Darren Harris, Operations Director at Opia, says: “If we had something else we would be continually maintaining, updating, costs, etc. This is almost like a turnkey solution; you go in, put it in, and you can walk away. That’s another benefit of the solution… The cloud today to what it was even two years ago, a year ago, it’s completely different. For me, it’s the way forward.”
Darren says: “Microsoft and Amazon, they’ve got the people and the technology to keep their stuff updated and secure. You’ve got to keep moving with it. Plus, it’s not as expensive as you think. If you’re paying pennies now but something might cost a little more, is it worth it to take that risk, or is it worth getting that security?”
Opia was established in 2006 and is a fixed fee risk managed sales promotion consultancy that has worked with household brand names including HP, Lenovo, LG and Samsung. Clients pay a one-off fee for Opia to run and manage campaigns, and the associated risk of promotions, from start to finish. The company prides itself on its robust data security and fraud detections systems that ensures its clients are in safe hands.
Opia had grown phenomenally during its first 10 years and needed to review its IT infrastructure. It had implemented a basic cloud set-up with a previous IT provider, however it wasn’t to the standard that Opia needed. The cloud solution wasn’t developed enough to meet its needs and it wasn’t able to grow with the company. Its infrastructure was expensive, and it needed to reduce costs and increase efficiency in a way that would meet the varied needs of the whole business. The big areas Opia focused on moving forward were efficiency, scalability, cost savings, and security.
Opia chose to invite Perfect Image to tender, as around seven years ago, the two companies had worked together on a previous project to develop a piece of software. Out of half a dozen businesses, Opia picked three main proposals for serious consideration.
Darren Harris, Operations Director, says, “There was only one that came back with a true cloud solution – and that was Perfect Image. The other two companies didn’t offer that quick, scalable solution that we could also manage and maintain.”
Opia also liked the fact that Perfect Image is an end-to-end solution provider, with everything under one roof. It was a benefit to have Perfect Image managing and in charge of the whole solution as any requests or changes or fixes could be carried out immediately, rather than through a chain of contacts.
Darren explains, “Some of the other companies were partnering with server centres or data centres; there were lots of different companies involved. To be able to go to one point of contact and have everything was great.”
To begin designing a solution, Opia didn’t provide Perfect Image with a list of requirements that the solution had to have; instead they listed what they didn’t want, and we went from there. From the negatives of the current solution, what wasn’t working at the moment and the issues experienced, Perfect Image architected a cloud solution with Opia to eradicate those problems and enhance the company’s way of working.
Darren says, “It was the right solution for our business. We could see the scalability; we could see the availability – which we had problems with – and the security, which is another key feature of our business. Plus, you’re quite a nice bunch of likeable people!”
Darren says, “We wanted to pick the best solution for the business that would allow us to move forward, knowing where we would be going over the next five or ten years.”
The solution had to fit the company right now, but it also had to be scalable and flexible enough that it would be able to last the duration and to size up with the global company as it grows.
Roll out was smooth and uncomplicated, as Perfect Image and Opia took the time to properly organise implementation and how to optimally roll out in a way that would avoid disruption.
“On a business interruption level, there was none. It was very well planned out, not just from Perfect Image, but from us as well. We’re very aware that, although we build online applications and we know IT, there are a lot of people within our business that don’t, so it had to be very smooth.”
Darren says, “If we had something else we would be continually maintaining, updating, costs, etc. This is like a turnkey solution; you go in, put it in, and you can walk away. That’s another benefit of the solution.”
Once the design, implementation and roll-out process of the solution had completed, the company was able to run an innovative, cloud-hosted environment that provided the following benefits:
The company already had some IT specialists that knew about cloud solutions and had experience within AWS. Due to this, they were able to handle more of the management of the environment themselves and not rely entirely on an IT or network provider.
Darren says the self-service element was important to the company: “Rather than having to go to somebody and say, “Can you build or create this new server,” and it take time and have a cost attached, we could go in ourselves and manage it if we wanted to.”
The company needed a solution that could fit the dual requirements of the two main different areas of the business; half of its employees needed to have physical computers and laptops, and the other half needed to have Amazon WorkSpaces and virtual desktops. AWS provided the Amazon WorkSpaces and Microsoft provided the cloud-based Office 365, and the two elements were integrated together into one seamless and complete cloud solution. This meant the company benefitted from the best services from each cloud offering.
Darren says that since the solution was implemented: “You’ve got the most up to date pieces of software and the most up to date operating system running on the physical kit.”
The company have seen a number of cost savings since the solution was rolled out. Initially, there were large cost savings that the company were happy to see, such as Amazon’s usage-based pricing model so the company were never paying more than it needed to.
Darren says, “We certainly have seen reduced costs. And obviously moving forward as well within AWS you’re only paying for what you use, so that’s a lot more cost-effective.”
Because the environment now runs so smoothly and with automatic back-ups and updates, Opia has its environment organised and working optimally to meet its requirements. Compared to its previous solution, everything runs more smoothly and efficiently, and because of this the company is able to get the most out of its employees.
Darren says that the response from employees at Opia has been positive: “People are saying, “This is amazing.” We know that it has made a difference, that it has sped everything up, and everything works smoother now. I think on the whole it’s great.”
A vital feature for Opia was that the cloud environment was safe and highly secure.
Darren says, “The security is there. It’s safe. Yes, there are always vulnerabilities, but Microsoft and Amazon have got the people and the technology to keep their tech updated and secure. Plus, it’s not as expensive as you think. If you’re paying pennies now but something might cost a little more, is it worth it to take that risk, or do you want to get that security?”
Opia says that with their new environment, the online applications they are building don’t need to be kept separate from their internal infrastructure as it once did in Rackspace because as Darren explains, their new system, “Gives more security; it’s the future moving forward. It’s maintained, available and safe.”
Opia has grown exponentially in the past decade and on the same trend, it is expected to continue to grow at the same pace in the future. The solution implemented for Opia was scalable with just the click of a button. Opia is open and available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, as it runs international promotions with a UK customer service centre which speaks 22 languages. Due to this, the server never shuts down, but during busier or quieter times, it will shift the processing power to where it needs to be.
Darren says, “When we start getting the data through we can report on usage etc. to look at whether we can scale up or down at certain points or shut down. That can save us a bit of money. We haven’t got there yet but it’s certainly somewhere where we’re going to go to, which obviously this gives us the ability to do.”
Darren says, “Yes I would. The engineers were phenomenal, they knew what they were talking about and knew what they were doing. We were made to feel very comfortable, we were never pushed anything that we didn’t want and it really did feel like a team collaborative working.”
Opia’s plans for the future, as many companies can relate to, are centred on growth. Since its acquisition in 2015, Opia has been able to invest in new areas that it had wanted to focus on. Next, Opia has its sights set on Asia and America, to grow its brand in those areas.
“What we have is a global network where you can be anywhere and using, managing and maintaining. We’re not falling outside of the network because someone is sitting in Italy, America or Thailand; we can give them a networked machine and it will all work. So the continual growth in new areas, not just within the UK but globally, and this solution will allow us to push out but still be safe and secure, and monitor what we need.”
Darren concludes, “The cloud today – to what it was even two years ago, a year ago – it’s completely different. For me, it’s the way forward.”
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