Sound Networks IT Services



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Centralised email signature management

Our customer, an electronics manufacturer based in Chippenham, was experiencing difficulties maintaining a consistent, professional looking email signature template throughout the company. This was important to them not only to reinforce their own brand and company details, but to illustrate their membership of relevant trade bodies, social media presence and ISO registrations.

Utilising Microsoft Exchange Online as their email system, signatures were applied directly within Microsoft Outlook, which meant that each time a change was required, this change would need to be made individually for each user. Changes included, job title revisions, brand updates, logo and membership changes and even the ability to add a promotion to an email. With over 50 users on the network, this was becoming a challenge which was getting out of hand. Additionally, it meant that emails sent outside of Outlook (for example, with a mobile device or via webmail) did not get the same, or sometimes any, signature applied.

To address this growing concern, we utilised Exclaimer Cloud – Signatures for Office 365. This provides the ability to control email signatures from one central, web-based location. After the system is setup and integrated in to the Exchange Online email system, email signatures are added via the Exclaimer Cloud in Microsoft Azure, so all users get the correct signature on every message. This means that users utilising Web Mail, Mobile Devices and even Macs will have the right signature too.

No software is required to be downloaded or installed locally and no changes need to be made on client devices anymore. After an email is sent by the client, it passes through the exclaimer cloud system and the correct signature is automatically appended as it passes through on its way to the recipient.

As a result of installing this system, it is now possible to...

  • Maintain a standardised professional brand on all emails and maintain this on all emails – not just those sent with Outlook.
  • Update contact details or add promotional items quickly.
  • Make changes to the design or look and feel of all users' signatures by updating the design template once only.
  • Make fast changes of job title on email signatures.
  • Give different signatures to different departments.
  • Have different signatures for internal emails than external.

All the above can be achieved quickly and easily through the web-based central console without any intervention required on client devices.

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Installation of virtualised servers and VOIP phone system

Our client operates from two offices in different Wiltshire towns. Prior to us working with them they were working from one physical server which contained three physical machines. The three machines’ roles were file and mail server, remote desktop services and telephone system operation.

Many users at both sites work from Wyse terminals (a client machine that relies on the server to perform data processing) connected to the Head Office site where the servers are located. The remote site connects to the Head Office via a VPN connection.

It soon became clear that the existing setup was not fit for purpose. Telephone calls were often of poor quality, unable to be routed correctly between extensions and sometimes even dropped out. Home workers connected to the office in a fashion which left gaping security holes. Wyse terminal users often experienced frustrating delays whilst waiting for the system to respond, causing regular crashes of the software being utilised in a user’s session. Regular server reboots were required to keep things running. The system simply did not have enough resources to run the services it was being asked to.

All these services running on one server also meant a single point of failure. If this server was to fail, need to be shut down or rebooted for any reason, this would result in a total loss of communication – no email, no telephones. It was a classic case of too many eggs in one basket – and the basket wasn't big enough!

We approached this problem in stages.

  1. We migrated the email from the on-premise Exchange Server to Microsoft Exchange Online. Not only did this free up some resources on the existing server, but it also provided a greater level of redundancy should this server be offline for any reason. This meant that should the server go offline at Head Office, the email system would continue to function in the cloud. Users could still get to their emails in this scenario via either the app on their mobile phones, the Exchange Online Web Portal or via another computer with Outlook (off premise). Running email through the Exchange Online system also meant that the customer no longer needed to pay for third party mail hygiene services to scan incoming and outgoing emails for malware, viruses and phishing attempts. This is now taken care of by security services built in to the Exchange Online package.
  2. The telephone system was moved to another server. We worked with a partner to move the system off the existing server to its own dedicated 3CX (a software-based telephone system) Micro Server. A separate broadband line was utilised for the 3CX system at Head Office to provide an additional layer of redundancy should either the main broadband line or server be offline for whatever reason. This also freed up more resources on the existing server. A second 3CX micro server was installed at the remote site for additional redundancy, also with its own dedicated broadband line – making this site’s telephones capable of operating independently of the Head Office but also able to function as one system. Calls could be transferred from one office to another as if they were in the same building.
  3. We migrated all users and data from the existing server to a new Dell PowerEdge server. We specified hardware with more memory, more processing power and faster hard disks. Better hardware means better performance. We used Microsoft Windows Server 2016 and Microsoft Hyper V to create two virtual machines. One as the main file server and domain controller, the other as a Remote Desktop Services Server which hosts sessions for Wyse Terminal users and Home workers.
  4. We deployed a Barracuda Backup device to the Head Office site. This unit, sited in the comms cabinet with the server, runs daily backups to itself, of both servers and then manages a backup of this data off-premise to the Barracuda cloud.

  • Because of the above improvements, both sites now benefit from increased redundancy. Telephone systems can function independently of the other office when one is down, but together when both are online. As it is now cloud based, email can run independently, regardless of the situation at either site. Telephone and email uptime has improved.
  • Terminal and desktop users no longer experience the same frustrating delays when carrying out day to day tasks – resulting in a higher level of productivity.
  • Full system image backups of both servers provide enhanced restoration and disaster recovery options should the worst happen.

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Web Based Debt Management System

Our client is a specialist commercial debt recovery company, who recover debts owing to other businesses on their behalf. They had a problem keeping track of an ever-increasing number of customer cases. Existing cases were being tracked using a combination of Microsoft Outlook Tasks and Excel, this meant a lot of manual calculation and checking was required on a daily basis. Their workload was becoming more and more labour intensive. It seemed that this situation would soon become unsustainable. Because of this…

  • They required a system to wrap around all their customer data to make everything more manageable and gain a greater insight into their workload.
  • They needed a system where all aspects of a case could be managed in-house and in one place.
  • Interest calculations and tracking were required for each debt and a way to track and apply daily incurring interest rates automatically.
  • A mechanism whereby the interest rate in historic cases could be checked and adjusted according to rate changes over the course of the debt.
  • A system that could create accurate invoices for each case based on the above statistics.
  • Timers for tracking how long a particular case may have been worked on.

We created a prototype web-based system to demonstrate a basic overview of the system and developed it from that point. We worked closely with the company throughout the development period to ensure that all requirements were met, and the system could manage everything required of it for any given debt / case.

The system was developed so that it could calculate continuously, daily interest rates, compensation and keep track of the overall cost of the debt.

Each user had their own cost per hour which was used when tasks were actioned with chargebacks being stored for each client.

Every feature was manageable with system wide variables and settings which could be applied to specific cases.

We added a system archive so that completed cases could be moved to it rather than sit completed in the main debt pool.

After an initial period running the system side by side with its legacy predecessor, it was implemented in October 2017.

At the time of writing in October 2018 all cases have now been moved to and are active on this system, and it has become an essential part of the day to day operations of the company.

Every single action is tracked so that a clear picture of a case can be gained quickly and easily.

Manual calculations are now a thing of the past and invoices are generated accordingly, leaving users more time to focus on other tasks. All this historic data is easily accessible from one place, this provides a greater level of accountability to the customer and more accurate billing.

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Online Portal and Customer Scripting System

Sound Marketing have been providing Audio Marketing services to UK customers for 21 years. One of these services is the provision of on-hold messaging which is the audio that customers hear when they call a business and are put on hold or transferred. This audio includes marketing information and news about the business’s products and services. It is regularly changed to keep it relevant and fresh sounding.

The method used to manage the updating of the scripts was fast becoming antiquated. Some customers were still using faxes and others were relying on emails with word documents attached to them as a means of communicating required new content. A web- based application to manage this process was identified as the ideal way forward.

We developed a web portal to address this problem and customers can now manage their scripts online, with a back end for account managers to complete the process and put the customers’ scripts into production in the Studio. The system is broken into four components:

  • Customer system
  • Account managers system
  • Studio system
  • Voice artist system

Customer System

The customer system has many sub components all accessed via a secure and unique login. This allows Sound Marketing’s customers to manage their details and scripts, choose new music and voice artists, finalise script amends and communicate with the account management team. Customers can also view revisions and historic scripts.

Account Managers System

This element has additional features to allow account managers to manage music and voice artists, track progress of a new production and move scripts to the production studio. All actions are tracked in a logging system.

Studio System

This is the last step in the system. The studio can now send individual or multiple prompts to voice artists for voicing and once the audio has been received back, they can record how many prompts each voice artist has recorded. This enables the invoicing process to run much smoother, with no room for error. Once productions are completed the “new” scripts will then appear back in the customers’ portals, ready for the next amendment. All actions are logged and all of the scripting team are aware of where any script might be in the process loop.

Voice artist system

This element provides voice artists with the exact messages for them to voice in one nice tidy list.

After rigorous testing we now have a working application that cuts out the need for passing documents through an email system (or even post in some cases!). Customers can login, make changes and put their changes into production with feedback at any stage by checking their accounts. The scripting team also now has a way to manage and track the progress of customer submitted scripts. The studio also can also track and communicate problems back to account managers to ensure a smooth production process.

This has also enabled a completely “paper-free” system to be established at Sound Marketing, saving further money and improving their environmental credentials.

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