Canadian Transportation Firm Gets Competitive Traction with New OS

Whether by land, sea or air, Canada needs to be connected with markets around the world.

Any company that can help keep the connection strong, that can bring together business with business, supplier with consumer, is an invaluable piece of the global economic picture. These days, of course, the global supply chain is often digital, and business-critical bits and bytes move around the planet in the blink of an eye.

That is the case at Effective Logistical Solutions (ELS), a privately-held corporation headquartered in Toronto, ON.

As company President and co-founder Phillip Paulos says, “I cannot be down – period. I’m losing revenue by the minute if there’s even the slightest interruption. For us, IT is a business critical operation.”

ELS is a small operation by some standards – the firm currently has nine employees and 12 PCs (a mix of Dell and HP hardware). But there’s a demanding and robust workflow inside the small office. The company regularly communicates with customers and businesses around the world via customized online apps and real-time data feeds.

Building on its global reach, ELS has become the national authorized agent for multi-billion dollar international shipping and transportation firms.

As such, the company relies on a number of Web-based resources to support client transportation needs – matching a shipment with available air, ground or sea transport solutions, as well as identifying warehousing, legislative and international customs obligations.

“If we can get an advantage on our competitors with better technology, we’re going to do it,” Paulos explains. “The key differentiator in my industry is service and speed; I can be better if technology lets me communicate with the customer faster.”

With that in mind, ELS has embarked on its migration to Microsoft Windows 7. Key advantages that the new OS offers were of specific interest and benefit to Paulos.

First and foremost, Windows 7 takes up a lot less memory, and doesn’t need as much horsepower as previous operating systems. In fact, ELS is now able to run XP and 7 on the same computer.

“We needed that capability because of certain functions found in industry specific applications we have to run. Those old apps were not compatible with Vista, so we actually had to run them on another computer. The new built-in XP mode in Windows 7 means we can run all the needed programs on the same machine. That’s a huge benefit for our business.”

Working in the best of both worlds, accessing the necessary OS and browser, is as easy for ELS staff as simply clicking on an icon in their Task Bar. It’s fast and easy to bring up the Windows 7 dual mode function, get the appropriate configuration, and go about their business.

Not only can staff now run multiple OS more easily and efficiently, they can also navigate more quickly between multiple screens and open apps by taking advantage of new tools in Windows 7 that make this possible. Navigation tools like Shake, Peek, Hover and Snap make getting around a dual screen set-up much easier.

“My staff is staring at multiple screens six seven eight hours a day, so there needs to be a ‘gentleness’ to the operation. Windows 7 is more visually pleasing and aesthetic. I like its look, and its ability to bounce between programs. That’s a big deal for us, as most people have four or five Web-based apps open at any one time. Sometimes, it’s a many as nine, so any transactional or navigational bonus we get is a competitive advantage for us.”

Aero Snap in Windows 7 lets ELS staff easily position important windows side-by-side on screen by dragging borders, left and right. Then, by “grabbing and shaking” the foreground screen, the others disappear as required. Paulos shows how the Peek feature is invoked, by clicking on a small rectangle in lower right hand screen, called Show Desktop. Immediately, gadgets and other desktop icons are visible and ready to use.

“Windows 7 can boost our productivity by 15 percent-paying for one OS license in about 30 minutes. The ROI is impressive, and the competitive advantage of getting work done faster is excellent,” Paulos itemizes.

So, what began at ELS as a “test drive” of the new Windows 7 operating system is now a full-fledged migration.

Based on the results so far, and with the help of its computer consultant and IT service provider, Microsoft Gold Certified Partner Excell IT, ELS is continuing its migration so that everyone will be on Windows 7 by the end of the year.

Once that happens, Paulos and ELS will have even greater security for all its Web-based activities and B2B communications.

According to Lawrence Frias, the manager of small business services with Excell IT, “Windows Vista was a pioneer in OS security. But one of the big complaints was that it got in the face of the user too much. Account control is good to have, but you really want the security with less prompting. Windows 7 takes security to a new level – and it doesn’t interrupt user interaction. There’s a real fluidity to the security features and settings in Windows 7 that help protect his computer from common email and Web vulnerabilities, like so-called ‘cross-scripting attacks’ where malicious code has been inserted into legitimate Web sites.”

Paulos recalls a security incident that occurred before the migration to 7 started that helped him quantify just what the benefits would be with its enhanced security capabilities:

“We recently got hit with an email spoof and all of us started receiving an extra 50-100 email a day. The attack didn’t harm our files, but it did distract us from our work and so killed productivity. When you add the lost productivity costs to the IT clean up costs, we’re looking at over $5,000. It’s easier and less costly to beef-up security and be a more competitive company operating in a safer computing environment.”

If a computer issue does surface, Windows 7 also provides new tools to identify and solve the problem. Sometimes, it’s an issue that internal staff cannot fix, and so Problem Steps Recorder helps document and capture the issue and quickly communicate it to an outside IT expert, like Excell IT.

“Most of us are not techies; sometimes trying to explain a computer problem gets in the way of solving it, because we just don’t know the terms or the causes. Problem Steps Recorder fixes all that,” Paulos says.

Problem Steps Recorder documents exactly what steps led to an error situation, by capturing screen shots, keyboard and mouse inputs, whatever steps were performed by the user.

From there, it creates a zipped HTML file, which is e-mailed to a designated service provider (in this case, Excell IT) for complete analysis and speedy resolution.

“Another benefit is in lowering our IT costs, because on-site repair doesn’t happen as frequently,” Paulos notes.

Lower repair and maintenance costs. Enhanced functionality. Improved security. Greater compatibility.

For Phil Paulos and Effective Logistical Solutions, the plusses of Windows 7 add up to a distinct competitive advantage.

“Some folks may have bashed Microsoft Vista, and held off on any upgrades. But from my view at the street level, they are really providing some clear business benefits with Windows 7. It is a mature release right off the bat; ready for prime time. A business like ours would be at a loss if we waited. We would be overshadowed by other organizations that were more forward-thinking.

“Our differentiator is being able to deliver a customer-centric service with speed and focus. I want to be known for how well we work and how fast we react. Not for having the wrong OS”

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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