Deutsche Schule Tokyo Yokohama (DSTY) is the oldest German school in East Asia, founded in 1904. The school offers education from Kindergarten to High School for German-speaking students in the Tokyo area.
Communication between the school’s 63 faculty and staff members, as well as with students – enabled by Zimbra – proves to be a key capability for the school’s normal daily operation, as well as during one of the most devastating natural disasters to hit Japan.
Prior to Zimbra, DSTY used another Windows-based e-mail system, which provided messaging ability, and some basic calendar functionality, but it did not have any sharing capability between the two, and did not offer a shared repository for data such as Zimbra Briefcase.
“One of the challenges we had was sharing calendars for booking rooms, and finding out when people are available,” recalls John Munro, IT Administrator at DSTY. “We set up a shared calendar resource through Microsoft Outlook with a third-party solution. It was not built into the messaging, and required manual installation on each client and a lot of attention.”
“The system was not reliable, and was not always available” he adds. “Sometimes it would stop working and we had to restart the service. Scheduling in a school environment presents significant challenges because everyone has such a variety of schedules. We have conferences and meetings all the time, and we need a reliable system for scheduling.”
DSTY also had issues with system access. The previous communication system was only available within the local network, and only via a dedicated connection to Outlook, so it was only available on certain user’s computers. The school could not function with such limited access and unreliable performance. That is when DSTY turned to Zimbra.
DSTY evaluated several alternatives, including Microsoft Exchange, and Zimbra came out on top, due to significantly lower cost and less ongoing maintenance. Today the school uses Zimbra for all email and calendaring. DSTY has an internal calendar for faculty and staff, and a separate public calendar that students and visitors can access via the school website.
“Zimbra offers a lot of functionality with a simple interface,” Munro notes. “For example, we can search for an email and can get an answer in seconds, versus the previous system that would take several minutes to do a search. The usability is so great within Zimbra.”
“From a long-term perspective, we have the confidence that Zimbra is going to keep improving, and give us more capabilities,” he continues. “This means we have a communication system that is future proof. We do not have to worry whether we are going to keep using this product, or if it is going to keep meeting our needs. We can see online what will be in the next version, and that gives us confidence in the future.”
Deployment was very smooth and painless,” Munro says. “Setting up the system and getting it running, has always been reliable.”
“The migration from our previous system to Zimbra was quite seamless, due to the migration tools Zimbra offers,” he adds. “Our email accounts and address books were transferred over without any loss of data.”
Business Results & Benefits
Improved Communication -
“Prior to using Zimbra, 50% of the teaching staff would never check their emails,” Munro remembers. “Now 100% of our staff check their emails every day. I attribute that increase in usage to how much easier Zimbra is to use.”
High Reliability -
“People need to know that a communication system is always going to be there for them to use,” Munro says. “Zimbra has given us that reliability. Whether people are accessing it from inside the school, at home or overseas, they are experiencing a seamless environment. Our previous communication system was only available on certain user’s computers, whereas Zimbra is available everywhere.”
Greater Mobility -
Teachers and staff at the school are utilizing mobile devices regularly. Zimbra integrates well with the cutting edge devices, such as iPhone and iPad, enabling the DSTY team a level of mobility they could not achieve before.
Increased Staff Productivity -
DSTY staff and faculty depend on Zimbra for a variety of tasks that help improve productivity. Easy-to-use calendaring integrated with email streamlines the complex process of setting up meetings, and Zimbra notifications keep everyone apprised of the schedules. On the old system people had to log into the calendar every time to figure out what was going on.
“Zimbra takes care of the little things we don’t want to have to think about every day, and it enables us to think about the bigger issues,” Munro confirms. “A lot of unnecessary communication is skipped. We can just do what we need to do.”
Less IT Administration Time and Effort
“I am the school’s only full-time IT Technician, and there are many priorities,” Munro points out. “With Zimbra, not having to spend time maintaining such an important part of our communications system means that I can really focus on things that matter. The Zimbra environment and the admin interface is very user-friendly, simple and quick to use.”
“Zimbra allows us to do so much more through our communication system,” Munro continues. “Zimbra gives us about five times more benefit to the users with zero increase in the amount of administration time.”
Business Continuity During Disaster
On March 11, 2011, Japan was hit by a 8.9-magnitude earthquake, which also set off a devastating tsunami. Many DSTY teachers, staff members and students left the country, and were dispersed around the world. About a week after the disaster, the faculty was able to leverage Zimbra Briefcase to resume classwork, even though the school was closed for almost two months. A share folder was created for each class, accessible by students who could receive their assignments and email work back to the teachers. In this way, the school was able to maintain continuity during one of the worst natural disasters in Japan’s history.
“The fact that we had this central system enabled us to quickly respond to an unexpected situation,” Munro explains. “Our school received an excellence award from the German government for our response to the disaster, and Zimbra was one of the main software components that enabled us to respond so effectively. We are prepared for any future disaster, and Zimbra is an essential factor. “
The school’s Zimbra server has been virtualized on a VMware ESXi 5 server, and now DSTY can maintain full messaging and Internet capability for up to five hours without power, compared to 15 minutes previously.
“Zimbra was virtualized quite smoothly,” Munro notes. “Zimbra’s internal structure makes that change seamless. The ability to have Zimbra running smoothly in a virtual environment means we have protection for server failure, and we have a reliable off-site backup solution. In addition, the integration between Zimbra and VMware vSphere has enabled us, through HSM, to increase data storage for users about five times what we had previously, with the potential to increase about 20 times.”