Case Study: Virtual Resort Manager Reaps Benefits of Cloud Computing

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Virtual Resort Manager (VRM) is a software development company based in Beaufort, North Carolina. Its mission is to provide excellent vacation rental management software systems, marketing services, web site development and customer support to its expanding client base. The company’s integrated software solution encompasses all aspects of reservations, front desk, housekeeping, maintenance, marketing analysis, financial analysis and record keeping, as well as other back-office management tools.

The Challenge

It’s not surprising that, as a software company, VRM focuses most of its IT resources of software development. In fact, in 2005 the company’s entire IT workforce was comprised of software developers with only one employee designated as the official director of IT support. Working out of what was referred to as a ‘bunker’ in Morehead City, North Carolina, he was responsible for keeping the IT systems running that powered the company’s rapidly expanding services.

As VRM’s IT needs grew and more equipment was purchased, there were concerns about outgrowing its current space. The threat of region-specific weather on the North Carolina coast that could potentially disrupt operations also weighed heavily on the minds of the VRM team. If its systems went down, its clients’ systems would go down. That would be bad for business for everyone — VRM, its clients and its clients’ customers.

First Step

Initially, the VRM team decided to house its servers with a colocation company in a nearby city. Within a year that provider made major changes that VRM saw as downgrades to its service, so a search was on for another provider. VRM’s designated IT person met with several vendors, but liked what he heard from Peak 10. The company had a strong track record of reliable, secure service and was more consultative than sales-oriented.

Immediately the company’s servers were moved to a Peak 10 colocation data center in Raleigh, with VRM contracting for colocation, reliable bandwidth and a storage area network (SAN) solution from Peak 10. Right from the start, the VRM team was impressed by the personalized service from Peak 10 and its willingness to work with the company through its growing pains.

“We were able to use Peak 10 as an extension of our internal IT team, providing us a flexible, cost-effective home for our production environment that could easily scale as we have expanded our operations,” said Gavin Hutchins, the former information technology director for VRM. “Outsourcing to Peak 10 freed up our IT professionals to focus on product development, customer satisfaction and growth, and positioned VRM to take advantage of the business opportunities before us.”

Next Step: The Cloud

Like most companies, VRM was interested in ways to reduce costs and increase efficiencies. With the technologies improving, the company soon found it was able to downsize from two full cabinets to a single cabinet while maintaining the required speed and performance. At the same time, however, VRM’s director of IT had transitioned to working as a consultant. What if he wasn’t available when VRM needed him? Who else would have the knowledge and expertise to jump in and help? Could the company afford the potential downtime if someone wasn’t immediately available to deal with any issues that arose?

That was two years ago. Following additional conversations with Peak 10, VRM started looking at cloud solutions. Just as technologies had been improving, many of them — including cloud services — had become more cost-effective. After evaluating their options, the VRM team determined that moving to the cloud could take care of many of their concerns. From a return on investment (ROI) standpoint, it wouldn’t take long to break even.

However, there was still the matter of finding the right vendor and cloud solution — and making the actual cloud migration. The VRM team knew from previous experience that any major change in infrastructure could potentially create panic, confusion and downtime. Just moving from two cabinets to a single cabinet had taken the company offline for three hours.

The Peak 10 Solution

The VRM team did their due diligence and researched a variety of cloud services providers. In the end, however, the solid relationship already established with the Peak 10 team made them the front runner.

“Peak 10 didn’t come in as the highest or the lowest in price, but its team had already proven that they were reliable and would be able to help us make the transition. They also took the time to understand what our goals were and what direction we were taking the company. As they’d done in the past, they offered flexible solutions that could grow with us,” explained Michael Hill, the vice president for software development and assistant general manager for VRM.

The solution included Peak 10’s fully managed, scalable public cloud — audited for compliance with a number of regulatory requirements and robust enough to handle production workloads — along with a layer of managed security services. The migration to the cloud went smoothly with Peak 10 working with the VRM team every step of the way.

“The whole process went so well that I was worried something was really wrong,” Michael said. “I expected there to be problems, but Peak 10 handled everything expertly. There was only one small firewall issue and it was quickly rectified.”

The Results

With its move to Peak 10 cloud computing, VRM hasn’t had to add on-site support to handle the company’s continuously growing IT needs but has been able to take advantage of cost and performance efficiencies. The company’s satisfaction with the Peak 10® Public Cloud also led the VRM team to incorporate the Peak 10® Recovery Cloud into their disaster recovery (DR) plan.

“Before adding the Recovery Cloud, we had a 72-hour DR plan. We knew that if we our systems went down but we could get them back up and running in less than 72 hours, we would be heroes as far as our clients were concerned,” Michael explained.

“Peak 10’s Recovery Cloud enables us to do that with rapid recovery times and continuous data protection (CDP) instead of scheduled replication a few times a day to help ensure less data loss in the event of a failure. In addition, Peak 10 has an experienced team of disaster recovery services specialists available 24/7/365 to monitor data replication or to execute testing and actual recovery processes.”

Michael views Peak 10 as a true partner and appreciates their technical input and advice. He also values the joint technical review (JTR) sessions that Peak 10 conducts with his company twice a year as a way to ensure VRM is receiving the services that best meets its needs and at the performance level expected.

“I always leave the JTR meetings with valuable information, just as I do any time I interact with Peak 10’s staff,” Michael said. “Their consultative approach, professionalism and attitude towards customer services is why we will remain a Peak 10 customer for years to come.” Peace of mind also plays an important role.

“Money was never going to be the problem for us,” Michael explained. “We could get bank loans for whatever solution we decided to pursue. What was and continues to be most important for us is peace of mind. Knowing that I don’t have to scramble to try to figure out what to do when a situation arises takes a lot of the burden off of me. Having worked with Peak 10 for 10 years, I know I can count on them any time, every time.”

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