Microsoft Case Study On Hr Ease


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Microsoft Case Study On Hr Ease

  1. 1. Microsoft Server Product Portfolio Customer Solution Case Study Application Service Provider Moves from Linux to Windows, Cuts Downtime 95 Percent “With Windows, we have a more reliable environment Overview that serves us and our customers better than Linux did Country or Region: United States Industry: Technology and costs less, too. What could be better than that?” Customer Profile Suzanne Gill, Founder and President, HR-ease Tampa, Florida–based HR-ease, with 11 employees, offers a leading application service provider–hosted solution for human resources and benefits management. HR-ease offers its online human resources management tool in an ASP hosting model. When a third party began hosting the Business Situation HR-ease had moved to a Linux environ- computers for the solution, the solution became unreliable, and ment for added security—but the result customers couldn’t access their applications and data. The was less security, less reliability, and dis- satisfied customers. problems arose because the Windows®-based servers that HR-ease executives thought were being used on their behalf were really Solution The company moved to a purely Windows®- Linux servers running images of Windows-based servers. The based environment hosted by Microsoft® company’s solution was to change its hosting provider. Now, Gold Certified Partner Bayshore Solutions. Microsoft® Gold Certified Partner Bayshore Solutions gives HR-ease Benefits a purely Windows-based environment with greater reliability,  Cuts downtime by 95 percent  Speeds customer service by 400 percent enhanced security, and less complexity and cost. Downtime is  Boosts customer base 250 percent reduced by 95 percent and customer responsiveness is 400  Reduces hosting costs by 50 percent percent faster. It’s no surprise, then, that the company’s customer base and revenues have soared 250 percent. As a bonus, hosting costs have been cut in half.
  2. 2. “We have far more Situation database software, began to experience In just six years, Tampa, Florida–based problems that HR-ease had never seen uptime on Windows than HR-ease has grown so fast that it makes before. Memory leaks would cause the SQL we ever had on Linux. business success look easy. The company Server database server and the Internet now provides its Web-based human Information Services Web server to stop The Windows-based resources (HR) and benefits management responding. HR-ease had to restart the environment simply tool to more than 300 U.S. corporations and software frequently, which interrupted organizations with more than 200,000 customers’ access to their data and works every day, just like employees combined. applications. the desktop PC in front The software gives employees and managers That wasn’t the only problem. Multiprocessor of me.” Internet-based access to enroll employees in computers were operating like sluggish, benefit programs online and to view, update, single-processor machines. Gill was told that Hank Gill, Chief Technology Officer, HR-ease and modify their data anywhere, anytime. HR- specific software components couldn’t be ease software runs in a hosted application moved to separate drives to improve service provider (ASP) model. The company performance. Tests to trace the problems creates and maintains a custom portal, yielded inconsistent results. Furthermore, software solution, and database for each repeated meetings with representatives of customer, which the customer then accesses the hosting company failed to solve the over the Internet. problems. Although HR-ease provides its software “We’re an ASP,” says Gill. “Our customers solution in an ASP hosting model, the put their data into the application, and they company has never physically hosted its own expect to see it reflected in real time in their server computers. Instead, the company reports and screens. Instead, things were focuses on developing and managing its locking up, getting stuck. The customers solution, and it outsources the physical couldn’t log on. It was a customer-relations hosting to a third-party data center. After two nightmare.” years, with business booming, HR-ease Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Hank Gill felt that The nightmare became all too real when the company couldn’t afford to risk that one of the company’s oldest and largest business growth by securing customer data customers, a major health insurance and applications with anything less than provider, dropped HR-ease due to the complete protection from Internet threats. technology problems. The customer was the company’s primary reference account; Gill and his colleagues found a hosting its loss would not only immediately affect company that promised a Linux-based revenue, but also make it tougher for firewall for that level of protection, and they HR-ease to attract new customers. moved their solution to take advantage of it. A Troubling Breakthrough Behaving Strangely Gill insisted that the hosting provider let him That’s when the solution began to behave troubleshoot the computers himself, which strangely, according to Gill. The company’s led to a breakthrough: The so-called software, which was developed using the Windows-based servers on which the Microsoft® .NET Framework and ran on the company’s solution was running weren’t Microsoft Windows® 2000 Server operating running Windows after all—they were Linux- system and Microsoft SQL Server™ 2000 based virtual images of Windows-based
  3. 3. “The move to a purely No Worries with Windows servers. The hosting company was running HR-ease software on VMware images on “I have to admit, we were worried about Windows-based Debian v3.0 Linux because those images switching back to the Microsoft environment, environment has were easy for the hosting provider’s Linux- because we’d had problems when we moved savvy staff to manage—even though that over to the Linux environment in the first enabled us to be far meant the environment couldn’t provide the place,” says CTO Gill. “We had spent more responsive to performance that Gill knew he should have thousands of dollars morphing our Microsoft- been getting from genuine Windows-based based application so it could perform in the customers and to offer servers. Linux environment. But the migration back to them the real-time Microsoft was smooth and straightforward. “Linux didn’t recognize multiple CPUs and We needn’t have worried.” access that they want volumes when they were available, which and deserve.” limited performance,” says Gill. “Even worse, The migration to the Bayshore Windows- Linux added a layer of complexity that slowed based data center took place over three Suzanne Gill, Founder and President, HR-ease us down further—for example, the executable months in 2004. An early step was files that Linux needed to recognize the documenting the solution and assessing the Windows-based server image and hardware requirements for unfettered synchronize files were CPU-intensive and performance of the software. As a result, grabbed up to 90 percent of the CPU.” HR-ease moved onto a five-computer configuration of Dell PowerEdge 750, 850, “We had thought that we were using Linux and 2850 computers. The company’s only for an extra security layer,” says Windows-based software now can take full company Founder and President Suzanne advantage of the dual-processor computers, Gill. “Instead, Linux was running—and ruining multiple hard disks—up to six per machine— —our solution. Linux was costing us and up to 2 gigabytes of RAM per server. customers and threatening our future.” The HR-ease solution runs on two front-end Solution Web server computers plus a database Once HR-ease understood why its software server computer, with a staging environment wasn’t performing as expected, and that the consisting of a single Web server computer hosting provider was committed to the Linux and database server computer. Those last environment despite the drawbacks of that two computers also serve as failover servers environment for HR-ease, company for the primary production environment. executives felt they had no choice but to change providers once again. Part of what made the migration so smooth, according to Gill, was Bayshore’s use of They turned to Bayshore Solutions, a Microsoft best practices. “Our Linux hosting Microsoft Gold Certified Partner with offices provider viewed Windows as something they throughout the southeastern United States. had to run for the sake of our solution, but Bayshore Chief Technology Officer Steve there seemed to be no thought given to how Hasselbach worked with CTO Hank Gill and the Windows-based environment should be his colleagues on a migration plan that would managed for optimum performance,” says bring the HR-ease solution to a purely Gill. “With Bayshore, we saw professionals Microsoft-based environment hosted by with a thorough understanding of how to Bayshore and based on the Windows Server® configure and tune the Windows-based 2003 operating system. environment for maximum performance.”
  4. 4. “Linux didn’t recognize For example, interdomain trust is a significant considering the use of this technology. issue in a solution that’s accessed by “Microsoft Virtual Server will give us added multiple CPUs and customers on the other side of the Internet. flexibility to get even more performance out volumes when they Bayshore employed Microsoft best practices of SQL Server, for example, by offloading for trust between domains to help speed reporting to a virtual server,” says Gill. were available, which data flow through the solution. As a result, “And we’ll be able to scale out the front limited our performance. HR-ease customers can input their data and end of our solution even more, by moving then access it from the Bayshore computers some of our larger customers onto dedicated Even worse, Linux added in real time. virtual servers.” a layer of complexity that Benefits Microsoft Technologies for slowed us down even Manageability By moving from the Linux environment to a further.” The HR-ease solution and its Windows-based purely Windows-based environment, HR-ease environment now are maintained using a has seen reliability and customer service Hank Gill, Chief Technology Officer, HR-ease range of Microsoft technologies, including soar, which has contributed to growth in Microsoft Operations Manager 2005 and customers and revenue. As an added benefit, Windows Software Update Services. costs have declined, too. Cuts Downtime by 95 Percent “With Microsoft Operations Manager, we can monitor the solution and identify potential With its Linux-based hosting provider, problems before they degrade performance,” HR-ease experienced 5 to 10 hours of says Hasselbach. “The use of Software unplanned downtime per week. After moving Update Services helps ensure that the to the purely Windows-based environment, solution is quickly and fully updated against the company was able to eliminate 95 to 98 newly discovered security threats.” percent of that downtime. Gill and Hasselbach are planning to expand “I know that Linux is supposed to be more the HR-ease deployment at Bayshore by reliable than Windows, but our experience adopting additional Microsoft technologies. was exactly the opposite,” says CTO Hank Gill. For example, Gill is interested in the use of “We have far more uptime on Windows than Microsoft Windows SharePoint® Services to we ever had on Linux. The Windows-based expand HR-ease portals with workspace environment simply works every day, just like capabilities. “We have customers who are the desktop PC in front of me. We don’t see themselves distributed geographically,” says any more paralyzing crashes in the middle of Gill. “Giving them more functional portals, the day that take hours to recover from.” portals that allow their employees not only to access information, but also to work together Windows Load Balancing facilitates respon- productively, makes our solution a bigger part siveness, and failover clustering helps to of their success. And Windows SharePoint ensure uptime in the event of server failure. Services will enable us to do that.” Another factor contributing to greater uptime for the HR-ease solution is the enhanced Given his company’s traumatic experience security that Gill has observed in the with virtual technology in the Linux world, it’s Windows-based environment. ironic that Gill sees Windows-based virtual technology—specifically, Microsoft Virtual “Our Linux hosting provider didn’t believe Server 2005—as one key to his company’s Windows could be secure, so it never continued growth. The company is currently implemented an update management system
  5. 5. “We don’t see any more to ensure that security,” he says. “But with created in three weeks—400 percent faster. the best practices employed by Bayshore Similarly, databases that formerly took 30 paralyzing crashes in the Solutions, including a comprehensive security minutes to bring online after backup now are middle of the day that update management solution, we simply restored in a few minutes, further facilitating don’t have downtime from malicious customers’ real-time access to data. take hours to recover software. And I don’t have to spend my time from.” tracking updates or worrying that installing an “By eliminating Linux in the middle of our update will break something else—as I did solution, we’ve streamlined the way we do Hank Gill, Chief Technology Officer, HR-ease with Linux. The security solution is automated business and we can respond far faster to and it just works.” our customers,” continues Gill. “Better customer service is one of the biggest Bayshore’s Hasselbach notes that although benefits we could see from the move to Linux was sold to HR-ease as a security Windows.” asset, it was actually a liability to the company. “The purely Windows-based That benefit doesn’t stop once a new environment means there’s only one customer portal is created. Continuing environment to secure,” he says. “When customization and customer support are Linux is thrown into the mix, suddenly there faster and easier, as well. Senior are two environments to protect—and twice Programmer/Analyst Beverley Smith says that the potential vulnerabilities. And if Linux- customer requests that formerly took hours trained staff don’t understand Windows, to accommodate now are handled in 15 you’re exposed from the standpoint of minutes. She updates the solution daily; in managed services.” the Linux environment, the extra complexity and processes meant she could only Improves Customer Response disseminate updates once a week. The 500 Time by 400 Percent percent increase in the frequency of updates Now that HR-ease has moved its solution means that customers see their requests for from Linux to Windows, HR-ease customers new Web pages or other changes on the no longer get locked out of their data and same day that they make the requests, rather are thus more satisfied with the solution. than a week later. But that’s not the only benefit customers are seeing. “Our ability to respond to customers went from being a competitive liability to a “The move to a purely Windows-based competitive advantage when we moved from environment has enabled us to be far more Linux to Windows,” says Gill. responsive to customers and to offer them Boosts Customer Base 250 Percent the real-time access that they want and deserve,” says President Suzanne Gill. By addressing the problems with Linux that drove customers away, HR-ease has used For example, because of the extra complexity its reliance on a purely Windows-based of the Linux environment and the environment to help build its business. Its requirement to work through the previous customer base grew by 250 percent in the provider’s Linux staff, it took HR-ease three two years after the move to Windows—as did months to create a custom portal for a new its revenues. customer. Now, because HR-ease staff can access the Windows-based environment “The major customer that we lost because of directly, the same customer portal can be the problems with Linux came back to us
  6. 6. For More Information Microsoft Server Product Portfolio specifically because we proved to them that For more information about Microsoft our use of Windows solved the reliability For more information about the Microsoft products and services, call the Microsoft problems,” says Gill. “Our other customers server product portfolio, go to: Sales Information Center at (800) also clearly preferred to have us on Windows. 426-9400. In Canada, call the Microsoft They were suspicious of Linux, whereas Canada Information Centre at (877) Microsoft is world-renowned and gave them 568-2495. Customers who are deaf or complete confidence in our solution.” hard-of-hearing can reach Microsoft text Reduces Hosting Costs 50 Percent telephone (TTY/TDD) services at (800) 892-5234 in the United States or (905) HR-ease didn’t migrate from Linux to 568-9641 in Canada. Outside the 50 Windows to reduce its costs—but it got that United States and Canada, please contact benefit, too. Its monthly hosting fee for the your local Microsoft subsidiary. To access Windows-based environment is 50 percent of information using the World Wide Web, go the fee it paid for Linux and its maintenance to: fee—the fee it pays for additional work required to maintain the solution—is lower For more information about Bayshore too. Factoring in the growth in its customer Solutions products and services, call (813) base, its cost per customer on Windows is 902-0141 or visit the Web site at: just 10 percent of its former cost on Linux. “The 50 percent cost savings we see from For more information about HR-ease moving to Windows makes a big difference to products and services, call (813) us,” says Gill. “It’s one of our most important 414-0036 or visit the Web site at: savings and, as we’re a small company, it’s very important. Beyond the lower fees, we’re also saving money because we can imple- ment changes directly in Windows that we had to pay separately to have others implement for us in Linux. With Windows, we have a more reliable environment that serves us and our customers better than Linux did and costs less, too. What could be better than that?” Software and Services − Microsoft Internet Information Services Microsoft Server Product Portfolio 6.0  − Windows Server 2003 Enterprise − Windows Software Update Services Edition Hardware − Microsoft Operations Manager 2005 − Microsoft SQL Server 2000 Dell PowerEdge 2850 computers   Technologies Dell PowerEdge 750, 850 computers  − Microsoft .NET Framework This case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY. Document published December 2006