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Article Type: Case Study          Published: 07-2016         Views: 1706      

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Children's charity Lumos, founded by author J. K. Rowling, has improved its global collaboration using Microsoft's public cloud services

A big challenge for many growing organisations these days is the ability to connect people working in different locations. In a global world employees need to be able to communicate and collaborate online in real-time. This was the challenge faced by Lumos, the international non-profit organisation founded by Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling.

Lumos was founded by the writer to transform the lives of children who have been separated from their families and placed in orphanages and other institutions. The UK Charity of the Year for 2015 works in a number of countries in Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean and has helped thousands children move out of institutions and orphanages and back to a family life.

"Children need families and families need their children and I believe it is entirely possible, with concerted effort, to help to transform the way the world cares for disadvantaged children," said J. K. Rowling at the US launch of the charity. "We owe this to the eight million children living in orphanages around the world, most of whom do have parents and families who, given the right level of support, could care for them at home."

Lumos was having difficulties sharing important information between its geographically dispersed offices. Offices in the remoter locations were storing corporate data on individual laptops and in individual Dropbox accounts. They would often suffer from Internet disconnections leading to some sensitive files having to be sent via email.

Lumos wanted to improve this. The aim was to centralise file sharing; improve connectivity and collaboration and create a unified data storage system. This would be achieved by improving the way the teams working in its offices around the world could access and share files and documents with staff at its London headquarters.

As Rukhsana Baksh, IT executive for Lumos, explains, "Our users were having to store files on local laptops in the remote offices with no backup mechanisms. This also meant files were saved locally and shared via email which resulted in version control issues."

Lumos was already using Microsoft Office 365 but wanted to look at SharePoint Online to see if it could help them create a more secure and reliable way of collaborating.

A team of consultants from SystemsUp, the public cloud consultancy owned by UK cloud computing company iomart, was brought in to migrate Lumos' corporate shared files from its existing London office server to a more resilient SharePoint Online platform. One of the specifications was that the new platform would reduce the organisation's email burden and also give Lumos greater management control through document versioning. It would allow easy access from international locations.

The important point was to capture Lumos' key business requirements before any design work started. Once the requirements were agreed a review of the existing environment took place before a High Level Design was produced.

The decision was made to incorporate SharePoint Online into the suite of Microsoft Office 365 services Lumos uses which include Exchange Online, Skype for Business and OneDrive Pro for Business. Together these services would enable safe and reliable communication between the organisation's global offices.

The migration of data from the local file servers to SharePoint Online was conducted on a department-by-department basis. Rukhsana Baksh says, "SystemsUp worked hard at ensuring the configuration and migration went smoothly. They worked with me to develop an extensive training program and helped train all our staff across all the countries. They helped with all the stress from the design, all the way to implementation and beyond."

Incorporating SharePoint Online successfully into Office 365 has improved the way Lumos employees share files and work together. Multiple users are now able to work on one document at the same time. They can synchronise specific folders to their laptops or desktop and edit the file while working offline in remote areas. These changes can then be synchronised online once the user regains internet connectivity.

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