BATM switching to cloud with Google Apps Business

Users do not rely on Microsoft Outlook anymore, and it is much more comfortable to work in an online web-based environment. This is especially true for developers working in Linux environments, who consider it an excellent solution,” explained Avineri and noted that “most of our users have been working with Gmail for a long time, so they know the interface.
— Nadav Avineri, BATM's IT Manager

BATM is a technology company with offices in Boston in the U.S., and Yokneam and Hod Hasharon in Israel. It also maintains branches in Europe, America, and the Far East. The company is traded on the London Stock Exchange (LSE). It employs approximately 750 engineers and scientists in several divisions.

The Telecom Division, which specializes in products for local networks, metro and wide area networks, and Vigilant, which provides video solutions over IP. In addition, BATM has a division that specializes in developing medical devices for laboratories and in medical waste management.

The IT array at BATM, including separate IT units for each of the companies, constantly evaluates the options for optimizing the management of the IT group.

The need - Central control for a decentralized company

Until recently, BATM maintained several Exchange servers scattered around the world in company offices in Romania, Bulgaria, the U.S., as well as in Israel in Jerusalem, Hod Hasharon, and Yokneam. The servers operated on the outdated, Microsoft Exchange 2003 infrastructure and were no longer supported by Microsoft. The IT unit was looking for an effective way to upgrade the mail services of all divisions. As part of the process, the company sought a way to unify the email system and addresses of all users in companies acquired in recent years, including some of the BATM staff in Israel and of the Telco company workers in Boston.

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BATM is a technology company with offices in Boston in the U.S., and Yokneam and Hod Hasharon in Israel. It also maintains branches in Europe, America, and the Far East. The company is traded on the London Stock Exchange (LSE). It employs approximately 750 engineers and scientists in several divisions.

Nadav Avineri, manager of the IT division at BATM: "The only solution that allowed us to carry out the unification was the move to the cloud. It was not possible to accomplish this by using local Microsoft Exchange servers, unless we discarded all the Active Directory domains and set up the infrastructure from scratch."

The Solution: Going Cloud

One of the objectives set by the IT department of BATM was to upgrade the systems and at the same time concentrate control in one place. Initially BATM considered purchasing servers to perform the upgrade, but the cost of the servers and analysis of the changes in the next few years prompted the decision to transition to the cloud.

"Our goal was to set up as few servers as possible in the company," said Avineri. "Our goal was to provide the best infrastructure for messaging and collaboration for next decade. Looking ahead, we realized that nowadays on-premise mail servers in many organizations are moving to the cloud. This model is right today for any company, and we decided to accelerate the process – to transition right away – and not to wait for everybody else to make the move," Avineri said.

Decision: Google Apps

The agreed-upon solution was Google Apps. The decision was made after considering the Microsoft Office 365 alternative, but the impression was that the solution was still not complete as far as performance was concerned, and the price turned out to be higher. Today Google Apps provide BATM with cloud based email, advanced collaboration, video-conferencing and Google Drive to store our data, in addition to other features that streamline the work of the IT division and of users.

Keeping our users happy

"Users do not rely on Microsoft Outlook anymore, and it is much more comfortable to work in an online web-based environment. This is especially true for developers working in Linux environments, who consider it an excellent solution," explained Avineri and noted that "most of our users have been working with Gmail for a long time, so they know the interface."

"Google Apps provides users with sharing capabilities between employees, and benefits such as the building of portals, while maintaining high level of security and e-mail filtering features. The system is also convenient for people who need to work under many email  domains and can easily send and receive messages."

Managing the IT from one console

The main advantage of for IT managers at BATM is the transition to central management of all users in all the companies. Accounts are now created in a friendly way in one system, regardless of the user's geographic location. The definition is performed without a need to connect to VPN.

"IT managers do not have to handle the definition of a mailbox or deal with the lack of space in the mailbox. Google Apps mailboxes are large enough, providing 25GB per user. It is very difficult to offer such capacity with Exchange, and the cost is very high," said Avineri. "In addition, there is no more need to deal with backups and restores, with the hardware of the Microsoft Exchange servers, or with connections. And even the Microsoft Outlook definition, if a user wants it, is very simple."

Ease of operation is also characteristic of complementary components, such as the spam filtering system. Within the Google Apps system the administrator can easily detect any blockage of e-mail and resolve the problem quickly, compared with previous e-mail filtering systems used at BATM, which did not allow this.

System availability, reliability, and few failures also play an important role in running the Google Apps: "It does not matter if there was a power outage in the company, or if the communication failed, or other things we've seen in the past – the system continues to work," said Avineri.

Moreover, as a public company BATM is required to archive all email for a period of up to 10 years. The solution for this regulatory requirement is implemented with Google Vault which also functions as part of Google Apps. The complete interface of the cloud archive solution saves the high cost of hardware and backup management.

Avineri also sees the advantage in the fact that the manager can perform operations from home: "It is an advantage that I can be on vacation or at work abroad and change a setting from any local computer."

Transition with the help of DoIT

"The transition is made easy by the Deployment team of DoIT," Avineri said. "All the data was migrated, which is very important to us, and DoIT really helped and supported us at all time. They trained the R&D, administration, and financial staff, which was important to us for smooth deployment. The training of the developers took a little longer, because they were able to realize how other parts of Google Apps such as Google Docs and Groups could provide for them in development."

Looking into the future

"Today the users are very satisfied with the transition, especially our senior management. They see the benefits that the system brings and the fact that it helped to move the company a few steps forward," Avineri said. Further planning at BATM includes adding other companies that have not yet made the transition, and the company will soon begin to leverage the features that still have not been implemented into service, such as mobile device management to embrace the BYOD in our company.