Lloyd’s insurer is first non-US Microsoft EBS user

Newman Martin and Buchan (NMB), an independent Lloyd's insurance and reinsurance brokers based in the city of London, has become the first and largest Microsoft Essential Business Server (EBS) user outside of the US.

The firm was heavily involved in the final development and testing of the server product aimed at small-to-medium sized businesses (SMBs) that was released by the software giant last week.

It migrated to a pre-release version of the product known as Release Candidate Zero (RC0) in June 2008, after deciding it needed to upgrade its existing Windows Exchange Server 2000-based environment.

"Our Exchange 2000 environment was becoming a bit long in the tooth," Simon Edwards, the company's IT director told IT PRO. "We wanted to improve the underlying architecture of the IT environment and strengthen remote working, reporting and disaster recovery capabilities."

He explained a small proportion of NMB's 150 staff had been using Outlook Web Access for remote access to office systems, while around 80 users also relied on remote email access using BlackBerry mobile devices.

"A lot of clients are in the US, so staff occasionally need to logon after hours, from home. EBS has a remote workplace feature that allows us to control remote access to systems by group," said Edwards.

"We can control who accesses what and even when. And it gives us the option of supporting a greater variety of mobile devices, like the iPhone, which will allow us to move away from just BlackBerry devices once that contract is finished."

The Aldgate-based firm was affected by the 7 July terrorist attack three years ago and Edwards said the remote capabilities would be invaluable in future for business continuity if another such incident occurred.

"We also have a slot in the data centre to co-host another Exchange 2007 Server on standby doing continuous replication for disaster recovery purposes," he added. "And we're using the much more granular reporting so that we don't have to wait for staff to call us - we can proactively troubleshoot issues before they become a problem."

As a direct result of NMB's feedback, Exchange storage area network (SAN) backup capabilities were embedded into EBS and a pre-deployment preparation and planning tool was added to help smooth rollouts.

The pre-migration RC0 trial was supported by both HP and Microsoft, who worked with Microsoft Gold Partner The Full Circle on the project.

Miya Knights

A 25-year veteran enterprise technology expert, Miya Knights applies her deep understanding of technology gained through her journalism career to both her role as a consultant and as director at Retail Technology Magazine, which she helped shape over the past 17 years. Miya was educated at Oxford University, earning a master’s degree in English.

Her role as a journalist has seen her write for many of the leading technology publishers in the UK such as ITPro, TechWeekEurope, CIO UK, Computer Weekly, and also a number of national newspapers including The Times, Independent, and Financial Times.