March 23, 2012

Mobile Enterprise: All Cloud, No IT for Travel Management

MacNair Travel Management - All Cloud, No IT MacNair Travel Management, Inc. is a privately owned American Express Travel Services representative office. The company relies on providing a significant customer service experience for its many business and government customers and ultimately for their employees. How does MacNair ensure 24x7 reliability? By outsourcing its entire IT operation and living in the mobile Cloud. Greg Altieri, MacNair's Chief Operating Officer and the person directly responsible for MacNair's IT, arrived at the company inside of the last year, and was immediately faced with a service issue. The company's T1 line service provider suffered a massive outage that resulted in a shutoff of the T1 services MacNair was using. The immediate down side was that the company's Exchange servers, which are a vital revenue lifeline for the company, became unreachable for an extended period of time. Altieri came to MacNair with previous experiences in utilizing hosted cloud services through Cetrom Information Technology, and decided to pursue a cloud-based approach with Cetrom that redundancy and services and that would guarantee MacNair with 99.99 percent, 24x7 uptime. Says Altieri, "Email represents roughly 50% of our customer communications, and it represents a key means through which MacNair generates its revenue. Following our T1 outage, it didn't take me long to get Cetrom on the phone to pursue an alternate solution." One human resources issue that MacNair faces daily is a dwindling pool of trained travel agents. Because they are hard to find MacNair typically needs to be able to hire them where they reside. As a result, many MacNair travel agents operate remotely, and Altieri began to investigate how a mobile cloud solution might solve not only his Exchange server uptime needs, but as well how MacNair would be able to offload all of its IT to the cloud. As with most other companies, even MacNair's distributed travel agents now operate as a BYOD workforce. Says Altieri, "Our agents want to use their iPads and iPhones - we can't say no, and we've had to allow these valuable human resources to be able to do exactly this." Further, MacNair's sales team members now also want to be able to use iPads during their sales calls. Altieri further says, "Cetrom can easily handle all of our IT requirements in the cloud, provides us with essentially 100 percent guaranteed uptime, and they make it simple for my travel agents to access all of our applications through their mobile devices as they need to." From a mobility perspective, currently MacNair utilizes the cloud only to provide mobile device-based access into its existing system and applications. The next step, according to Altieri, "Is to develop a complete and true mobile version of our services, a true set of mobile applications that will run directly on our team's mobile devices. We are currently in the exploratory phase of this, and we are considering a variety of options." Those options, Altieri says, "Range from pure native mobile apps to the possibility of building them within an HTML5 framework. We intend to make use of a mobile application development platform to do so, though it isn't clear to us yet which direction we are going to pursue. In any case, if we decide to take a fully native approach and we opt to utilize a mobile application platform vendor we will want to have the platform hosted up in the mobile cloud." "To me," Altieri concludes, "It is both a business and financial no-brainer. The cloud cost-benefit ratio is entirely in MacNair's favor and I can't imagine running IT or a mobile operation in any manner other than up in the cloud. My advice is to get on board today. There is no valid reason to wait until tomorrow" (Article PDF)  

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