When buying a Tim Hortons’ coffee, most people don’t consider the technology behind their “double-double.” But for SureShot Dispensing, which makes dispensers for cream, sugar and flavoured syrups, keeping up-to-date with the latest technology gives it a competitive edge.

The company offers a line of SureShot Dispensing Systems to provide consistency in the amount of cream and sugar that goes into each cup of coffee. The equipment is now used by coffee shops around the world, including Starbucks.

SureShot Dispensing took part in Microsoft’s Technology Adoption Program to test the beta version of Microsoft’s new operating system, Windows Vista, before it became publicly available. The company ran the beta version for three to four months before deploying the current version of the OS.

“We wanted a chance to get it on the network and do a little trouble-shooting beforehand,” said Dan Foran, director of accounting with SureShot Dispensing, headquartered in Lower Sackville, near Halifax.

“We have a specific ERP/CRM package and I was worried about compatibility,” he said. “We got it on the network and it just worked – I was expecting a bit of a fight, downloading drivers and chasing my tail.”

The business, which is a Microsoft shop, has grown dramatically over the past few years. “One of the things they’re trying to do is standardize,” said David Nicholson, a partner with Nicom IT Solutions in Halifax, the Microsoft partner that helped facilitate the upgrade. “It’s something we’ve been talking quite a bit about, whether it’s the version of Office or the operating system being run.”

But if you’re going to standardize, he said, it makes sense to standardize on something that’s current rather than on older technology. “That standardization hasn’t totally happened yet but the experience that we went through with Vista will make that standardization decision a lot easier now.”

But the biggest selling point of Vista was its security features. “You’re able to control what’s ending up on the computer,” said Foran. “We have a lot of people on the road and we don’t want our information getting out there.”

Within Vista, for example, Windows Security Centre alerts users when security software is out of date or when security settings should be strengthened. It also displays firewall settings and shows the status of anti-spyware software, Internet Explorer 7 security settings and user account controls, and can monitor security products from multiple companies.

What Foran really likes, though, is that it’s not all that different from Windows XP. “You’re not stuck doing a lot of retraining,” he said. “It’s different yet the same – that was an added bonus.”

For Nicom, not a lot of customers are upgrading to Vista just yet, but any new computer it installs has Vista on it. “It’s really not anything to be afraid of,” he said, addressing the fact that many companies resist upgrades until the next version of an operating system is released – believing at that point the bugs will be worked out.

For Foran, the advantage of being a beta tester is that the company has more expertise with Vista than anyone else in town. “We’ve worked through the learning curve,” he said. “We’ve gone through the implementation already – it gives us an edge and that’s what we need.”

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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