Mike Winkler, President, Worksmart
Since moving his DDMS system to the cloud in 2012, Mike Winkler has heard all the reasons why that move was a really bad idea.
The cloud, he’s been told, is not a secure environment and it’s vulnerable to data breaches, viruses and hacks. Implementation is a pain and once it’s up and live it runs too slowly. And, most important of all, it costs too much.
Winkler, vice president of Austin-based Worksmart, formerly known as Longhorn Office Products, readily admits that before switching to the cloud himself, he shared many of those concerns. But back in 2012, he felt like he had little choice. Austin had just been hit by some of the worst wildfires in its history, including one that flared up just behind the building in which Winkler and his team worked.
“I couldn’t ask an employee to risk their life for a computer”
Like any prudent business owner, Winkler had an emergency plan in place for potential disaster situations but he hadn’t realized its flaws until he actually needed to put it into action. “Part of my rescue plan called for someone to go into the computer room, grab the computer and the other equipment I needed to operate the business and move it all to a safe place,” he recalls. “When the fire hit, I realized I was basically asking someone to risk their life for a bunch of computer hardware and there was no way I was going to do that again. It made moving to the cloud an easy choice because I really didn’t see any other alternative.”
Today, nearly five years after making the move, Winkler’s only regret is that it didn’t happen sooner.
“Since going live on the cloud, we’ve had no problems with data security or system reliability,” he reports. “We’ve never had any issues with printers or any of our programs and the business has run smoothly from day one. On the rare occasions when we did have a problem, I just gave DDMS a call, they logged in and fixed it right away. “
Moving to the cloud gave us not only a disaster plan, but made us more efficient
Today, Winkler not only has a disaster plan he’s confident about but, he explains, moving to the cloud has strengthened his dealership in several key areas.
In addition to its headquarters in Austin, Worksmart operates out of three other Texas locations—in San Angelo, Del Rio and Abilene. When Winkler was running the business on a server-based system, each of those locations had to dial into a VPN server which in turn had to hook up to the main DDMS server. The result: connectivity speeds that were so slow that for personnel nothing, not even typing, was in real-time while for customers, ordering online was all too often a time-consuming, frustrating experience.
Moving to the cloud put an end to all that literally overnight. “Our people and our customers knew right away when we switched to the cloud because everything ran so much faster,” he remembers. “Today, our people now work in real-time with no lags and the speed on our website has increased greatly.”
Currently, Winkler reports, online sales account for over 75% of Worksmart’s total business, up from barely 20% before he made the move to the cloud, and customer complaints about the slowness of his website are a thing of the past.
The cloud drove expenses down
The move has also had a major positive impact on the expense side of the business. “The cloud took our internet bill from $250 a month to under $100 and our monthly electricity bill went down about another $100,” Winkler reports. Most important of all, though, the move liberated Winkler himself from a heavy schedule of time-consuming IT updates and maintenance activities.
When he was running the business on a server-based system, Winkler would spend at least two or three hours a day on routine maintenance and backups and full software updates would typically take as much as five hours of his time, he remembers.
Today, all that too is just a dim memory. “Moving to the cloud has given me at least 2-3 extra hours a day that I can use for my real work instead of having to focus on keeping the computer running,” he reports happily.
Making acquisitions and growing business much easier in the cloud
Over the past few years, Winkler has made a number of acquisitions to grow the business and the cloud, he points out, has helped in that area as well. “If you’re on the cloud and you make an acquisition, integrating the new company couldn’t be easier,” he explains. “Once you’ve uploaded the customer files and business information, getting the acquired company on your system literally involves nothing more than putting an additional icon on their desktops. It’s that simple!”
As Mike Winkler looks back on his pre-cloud days, he’s hard put to understand just why he had any reservations about making the move. “The cloud has been a huge plus for us on many different levels,” he says. “Effective use of technology is critical for any independent today and increasingly, that means moving to the cloud. If you want to a leader rather than a follower, it’s absolutely the way to go and the benefits it brings to the business really make it a no-brainer.”
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