As charities get set for the fundraising opportunities of the festive season, the Ultimate Plum Pudding company ensures that its puddings are labelled up and ready to go by outsourcing its IT to SME managed services provider System Host.
The Ultimate Plum Pudding Company (UPPC) has streamlined its IT systems and improved productivity of its fundraising puddings for charities, thanks to SystemHost's managed IT service. The UPPC, which produces over 100 tonnes of pudding per year, previously had an ad-hoc network that was slow and unstable. SystemHost overhauled the system to provide a secure, reliable and cost-effective managed service for a fixed monthly fee by using high speed, low cost broadband connections for both office- and home-based staff.
The UPPC, based in Kendal, has grown gradually over the last 20 years and now has a turnover of around £600,000 per year. The main growth area of the business has been supplying puddings for fundraisers, and its dependence on its IT to fulfil these orders, and the departure of its IT manager, led the company to seek a solution with SystemHost.
When the company's network manager left to live in Slovakia, it was left in a difficult situation. Although there was some management remotely from Slovakia, it was far from ideal and heavily dependent on one individual who was frequently unavailable. It was clear to Carole Taylor, director of the UPPC, that a better solution was needed.
"We were used to working remotely by phone, but we were still doing a lot of problem solving ourselves, sometimes with phone instruction and sometimes by dealing with software support lines. It was very time consuming for me personally, and we didn't have the skills in-house to ensure this was done efficiently and effectively. As well as taking the management of the whole network off-site and off our hands, the most important factor in our decision to change was that SystemHost provided a really secure, guaranteed back-up for our data," explained Taylor. However since changing what has been most remarkable for UPPC is that SystemHost is providing an extraordinary level of service.
"I know they told us that they would be our front line, our only support call, but we didn't realise quite what that meant. We've had a couple of Sage issues, and SystemHost has sorted them out with the Sage support line rather than us doing it. And they deal with problems immediately, so they last a few minutes, not days and weeks. It is such a relief to have this - it frees up our over-stretched resources and lets us get on with what makes us the money!"
The UPPC sells puddings to well-known stores such as Lakeland and Harvey Nichols, plus quality delicatessens and caterers. "But our main business comes from fundraising puddings," said Taylor. "We supply fundraisers such as hospices, church groups and charities, with a minimum order of two dozen, with labels printed with the fundraisers' logo. We sold 200,000 of these last year. Because we design and print everything in-house, we are totally dependent on our IT systems in order to fulfil these orders."
The company now has access to a 24/7 helpdesk manned by dedicated, trained SystemHost staff. And most importantly, company staff no longer have to worry about sorting out upgrades or re-installs of software. This is all managed by SystemHost. Taylor's time is now freed up to concentrate on the business, as she no longer has to get involved in the day-to-day management and running of the network. And staff no longer ask her to liaise with the network manager. The helpdesk is so friendly that they are happy to go directly to SystemHost to ask for help. The systems are also more stable, and much faster.
As part of the service, SystemHost also visited the four home-based staff in remote locations to ensure that their systems were set up securely so that, when necessary, they could work from home as easily as if they were in the office. This includes one staff member returning from maternity leave who is easing herself back in by working from home.
Concluded Taylor: "We've even been able to email the bank manager for the first time in three years! We were constantly having our emails blocked and couldn't work out why. SystemHost sorted out the problem and now we're up and running smoothly. I don't know how they solved the problem, but I don't need to know. They're managing the systems and we can get on with growing the business."
Ronnie Sandham, chairman of SystemHost, said: "We provide organisations with up-to-date equipment, software, helpdesk and support services, reducing IT-related downtime and speeding up many working practices. By providing IT as a managed service instead of a set of products, we've been able to help the Ultimate Plum Pudding Company to create a more efficient working environment for staff. This in turn will make it easier for them to build on their business success so far."
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