Established in 1994, The Investors Club (TIC) is a property investment company that assists investors through every stage of the real estate investment process. With an extensive network throughout Australia, TIC has researched, sourced and sold nearly 15,000 properties in Australia and New Zealand to more than 3,600 investors. More than 3,000 of these investors today hold property portfolios worth more than $1 million in value.
With more than 300 employees in 24 locations across Australia and New Zealand, The Investors Club needed a system that could centralise information and seamlessly connect employees whether in the office or on the go.
“We wanted to have everyone on the same page,” Network Administrator Ben Russell said. “We were really looking to centralise everything and allow people to communicate more easily.”
TIC was using Microsoft Exchange and Sharepoint, which Russell said became a significant impediment to business.
“A lot of maintenance and work went into the Exchange server,” he said. “We were constantly updating the server and patching, which meant hours of downtime.”
Furthermore, inbox cleaning became a daily routine due to a one-gigabyte inbox quota and poor spam filtering that resulted in unwanted emails that crowded out actual work communications.
“We were constantly running out of mail space. Probably a good hour or two a day was spent monitoring how large mailboxes were getting, urging users to empty inboxes and resetting passwords,” Russell said. “It was a bit obnoxious.”
Though Exchange did have a web-front access, Russell said that users had trouble accessing the entirety of their work data when not on their specified office computer.
“Employees could not access their documents if they were not in the office. This caused a lot of confusion and added a lot of unnecessary time to projects,” he said.
As maintenance and downtime mounted, TIC began to consider moving to the cloud.
“The maintenance of the server was tough and employees were not as efficient as they could be,” Russell said. “We wanted to centralise our data, so that’s when we started looking at Google Apps.”
“Hosting data in the cloud was pretty important for us,” Russell said of the evaluation of Google Apps. “In addition to enabling data mobility, we really wanted to get maintenance off of the IT department and reduce the server load.”
In exploring the option to stay on-premise or move the cloud, Russell said the solution was clear.
“We knew that maintaining our on-premise system was not a solution. Our old system wasn’t scaling to meet our requirements and it was causing a massive management overhead,” Russell said.
TIC’s then-IT manager suggested Google Apps. Russell said that the recommendation was positively received, as many of the IT team members used Gmail personally.
TIC enlisted the help of Cloud Sherpas to perform a six-week pilot with 15 members of the TIC team from various departments across the organisation.
“Those involved in the pilot adapted to Google Apps very quickly,” Russell said. “The benefits were pretty clear in comparison to what Outlook could do. Google Apps is much more efficient and employees really enjoy using it.”
Upon completion of the pilot, Cloud Sherpas migrated the head office staff of approximately 150. As part of this deployment, Cloud Sherpas changed the MX records to route email to Google Archiving & Discovery, also known as Postini, which was utilised to create a split delivery between Exchange and Google Apps.
After those employees in the main office were switched to Google Apps, TIC began the process to migrate the remaining employees to the new platform.
Cloud Sherpas facilitated a series of on-site and remote training sessions for the main office go-live, and the remote staff were trained through a “train-the-trainer” approach by the main office staff.
“The training sessions really helped everyone to get through the change process,” Russell said. “End-user and train-the-trainer sessions were extremely valuable to us.”
After TIC had switched all users to Google Apps, Russell said the benefits were immediately apparent.
“Users have been able to pick up Google Apps really quickly. They can access their information anywhere, which really helps us to get projects done in a more efficient manner,” he said.
Among the various features of Google Apps, Russell said that TIC uses Gmail, Calendar, Sites, Docs and Chat most heavily, and 100% of employees have embraced the Google web interface.
“Chat has been a massive win for us because we can now contact each other instantly when required,” Russell said. “Docs has also been great; being able to track changes and update in real time in the same document is something we would have never been able to do before.”
Russell said that Calendar has allowed for more streamlined scheduling.
“We have a lot of internal calendars for boardroom booking, which makes it easy to schedule rooms. Calendar overlay is very easy to use and understand, and people can pick it up quickly, so there wasn’t too much training required.”
Russell said that employees are also enjoying the functionality of Sites.
“The Sharepoint sites were pretty restrictive and not easy to understand, but now employees can create their own sites and share them with their colleagues,” he said.
While the end-users benefit from the ease-of-use and the mobile access of Google Apps, Russell said the IT team has reclaimed time lost on Exchange server maintenance.
“We have more time to focus on important projects,” he said. “Time is now being spent in areas that need it rather than maintaining the Exchange server. We’ve even been able to train people with non-technical backgrounds on maintaining Google Apps.”
Overall, Russell said that the move to Google Apps has allowed the organisation to work more efficiently than ever before.
“Going Google has been great for The Investors Club,” Russell said. “Everyone’s adapted really well and it’s definitely been a big step forward for the business.”