Liquor-delivery business toasts cloud storage

JimmyBrings uses DropBox

Can monitor work from the pub.

JimmyBrings uses DropBoxWhen Dave Berger joined restaurant delivery service Suppertime two years ago, the business relied on “sneakernet” to move information between freestanding computers in its office in Sydney’s eastern suburbs.

“When I got involved nothing was networked,” Berger says, a director of Suppertime and sister business, liquor-delivery service Jimmy Brings.

Berger and Suppertime owner Nathan Besser had to call into the office during evenings to check that the number of deliveries was not outpacing the workload of the delivery drivers, which was recorded on an Excel spreadsheet.

“The only way I would know we were in trouble is that the guy in the office has to call and say, ‘I’m in trouble’. Now there are all sorts of reasons that might not happen; he might be too proud to do so or he might not have enough time to do it,” Berger says.

Other business files were kept in three computers, which were backed up separately. Berger, Besser and a third employee also had laptops at home which accessed the information using Windows remote desktop.

There was no question of buying a server or a central storage device like a NAS (networked-attached storage). “We would never have done that. It would have been too complicated,” Berger says.

Suppertime was keen to avoid the cost of an IT services company to set up their computing for them.

Berger decided that instead of buying storage devices for the office he’d look to the cloud instead with DropBox.

“That changed everything,” Berger says.

DropBox stores files in a standard folder structure in the cloud and syncs the same folders and files to each computer. Suppertime uses the DropBox cloud as a cordless way to network the computers in the office and work laptops at the directors’ homes.

Berger signed up to the free service and uploaded five years of data from Suppertime which took up 30 percent of the storage quota. “It’s pretty amazing that you could store all that for nothing,” he says.

Berger and Besser could now work from home for the first time.

“It’s given us more visibility. In the past you couldn’t check the night’s results until you came in the next morning. Now Nathan has it on his iPad, I have it on my iPhone, I’ll just download the night’s sheet and have a look at it.

“If we are in a meeting with a corporate client and he asks us about a transaction last week we can pull out the iPad, open up the spreadsheet and look at it, which is pretty amazing,” Berger says.

Berger also appreciated being able to access the business information when travelling overseas.

The two directors use another cloud application, Team Viewer, to log into the office computer and watch the Excel spreadsheet being updated by the office manager. Berger says he can anticipate when there might be problems based on the number of orders on the sheet. He can then marshall resources to help without the office manager needing to do anything.

“I can be at the pub down the road and watching what’s going on inside the business with my iPhone. If I can see that things are getting out of control I can head to the office and help the guy out.”

Because all the data on DropBox is stored online Berger can send large files directly to an external web designer by sending a link to a file. The designer clicks on the link and downloads a copy of the file.

However, making the move took some convincing, Berger says.

“It was a real leap of faith to stop filing things on your computer and put them in DropBox. I can remember when I came into the business and said ‘We’re going to do this,’ and Nath was like, “Are you sure? We’re just going to stop saving things on this computer and put them in the cloud?’
“When you step into the cloud it is a little bit of a leap of faith.”

One concern is that Suppertime doesn’t backup the data on DropBox. If a computer gets a virus and deletes all the data on it, Berger worries that DropBox will sync the changes with the other computers and wipe the files from them too.

“I understand that DropBox can recover everything for 30 days but it still could be a problem,” Berger says.

About Sholto Macpherson

Sholto Macpherson is a business technology journalist, consultant and analyst specialising in cloud accounting software.

Sholto is the author of the Macpherson Report, which examines the key technology trends facing accountants in Australia.

He lives and works in Sydney, Australia.

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