Retailer runs to outsourcing

A change in pace for a Canadian running retailer’s IT department was just what the doctor ordered after bouts of information overload led to significant downtime on the company’s critical IT systems and retail-based Web site.

Instead of retiring their running shoes and loafing on the coach, the Edmonton-based Running Room chose a different path, migrating its e-mail, accounting, POS (point of sale), online store, Web site and inventory management applications to Q9 Networks Inc.’s data centre in Calgary. The company was looking to move its servers to a more stable environment, said John Stanton, president of the Running Room.

“We need our servers up and running – pardon the pun,” Stanton said “As our system grew and the load on it grew, it started to become a major concern. We have to be running 100 per cent of the time.”

With 58 stores across Canada and a handful of locations in the United States, Stanton said the main challenge for Running Room’s IT department was to keep all the locations operating seamlessly – including the interactive Web site – while avoiding system downtime.

Ageing hardware, software and a six-member IT team that was being pushed to its limits were some of the main reasons the company started looking for solutions for its infrastructure, Stanton said. The company had also grown out of its existing one-room facility.

Outsourcing critical IT enables the IT staff to “spend more time on future development and on service issues within the store…improving response times to stores and customers instead of conducting diagnostics on equipment,” he explained.

“We’re so reliant on our communications to our customer and to our suppliers that in the event of a disaster – we just can’t suffer downtime,” Stanton said of the Running Room’s Microsoft Office-based environment.

By making the financial investment up front, Stanton said the savings will come in the long term, and the store itself won’t have to worry about fire and flood protection or the storage or security of the company’s information.

The location of Q9’s data centre in Calgary wasn’t a concern for Stanton, who travels all over Canada religiously. “Without the electronic management, the store wouldn’t have grown they way it has,” he said.

Q9’s CEO Osama Arafat said the Running Room was looking for a fully managed solution, something that many companies have been turning to more frequently in the past few years as organizations realize their core competency is not in managing their infrastructure, but in managing their own businesses.

Arafat said it is cost-prohibitive for many companies to install the proper infrastructure, including fire suppression, security, diesel generators, firewalls, backup and redundant UPS batteries. In many cases it is cheaper for a customer to outsource some responsibilities instead of trying to put bits and pieces of the right solution together on their own.

About 40 per cent of Q9’s approximately 200 customers currently deploy a fully managed offering, while the remaining 60 per cent either have partially managed setups or simply occupy space and bandwidth with the company, Arafat said.