Club Travel heads for the cloud

Africa¹s leading travel agency takes to the Cloud with Mimecast UEM Club Travel implements Mimecast Unified Email Management to ensure its email arrives and departs without delay.

Club Travel, South Africa¹s largest independently owned travel agency, has turned to Mimecast Unified Email Management (UEM) to manage all Club Travel email.

The messaging infrastructure previously used by Club Travel was buckling under the pressure, leading to continuity challenges that often halted business operations for hours at a time. Club Travel now gets guaranteed uptime, carrier-class reliability, remote access and comprehensive archiving, as well as a plethora of unexpected benefits.

Currently boasting five owned branches, six corporate offices, 44 franchises of which 13 are club branded and 96 independent consultants, Club Travel¹s success was also its technology challenge, explains Irene Alhadeff, IT manager at Club Travel.  ³Business growth was outpacing the IT department¹s capacity to extend systems to meet demand, as well as the increasing need for enterprise-class robustness and compliance. This was particularly evident in its messaging systems, which were not scaling fast enough,² says Alhadeff.

³Quite simply the email system wasn¹t working. There was no real back up or archiving. Internet access was falling over way too often and with each failure there were lost travel bookings, lost revenue to the business, lost emails, irate clients, grumpy agents and one massive IT headache,² Alhadeff adds.

The company¹s growth was not just limited to its original business of consumer-focussed travel, but it had also introduced a new offering for the corporate market. ³We launched a corporate division which shifted our style of working completely,² explains Alhadeff. ³Business bookings are a 24 hour a day job and there is no room for error or downtime. To meet this new need, our corporate consultants became laptop users and this single change in the technology profile of our users is what started all the trouble.²

To meet the needs of this burgeoning, demanding and increasingly mobile consultant base, Club Travel needed to implement a new email infrastructure.

Its technology solutions provider at the time recommended, and was commissioned to implement a solution using Microsoft Exchange. Soon Club Travel¹s growth had outstripped the new Exchange server; the infrastructure included both an Exchange server and the pre-existing Hosted Exchange utilizing PoP 3 accounts.  To make matters worse, when their ISP had technical challenges, there was no access to email at all. ³In hindsight it¹s not surprising that this ŒHeath Robinson¹ style email solution gave us so much trouble,² says Alhadeff.

The result of this complex email system was a management nightmare as well as the challenges faced by their ISP having downtime ­ and lots of it.

³There was an outage of some kind every two months, with many of those outages lasting up to three hours. You can imagine the frustration and the drama, due to no email access² says Alhadeff.

Club Travel investigated Mimecast Unified Email Management and a Microsoft messaging infrastructure as the answer to the email outage issues. ³We looked at the service and it seemed too good to be true. Mimecast UEM solved the continuity and uptime issues, but it also solved other problems that the IT department was facing, but had been unable to prioritize in the face of overwhelming email outages,² says Alhadeff.

With Mimecast UEM, all outgoing and incoming e-mail messages pass through Mimecast¹s e-mail infrastructure where they are archived (with a complete chain of custody) and checked for malware, viruses and other unwanted characteristics. The incoming e-mail is only then delivered to Club Travel¹s mail servers for distribution to each person¹s mailbox. ³The 225 mailboxes managed through Mimecast generate fewer than five phone queries a week,² comments Alhadeff. That is a 98% reduction in support calls, which frees up the IT team to focus on more strategic aspects of IT in the business. In addition, the Mimecast UEM service allows for independent web access and delivers more predictable IT costs than the previous solution.

Mimecast archives all mail in a triple-redundant, enterprise class data store, so not only is it incredibly secure, but remains searchable at any time by the individual users, allowing them to search through months or years of e-mail using powerful tools with incredibly rapid response times.

³This fast email search tool is crucial for business continuity at Club Travel as email is essential to all client and consultant relationships, and therefore needs to be accessible immediately.  From a potential litigation perspective, emails are stored for ten years in the Mimecast archive,² explains Mimecast South Africa, Technical Pre-Sales consultant, Kendal Watt.

³We no longer have to deal with crazily frustrated travel agents, and we finally have the time to get proactive and execute on our IT strategy to deliver more value to the business,² concludes Alhadeff.

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Club Travel heads for the cloud