Written by: Jared Morgan
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Founded in 1867 in Paducah, Kentucky, Bradshaw & Weil is the oldest business in Paducah. They are an independent insurance agency that is licensed to operate in 14 states.
Jared received his Bachelor of Science in Youth Ministry from Freed-Hardeman University in Henderson, Tennessee, in 2003. After school and working in youth ministry, Jared returned to western Kentucky to join Bradshaw & Weil as a commercial producer in 2004. Jared’s primary responsibility is sales, but he is also responsible for the technology used in the agency.
Bradshaw & Weil is a small insurance agency with nine employees. In the past, we spent tremendous amounts of money on technology and support. When I joined the agency in 2004, I started doing all the tech support. I quickly learned that:
My primary position is sales. When I’m spending time on tech support, I’m not making money.
I don't have the resources to support a full server in the office.
I don't have the resources to recover from a significant failure in a reasonable amount of time.
We began the push for cloud solutions in 2005. Using SaaS allows us to offload the responsibility for backing up data, recovering from failures, reduces our time setting up computers, fixing computers and maintaining servers. A nice side effect is that our technology is not tied to our location – we can work from anywhere with web access.
We started with client management software that was delivered over the Internet with data living on someone else's servers. We then started using free Google Apps in 2006 - our public Website is still hosted by Google Apps. Google Apps mail left a lot to be desired; no push email, no over-the-air (OTA) sync with wireless devices, limited syncing with IMAP in Outlook, etc.
In 2007, we decided to adopt a hosted solution. We searched for about six months and, after reading about Microsoft Online, we were immediately interested. We decided to use BPOS because it provided more features (Communicator, SharePoint) than Exchange Online (by itself) for not much more money. At the time, I didn't honestly know what SharePoint Online was, other than an intranet solution.
As a small business, we are very representative of the baby boomer transition that is happening nationally. We had relied on our employees who were experts in our business, but somewhat technically challenged. We really needed to capture and institutionalize their expertise before they retired. We have been able to establish and document procedures and then post them on SharePoint Online. We track changes to the procedures, tech support issues, and we publish documents related to the business all through SharePoint Online. SharePoint is easy enough to use that I've been able to do most of the work with zero training.
It was difficult to move from a free service to paying more than $100/month, but we wouldn't drop BPOS for anything now. In addition, there is no way a business our size could access this type of technology in-house without spending at least $15,000 more on systems and support. When we upgraded our computer systems this year, we bought faster desktops and faster Internet access and shut down our old server. We no longer have a server in our office.
What I thought I was getting as a simple throw-in with BPOS, SharePoint Online has turned out to be as valuable as Exchange Online, if not more so. There are improvements I'd like to see made, but it would be hard to be more pleased with the service so far.