IT outsourcing smoothies out SMBs communication and messaging headaches

With disparate locations and huge mail overheads, fast growing Innocent Drinks had to think quickly to solve potential data availability problems.

Innocent Drinks, the makers of 100% fresh fruit smoothies was established in 1999 as a small stall selling its smoothie recipes at a music festival. Today, stockists range from large supermarkets to small health stores throughout the UK. 

The company has doubled in size over the past 18 month and now employs 83 people.  Many of the employees are based at the 'Fruit Towers' headquarters in Shepherds Bush, London and has offices in Manchester, Dublin, Amsterdam and Paris.

As with any growing business, Innocent required a scalable and robust communications and messaging system that could develop and adapt as the company expanded internationally.  The organisation also required a system which would give remote offices a seamless connection to state of the art communication tools.

However, as it grew, Innocent was constantly experiencing problems with its in-house Exchange
server referred to as 'Kiwi'.  At Innocent, the servers are all named after fruit: the primary domain control id called Kiwi; Backup Domain control, Lemon; Terminal server, Cherry; Financial server, Plum; Sequel servers, Pear and Peach; Development server, Carrot.

With Kiwi, the company was close to the 16 Gbyte database limit that Microsoft had imposed on the Small Business Server with Exchange.  This meant that employees were frequently disconnected from the server if their email boxes reached capacity. Users were taken offline whilst the server was rebooted, resulting in periods of up to four hours downtime. With escalating data requirements, 'Kiwi' could no longer cope and the system was becoming inefficient, preventing people from performing their roles.

Innocent required a communications and messaging email solution that could support its unique marketing activity. The company encourages consumers to contact them via advertised email addresses, the details of which can be found on the bottom of the drink bottles.  For example,
iambored@innocentdrinks.co.uk. Over time this strategy has contributed to the increase in mail volumes, data storage requirements and the number of Public Folders required to support the growth.  One Public Folder alone had 150 different SMTP email addresses and housed 10's of thousands of emails.

Innocent also experienced high volumes of viruses and spam.  Andrea Kalavsky, Systems Magician (what Innocent calls IT Systems Manager), would spend valuable time scanning and blocking up to 20 spam messages per mailbox daily.

The company faced a dilemma of how to resolve its communication needs.  It could either purchase more hardware and employ additional IT staff to support its growing IT requirements, or it could select a fully managed outsourced service.

To solve its problems, Innocent opted for a Microsoft Hosted Exchange Service from Cobweb Solutions. This involved handing the 24*7 management of its email, including spam & virus protection, archiving, backup and remote access capabilities to Cobweb Solutions. The service is based on a predictable pay-per-user pricing scheme, so there is no hidden expenditure.

Comments Andrea Kalavsky:  "Now that Cobweb Solutions is managing our communications and messaging, we no longer have to worry about email downtime.  Nor do we have to address the threats from viruses and spam as Cobweb has it all under control. In addition to this, we now have fully managed Blackberry services. This means that we can communicate efficiently with our employees, suppliers and customers.  We are thrilled with this service and particularly impressed by the fact that the roll out to Blackberry services did not require the use of desktop software. It was as easy as simple activation and the entire outlook is now in our pockets.  Our plan is to expand our original capacity of 70 users to 120 by the end of 2006."

Online collaboration is another business requirement which the new solution helped to address. As it expanded abroad, Innocent’s overseas operations departments need to share documents with the UK teams.   One of the options is to implement Cobweb's Hosted Windows SharePoint Services solution, which will enable the disparate user base to have access to real-time business information, without having to solely rely on email.

By outsourcing messaging and collaboration needs, Innocent now has a reliable communication solution in place, offering the Innocent team access to email, diary, address books and business documents anytime, anywhere. This should leave a pleasant taste in the mouth.

Read more on IT for small and medium-sized enterprises (SME)

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