgomery, Alabama. We are one of the nation’s largest broadcasters—we own and/or provide services for 53 television stations in 36 markets and 18 states. We have approximatley 3,800 employees. We have a strong commitment to the communities we serve through our local news broadcasts. To foster dialogue, our television stations take editorial positions on key community issues.
Q: Why did you want to move to cloud-based services for your email solution?
Hileman: We had a flood in our data center, which was an uncomfortable couple of days of reduced services. To produce local news programming across 18 states, we rely on email and efficient corporate communications that link staff and reporters. If we have any downtime at all, it affects the quality of our news production and the viewers’ experience. As it turned out, the flood experience gave us the impetus to move to the cloud with a goal to improve business continuity and reduce the costs of maintaining our own physical infrastructure.
Q: What made you decide to move to Microsoft as your vendor for cloud-based business productivity services?
Hileman: It was mainly about mobility. Achieving a meaningful level of productivity with some of the other cloud-based solutions we evaluated requires an Internet connection, which is not always available for reporters chasing stories in remote locations. We wanted to promote mobility for our employees, and that meant using a messaging and collaboration solution that works well on a variety of mobile devices, which wasn’t the case with some of the other options. And employees wanted a familiar UI. With Office 365, we get integrated collaboration tools with no learning curve. We can use Office 365 to boost the connectivity and efficient teamwork required to produce up-to-the minute news stories. We worked with a Microsoft partner, ConQuest Technology Services, to achieve a smooth transition to our cloud-based services.
Q: How has Office 365 changed the way people work at Raycom Media?
Hileman: With Office 365, we get a much better mobility story. Raycom employees can work on news stories where and when they happen by accessing the most up-to-date versions of the files and documents they need. Our employees can work on any device without compromising their productivity. So if a reporter needs to leave the office quickly to secure an interview, she can take her cell phone with her and continue working where she left off on her computer. We chose an Office 365 plan that comes with Office 365 ProPlus so employees can install the full set of Microsoft Office applications on up to five different devices and get the same work experience on all of them. They are always connected to the most up-to-date contacts, emails, and data because Office 365 syncs employees’ email and documents between their mobile devices and their office and home computers.
Q: What are the biggest benefits you’re seeing from Office 365?
Hileman: Well, with Microsoft hosting our messaging and collaboration tools with a 99.9 percent uptime, financially backed service level agreement, Raycom IT staff is worrying less about business continuity. This is a huge benefit because in the competitive media world, we can’t run the risk of losing viewers because our business technology tools are not reliable. Our staff in the field rely on email and collaboration technologies to communicate the latest development in a news story. That’s what they get with Office 365.