In 2014, Fashion Club 70 decided to stop using its own email server and instead switched to the Microsoft Office 365 email cloud. Fashion Club 70 is now using Microsoft Azure intensively too. ‘As a fashion company we don’t really want to have our own data centre,’ explains Dirk De Busser, IT Manager at Fashion Club, which is reducing the cost of its own infrastructure thanks to Azure and Office 365. The company is also trialling SharePoint Online, Skype for Business and OneDrive. ‘We're much more mobile and efficient now, and have much more time to be more innovative.’
Until recently, Fashion Club 70 employees could only access their email remotely. Documents weren’t accessible to those who wanted to work from home or on the move. It also cost a lot to keep this infrastructure operational in terms of manpower, infrastructure and licences, and further investment in new hardware and software was required every couple of years. So the directors wanted to find a more economical way of managing its IT infrastructure.
With help from Xylos, Fashion Club 70 switched over to Office 365 and Azure, Microsoft’s cloud solutions. Office 365 means there’s no longer any need to buy new hardware, and software updates take place automatically. ‘Initially the only intention was to place our email in the cloud,’ says Dirk De Busser. ‘As a user you don’t really see much difference, but we did notice that new features were being added all the time, both for end users and for IT.’
Some of the Fashion Club 70 servers and websites are running in Azure now too. ‘We’ve invested in our server park regularly over recent years, but we didn’t want to build our own data centre; that’s not our core business,’ explains De Busser. ‘So it was an easy decision when Xylos told us that Azure works seamlessly with Office 365. Whenever we need to replace any servers, it takes place in Azure, so we’re investing less in our local infrastructure. And we wouldn’t be able to guarantee the same availability either. Azure has hundreds of people constantly monitoring server availability.’
‘Once you’re in the Office 365 environment, you discover all its other features and the added value it offers,’ says De Busser. ‘Issues that we thought were too expensive are now within our reach without the need for any further investment in hardware.’
After barely a year, Fashion Club 70 also switched over to SharePoint, Skype and OneDrive. ‘These frequent additions mean we’ve achieved a good cadence for our technological innovations,’ says Dirk De Busser.
The company primarily uses SharePoint to make its documents available away from the office. In a next stage it also wants to use it to improve its workflows. Xylos has drawn up an HR questionnaire in SharePoint for this, which is completed whenever a new employee starts work in one of its shops, so HR receives the information it needs very quickly. This all used to be done by email, so it took days before HR had gathered all the information it needed to draw up a contract agreement.
Employees place personal documents in OneDrive too. Dirk De Busser: ‘You used to have a personal folder on the server that everyone had access to, so you had to save the documents you wanted to work on at home on a USB memory stick, or email them to yourself before you could save the edited version on the server again. Now you can access your personal documents whenever you want, and decide for yourself what you want to share and who with.’
The cloud is a good thing for Fashion Club 70. ‘When we buy something now, the first question we ask is if it can go in the cloud or not,’ says De Busser. ‘We’re very happy with how everything’s going. We’re also very happy we’ve made the switch to the cloud together with Xylos. As an SME we didn’t want to set sail with a large IT company. Xylos is a well-known name in the market, and an SME just like us. Their accessibility and no-nonsense approach appealed to us, and they took care of the migration. Our IT department takes care of the day-to-day management now that the project has been delivered.’
And the story is continuing for Fashion Club 70, with mobile device management for all the company’s smartphones, among other things. ‘These devices are managed using Microsoft Intune, and we’ve launched our own “FC70 App Store” too, which enables us to provide the mobile version of the ERP package we’ve developed ourselves, as well as a few other useful apps that can be used on the move, such as the fuel card app,’ explains Dirk De Busser further.
‘The cloud means we’ve achieved a good cadence for our technological innovations; you can add new features easily without any big investments.’