The UK's largest online job site, Reed.co.uk, is currently undergoing a major overhaul of its IT estate where it has opted to put its HR and finance systems in the cloud using SAP Business ByDesign and is in the process of trialling Google's Chromeboxes.
Mark Ridley, Reed.co.uk's director of technology, is in the midst of a major project to make the browser the most common access point for business applications and systems in order to give the business greater flexibility and drive efficiencies, which has been made possible by separating from Reed's corporate group in 2007 to become a standalone company.
Up until this point Reed.co.uk had been a business of 25 people operating on Reed Corporate's IT systems, where it was using a number of legacy systems, including Oracle for HR and Finance, and Lotus Notes for email.
Since breaking away, and now operating as an independent company, Reed.co.uk has grown to 250 people and is cutting the ties with Reed Corporate's systems by pushing almost everything into the cloud.
"In January of last year my role expanded to take on the replacement of systems we were consuming from corporate IT. In reality that meant every part of the technology that was provided to us, we were looking at removing," Ridley told Computerworld UK.
"Our aim is to move the entire company to a position where a browser is the lowest common denominator of access that's needed for any of the systems that we have."
He added: "I think we are in a very fortunate position because we are a very young company that is creating our own processes. We are very stable and we have enough cash to be talking to the big vendors in the market place, but there's no real pressure on us to move."
Reed.co.uk has already selected and gone live with a number of cloud providers, including Salesforce.com for their pure CRM - a company that Ridley says the cloud market owes a lot of gratitude to for their success in making public cloud acceptable in the enterprise.
However, Ridley began looking at options for moving away from Reed Corporate's Oracle HR and finance systems in January last year and settled on SAP's Business ByDesign, after Ridley found that a number of the other vendors on the shortlist weren't what he considers true public cloud.
"The other vendors we were considering all had a 'cloud offering', but it was delivered in various ways. Some vendors weren't so advanced in their approach as others. Some would provision servers for you which you could access securely, but it wasn't true multi-tenancy," said Ridley.
"We have a browser first mentality and we found that the SAP piece works really well with that. We believe that ByDesign works really well via a browser. What this means is that it makes an enormous difference to our disaster recovery and business continuity processes, because we can control everything from the cloud."
He added: "The aim is to get to the stage where employees have one login for all systems (it's approximately five at the moment) so that friction is reduced with the business and the products are easier to use. So if the office burned down, in theory we could flick a switch and turn on the out of office policy."
Ridley is hoping that Reed.co.uk will be able to break away from Corporate's Oracle systems in June of this year and go live with SAP Business ByDesign.
This 'browser first' mind set has also led Ridley to investigate Google's Chromeboxes, where Reed.co.uk is running a trial at the moment to see how many Microsoft Office desktops the company could replace. Chromeboxes are Google's answer to allowing businesses to run Chrome OS on a desktop, where all applications are accessed via a browser.
"We are removing Windows and Office from a large number of desktops in the building, or at least we are trialling that at the moment with Chromeboxes, which is going really well. The response from employees has been incredibly good. We think Office is great, but we are aware that about 120 people in the business only use it for performance appraisals," said Ridey.
"I think the whole benefit of the platform is that it gives us complete flexibility and we can start saying that there is a point at which it isn't sensible for us to buy large powerful PCs anymore. If you look at the entire stack - identity management, BYOD, email, collaboration, HR, finance - once you have lifted all those things out into the cloud, it becomes a very flexible business."
This distribution of apps to the cloud is what has made it possible for Reed.co.uk to look at using the lighter Chromeboxes. Ridley explained that he is even considering a Chromebox console to centrally manage the devices.
"It's very early days for us, but there is a Chromebox console, which we are investigating at the moment. It does do the centralised management, but it's an additional cost per head, so it's something that we are still looking at," he said.
Reed.co.uk's approach of investing entirely in the cloud is a fairly unique one, which has been made possible by the ability to cut ties with legacy systems. However, Ridley does admit that there are still concerns and that improvements could be made by cloud vendors to make the systems easier for enterprise IT departments to use.
"I think it would be foolish to not have concerns about the cloud, but then again I would have concerns if I was running servers. I just think it gives you a very different business model and you have to trust vendors to keep your data," he said.
"But, one of the things I would love to do is for the major vendors to develop something similar to the old SNMP type protocols, where you can monitor the network from a central area. It would be great to have all the cloud vendors sign up to this, where we could request: What is your current system service? Do you have any planned downtime?"
He added: "At the moment we have to pull all of these things off an email, or watch very diverse systems. It would be great to have all that information coming across in one format so you could throw it up on management systems."