Like many startup tech companies, Gleason Technology held on as long as it could before investing another large sum of money on a network upgrade.
“The combination of our growing business and the legacy programming and the systems it was running on, it started to just collapse,” said Rooney Gleason, president and CEO of Gleason Technology Inc. in Wayne, Pa.
So Gleason hired Fusepoint Managed Services in Mississauga, Ont. to overhaul its network. But when Fusepoint recommended a hardware change in conjunction with a software upgrade, the initial response from Gleason was an emphatic no. “I have an $80,000 Sun box sitting there and you can’t get it to work,” he told them at the time.
“They decided to prove to us nay-sayers that it really was the best (option), so they took it upon themselves to provide the hardware,” said Elaine Lewis, Gleason Technology’s CIO. “We realized we could, with not a great deal of money, significantly improve our application speed and access.”
This involved getting rid of the Sun box, and making a move from Windows to Linux. Fusepoint designed, rolled out and now supports a hardened build of Linux open source running on HP hardware.
“Looking at some of the attributes of their application, our Unix team suggested they take a hard look at Linux,” said George Kerns, president and CEO of Fusepoint Managed Services. And it didn’t have to run on a proprietary Unix operating system, he added. While open source isn’t free, it’s not as costly as a proprietary implementation of Unix.
“We’ve gotten rid of a huge amount of ongoing infrastructure cost by ridding ourselves of the Sun box and the Microsoft operating system,” said Gleason.
Gleason Technology was founded in 2002 as a spin-off of Gleason Insurance. It developed a floor monitoring system called GleasonESP (Electronic Slip/Fall Prevention Program), which is sold to supermarket retailers as a way to improve employee behaviours, facility cleanliness and operational consistency for slip/fall loss prevention and management.
“We’d always been an IBM shop,” said Gleason. “We used IBM’s managed hosting services for two years and as much as they profess on television to be focused on small, emerging businesses, they were an absolute nightmare to deal with.”
So the tech spin-off moved its servers across the lake from Chicago to Toronto with Fusepoint, which is an IBM partner, and Gleason says the improvement in performance is night and day.
“As long as the outsourcing company has a robust infrastructure and you’re in this fully managed model, it doesn’t matter where it is,” said Kerns. “It can be done halfway around the world, it can be done 500 miles away.”
When Gleason Technology first started working with Fusepoint, about 150 retail locations were using GleasonESP. It’s now up to 500. “We would not have been able to expand unless we made this change,” said Gleason. “We couldn’t even crunch the data in a 24-hour period.” The company still processes its data overnight, but the processing time has been reduced from a day and a half to about three hours. With its current IT environment, he expects the company could easily scale to accommodate twice as many customers.
Kerns recommends that companies avoid investing too much in technology up-front when doing a network upgrade. Make sure you’ve got your business processes refined, he said, and start with something that’s not going to be the be-all-end-all. You can then collect data about how it’s operating and over a period of time make improvements through a third-party provider.