Canadian Cancer Society improves TCO, collaboration with Office 365

Microsoft’s new subscription model for Office helps it rake in more money than it did from the previous one, but it may be a more financially responsible way to purchase software for cost-conscious organizations, including non-profits.

The Canadian Cancer Society in Ontario recently made the transition to Microsoft’s Office 365 platform, and while this means a recurring annual fee for the organization, it also translates significant savings for the charity by reducing its overall total cost of ownership (TCO), said Auldwin Armstrong, senior manager of IT service delivery at the Canadian Cancer Society.

And there are other benefits, he said, including improved productivity and collaboration among its 412 staff across Ontario, as well as its nearly 65,000 volunteers. In fact, the roll out in Ontario has been so successful that other provincial arms of the national charity are jumping on board, including Quebec, Manitoba and Prince Edward Island.

Armstrong said a great deal of the Cancer Society’s staff and volunteers under 30 are more accustomed to being able to work anywhere on any device. As Microsoft has recently made Office 365 available across multiple platforms, the charity now has more than 600 mobile devices of all types registered.

“We’ve always been a Microsoft shop,” he said, including Exchange for business communications, but users have been asking for more mobility and more flexibility. The challenge for Armstrong was that he only has a team of seven staff, including himself, to run 32 offices in Ontario. “With Office 365 I was able to focus on communications as a service rather than worry about the infrastructure underneath to support these services.”

Armstrong’s initial savings projection for the Cancer Society was $350,000 over three years, which took into account the cost to run, maintain and upgrade Exchange, and add services to support mobility. Security is also less costly to maintain with the Office 365 model, and data storage, he said, which the organization was easily filling up with increasingly higher resolution photos. “What Office 365 allowed me to do was move my communications into an environment that knew how to run communications and it allowed me to refocus my team to deliver services instead of tweaking the infrastructure.”

It didn’t hurt that Microsoft treats charities differently than it business customers, Armstrong. “We are not a significant source of revenue for Microsoft,” he said. “They try to empower us to deliver business-class services without spending the millions of dollars that most businesses do.” This has allowed Armstrong to deploy Skype, Lync, SharePoint and OneDrive as well as other services at a very low cost, which means once the Cancer Society does a re-evaluation, it will exceed that $350,000 cost savings estimate just on email and SharePoint alone, he said.

Armstrong said when calculating cost, he didn’t look at what the organization was paying Microsoft. Instead, he looked at TCO. Moving to Office 365 meant not requiring an expert on Microsoft Exchange, for example, or having to worry about the connecting the infrastructure of every Cancer Society location. “Yes, Microsoft got a bigger piece of the pie, but the pie itself shrunk.”

Improvement in collaboration was an unforeseen benefit, but it’s a direction the charity has been moving to, said Armstrong. “With an on-premise solution, we had to worry about linking out MPLS network and doing a whole bunch of fancy things with Active Directory.” Merging a Microsoft Exchange environment with another is also a “royal pain,” he said. With Office 365, Armstrong is able to support the national office, and the Quebec and Manitoba divisions, with two others requesting to come onboard. “It’s allowed the organization to be more collaborative in nature.”

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Gary Hilson
Gary Hilson
Gary Hilson is a Toronto-based freelance writer who has written thousands of words for print and pixel in publications across North America. His areas of interest and expertise include software, enterprise and networking technology, memory systems, green energy, sustainable transportation, and research and education. His articles have been published by EE Times, SolarEnergy.Net, Network Computing, InformationWeek, Computing Canada, Computer Dealer News, Toronto Business Times and the Ottawa Citizen, among others.

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