How a non-profit overhauled its IT to create a collaborative environment

by | Oct 26, 2022 | Business

For the past three years, our team at Smart Dolphins has been working with a local non-profit engaged in surveying and environmental studies. 

During this time, we helped them completely retire their aging on-premises server and move the whole team to a new, collaborative, and location-independent IT environment — all while reducing costs and improving security in the process. 

What was their IT problem?

Our client’s IT operations centered around an aging on-premises server that could no longer keep up with the required workload. The situation was so dire that even data storage on the server’s hard drives was no longer reliable. 

With around 20 to 30 people on the team, plus some contractors, all spread out across BC, the organization didn’t have a good strategy for collaboration. There was lots of emailing of documents back and forth, and instead of logging into the centralized server, some team members used their own solutions (e.g., Dropbox), which resulted in various versions of files being all over the place. 

Our client knew they needed to streamline their processes on the basis of a reliable IT foundation but, wanted to make sure they invested in the right things that would serve them for years to come.  

What was our solution? 

We started the project by meeting with the organization’s high-level management that were responsible for the project. In this case, they were the communications and operations managers. 

Before diving into any recommendations, our goal was to understand the organization’s structure and identify the most pressing needs they were facing. After we discussed all the various functional units of the non-profit, we met with every stakeholder to ensure we could get all the data organized properly.

At the next step, we created the initial IT plan at the decision-maker level as well as a mini-roadmap for each department, since all of them handled their data differently (some didn’t even use the on-premises server). 

First, we moved the email server off the on-premises environment and into the cloud with Microsoft’s Exchange Online. That made the local server a little bit less risky and more usable. 

Second, we created SharePoint environments for each department, so they could access all files in one place, and used software to migrate data from the on-premises server. For those teams who had their data stored elsewhere, to which we didn’t have access, we set up specific locations in SharePoint and OneDrive, and showed them how to move their files themselves. 

Additionally, before the migration, the client’s devices were all tied to the on-premises server. We moved their device management to Azure AD (active directory) to enable the organization to manage all devices remotely. 

What were the results?

As a result of the project, the non-profit was able to become much more collaborative and remote-friendly. The team could work from anywhere, with all their files instantly available. They didn’t have to email files to each other anymore, using SharePoint and OneDrive instead.

Their IT environment also became more secure. It was not dependent on a single server and, thanks to cloud-based device management, they could wipe computers remotely — in case they got stolen, for example. 

Last but not least, the client was spending less on their IT overall. They were out of the four-to-five-year cycle of buying new on-premises servers, and their major IT cost was their Microsoft subscription, the cost of which could go up or down depending on headcount. 

Are you having similar IT issues?

Lots of companies, in all industries, are chugging away with the old IT, not really knowing what to do about it, with their teams coming up with patchwork workarounds for cumbersome processes.

If this scenario sounds familiar to you, if you want to become a location-independent company with secure processes and a productive team — don’t delay. Reach out to Smart Dolphins, and we’ll be happy to advise you on the best way forward, depending on your needs.