Harcourts International is tapping the cloud to support its goal to become the number one real estate franchise in the world.

Harcourts has announced it is rolling out email, communication and collaboration tools like Yammer from Microsoft's cloud-based Office 365.

The plan in the next two decades is to be operating in 100 countries, but we realised we needed new technology platforms to cope with this transition, says Harcourts CIO Jason Wills.

Harcourts started in 1888 as a single shop in Wellington. It now has more than 790 offices and over 5200 sales consultants in eight countries, including Australia, Indonesia, Fiji, China, Hong Kong, South Africa and the United States.

The current systems were unable to cope with the demands of clients and internal users who were moving from desktop to mobile use.

"With the lack of storage available we are constantly pushing the boundaries of our current system," says Wills on the drivers for the move. "We are getting so large, especially in New Zealand and Australia, there is so much data that's on the email server that we can't even back up any more."

Last year, Harcourts worked with CloudFirst, a cloud solution provider which specialises in franchising, and Microsoft to move them to a more advanced collaboration platform, he states.

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When fully operational, Harcourt's franchisees will be able to cut travel costs by using Lync for videoconferencing, and potentially using it as part of websites to chat with online clients.

Franchisees will also be able to access unlimited file storage in OneDrive for Business on any device, and take the latest version of Microsoft Office on their PCs and mobile devices.