Just over a year ago, with the assistance of Xperience Group, Ratio Vending moved to the Cloud and Office 365. At the time, the company had two on premise servers. The primary server was running out of space; indeed the entire infrastructure was struggling to deliver the levels of reliability, security and accessibility demanded by the organisation and its four sites, so the decision was made to replace their IT infrastructure including: firewalls, switches and backups.
Andrew Steen is the Managing Director at Ratio Vending, and has been a long standing member of the company for ten years. He explains why the company decided to move to the Cloud a year ago. “We were updating our accounts and stock management system to a more advanced version, and while doing so we were aware that our servers were reaching the end of their life and needed replacing. If we wanted to keep abreast of technology then moving to the Cloud was certainly the way forward.
The question was: did we move right away – or wait a little longer? “Initially we weighed up the pros and cons from a cost perspective,” Andrew explains. “Moving to the Cloud was going to be slightly more expensive than remaining with a physical server. But once we began to look at the bigger picture i.e. planning to remove any inefficiencies by creating a more centralised, collaborated working environment with up-to-date technology, it made sound business sense to move sooner rather than later.
“We looked at things like: could we afford the time, worry and investment that would be needed to keep our ageing IT infrastructure up and running for another year? What about those times when our backups had proved less than reliable? What about access for remote workers, especially in areas where broadband is unavailable? And what about all that documentation being emailed to and fro – or several versions of the same document sitting on people’s desktops? When we weighed it all up, it made sense to make the move now.”
“We moved to the Cloud in 2015 and began to experience benefits very quickly,” Andrew continues “Our remote workers can access up-to-the-minute data from wherever they are using their Surface devices, while enabling them to update information and pricing on the go, and ensuring consistency throughout the company With the Cloud there are no worries about broadband issues; as long as they have internet access they can work from anywhere.
“Our sales proposals procedure is much more efficient, too. Having everything centralised on the Cloud makes it easier for me to go in, locate and check proposals that someone else has put together.
“There have been other tangible benefits, for instance insurance documentation, ISO certificates and data that we have to continually provide for our customers compliance checks. Previously, people would tend to save this kind of data in an email or a desktop folder, but now we have a centralised portal where everyone can access documentation in its most up-to-date format. Take our price list, for example, an area that’s central to the smooth running of our business. Having everything in a categorised central folder that’s consistently up to date has been a huge benefit.”
“On top of this, as the main decision-makers in a family-run organisation, my father and I need to access a lot of confidential information. For example, Xperience created a set-up where management data is stored separately, with tiers of user access in place so that only authorised users can access certain areas. This has created a central location for us to view information, without having to email back and forward. Being in the Cloud has enabled us to collaborate much more effectively and securely ensuring that staff have access to particular folders and data only. For me personally, I can access everything I need from my respective Microsoft Surface device any time I want, whether or not I am in the office or even in Northern Ireland. I can simply log on and view or work on the most recent version of software, information or documentation, just like I am sitting at my desk in the office.”
“As a business we are definitely moving with technology as IT progresses. We are trying to achieve a paperless environment and have centralised access to the most up to date versions of spreadsheets or other documents that would have previously been shared by email.
“Indeed everything’s a lot simpler because of the way the Cloud works. I can open my own personal tablet from wherever I happen to be and it’s just like sitting at my office desk whereas before with the laptop I’d have to depend on email or signing in to try and get access to our server. Being in the Cloud means I can keep an eye on whatever’s happening back at the office, even when I’m away on business.
“Things have improved at every level of our business. The Cloud enables us to collaborate more effectively and know that we’re always accessing the most up-to-date version of any document. We are also benefiting from the extra layers of security and resilience that the Cloud brings. Plus there’s the additional benefit of knowing that everything is automatically backed up off site, something that would prove invaluable in the event of a disaster. It just works, without us having to worry about it.”
What would Ratio Vending say to another company considering moving to the Cloud, especially one that may be hesitating or weighing up the pros and cons?
“I would say that you have to consider the wider benefits for the business and also the changes and improvements that you can make,” says Andrew. “Being in the Cloud has been a catalyst for doing things differently in our business. While doing things differently you can still do it without changing or altering how you are actually used to doing it. So look at the wider picture because that’s when you get the most benefit out of it.
”And the relationship with Xperience? “There’s a genuine drive and commitment right from the top to continually improve things and understand the client’s priorities and aims. Our relationship with Xperience is robust – they are continually trying to improve things where they can, and they are committed to adding structure and bettering their service inline with understanding our priorities and frustrations.”
About Ratio Vending
Ratio Vending is a third-generation family business headquartered in Lisburn and operating in both Belfast and Dublin with an additional site in Glasgow. They currently provide over 7 million drinks and 1.6 million snacks annually and are Ireland’s leading independent vending business.