Based in the north-east of the Netherlands, Yard-IT BV is a fast-growing systems integrator and provider of hosted IT solutions. With a focus on small and mid-sized companies employing between 1 and 100 people, Yard-IT delivers solutions that ensure high productivity and security for its customers, at low cost.
Particularly for smaller companies, maintaining infrastructure and employing internal IT specialists can seem like a distraction from core business goals and a drain on profitability. However, the need to keep pace with partners and competitors alike makes it imperative for companies to invest in new technology.
Yard-IT observed that many of its customers and prospects were struggling to manage corporate information and to communicate effectively, and saw a clear opportunity to help them. The company realised that by offering a Web-based service to support the creation and exchange of information, it could remove the potential obstacles to adopting new technology.
The challenge for Yard-IT was to create a secure hosted service that would enable its customers to collaborate more effectively both internally and with supply-chain partners. With a managed service offering available for a monthly fee, Yard-IT could extend the benefits to companies unwilling or unable to invest in new internal infrastructure and expertise.
Yard-IT deployed Novell Vibe® (formerly Novell Teaming) on SUSE® Linux Enterprise Server with Xen virtualisation, to provide secure environments for its customers to set up virtual teams, share information, create knowledge bases, and build automated workflows.
"By offering Vibe as a managed service, we could deliver the benefits of an advanced tool for communication and collaboration without requiring our customers to make a long-term commitment to new hardware, software and IT administration skills," said Rob Wierenga, Manager, Yard-IT.
For larger customers, Yard-IT provides a dedicated virtual instance of SUSE Linux Enterprise Server running Vibe, while for smaller customers it uses the zoning function of Vibe to create completely secure environments on the same virtual server.
Yard-IT has a wide variety of customers for its hosted Vibe service, from a network community with 150 users to a construction firm with eight users. One new customer is planning to start a virtual company with a total of five employees, and Vibe will effectively be their entire information infrastructure.
"SUSE Linux Enterprise Server offers significant benefits in a hosting scenario: high stability and easy administration minimise the time spent on support, and the small footprint of the operating system means we require less hardware to support a given number of customers," said Wierenga. "Of course, our ASP customers don't care about the operating system—but they certainly appreciate the high availability and performance we deliver."
As part of the managed service solution, Yard-IT works with each customer to determine what they want to achieve and then builds a basic set of templates and workflows. Yard-IT then provides training to customer managers and end-users, giving them the skills to tailor the Vibe environment as their needs change.
Customers pay a monthly fee to use the service, based on user numbers and data volumes. Yard-IT has built forms in Vibe to enable customers to request changes to their environments. These requests are automatically routed to the correct person on the Yard-IT team, enabling fast and efficient change management.
Vibe provides user-friendly portals for messaging, document sharing and knowledge management, enabling Yard-IT's customers to exchange information, create virtual teams and collaborate in real-time. The ability to store and index discussions facilitates the creation of a "corporate memory", ensuring that valuable information and best-practice processes can be re-used and are not lost when key workers leave the company.
"Vibe makes it much easier to communicate with colleagues, particularly for companies that have several different locations or employees who typically work out of the main office," said Wierenga. "By making it easier to find and share information, Vibe improves efficiency, reduces administrative effort and enables employees to maximise the value of their knowledge. It also helps to solve problems, because users can contribute to discussions even if they are not physically in the same location."
Providing Vibe as a managed service has enabled Yard-IT to boost the productivity of its customers without requiring them to invest in new software licences, infrastructure and administration skills.
"The relatively high cost of owning and operating technology can make midmarket companies reluctant to adopt new solutions," said Wierenga. "With our hosted Vibe solution running on SUSE Linux Enterprise Server, we can give our customers all the benefits of advanced knowledge management and sharing without any concerns about cost or complexity."