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September 9, 2014

London Irish Rugby Club puts data in Microsoft cloud

How club plans to target 60,000 fans with Dynamics.

By Joe Curtis

London Irish Rugby Club has picked cloud over on-premise as the more secure place to store its data.

Operations manager Richard Watton took the opportunity to switch the club’s IT infrastructure from on-premise to Microsoft’s cloud-based solutions when the training ground relocated two months ago to Sunbury in Surrey.

He dumped the club’s old Windows Server 2003 system, supporting XP operating systems, to migrate to Windows 2012 Server with Hyper-V virtualisation, as well as using Office 365.

Now the only things running on-premise are the printer and some Sage business software, with staff swapping from desktops to laptops being able to work remotely and collaborate via laptops using the cloud-based 365.

Watton told CBR: "Office 365 gives us a flexible base from which to work, such as being out in the field with client meetings.

"A lot of our computers didn’t meet the need of the user that well. Because of 365 we can use the laptop solution much better because it allows them to work off-site. We were using a clunky VPN connection, which we never quite got right. Office 365 is streets ahead of that.

"With project work we move much better because files are available much more easily, we haven’t got to send them by email or go to an internet-based data transfer website."

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But a big benefit for the club, in contrast to many organisations’ views on the matter, was the security offered by a cloud solution.

"More importantly, the data’s secure," said Watton. "It’s not here on site, so if there was ever any break in we’re much more confident in a cloud-based solution than we would be in a solution kept here."

Watton was assured as to Microsoft’s cloud security measures by LeadingEdge, a Microsoft partner that deployed the new system for the club, and which started working on the project in January, beginning the seven-month implementation.

For the fans

London Irish has a 60,000-strong fanbase, and the club has collected a vast amount of information on them, but Watton said the old CRM software, which was built into the club website, made analysing that information a challenge, so they switched to Dynamics.

"To some extent it was a home-built system," admitted Watton. "It worked well for what we needed it to do at the time, but because of the pace of tine industry and the need for information more readily and specifically, people need to be targeted much better now.

"We’re based in Sunbury, our name is London and we play in Berkshire, so there’s a huge number of people interested in us. The new CRM system will help us dissect that data much better so we can target people with email shots."

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