One-way ticket to the cloud

Waste management firm Averda opts for a cloud-based service desk tool to lighten the load on its own servers.

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One-way ticket to the cloud Averda’s Tarek Saade says that the company’s old helpdesk application was primitive.
By  Tom Paye Published  March 11, 2014

With one of the highest population growth rates anywhere in the world, the Middle East is beginning to approach its waste management differently.

Whereas the region has traditionally relied on landfills to dispose of its waste, many countries are now looking for more efficient and environmentally friendly solutions to their waste management problems. And as governments have rushed to increase their green credentials, the last couple of years has become something of a boom time for companies like Averda, one of the largest resource and waste management providers in the MENA region.

Averda, based in Lebanon, has been at the forefront of the Middle East’s drive to become more environmentally friendly. And while the green movement in the region is still in its infancy, waste management providers are seeing strong growth nonetheless. Averda currently employs more than 7,500 employees across the MENA region, and has plans to expand further into Africa before targeting Europe — by 2020, it wants to be running waste management sites in 50 cities across the globe.

Business challenge
With a large number of sites dotted across the region, and more sites planned, Averda was struggling with its centralised IT helpdesk, which supports every site from the Lebanon head office. The IT team is made up of four levels, with level one being the service desk, which is the first point of contact for any IT-related query. Anything from a broken computer monitor to a malfunctioning VMware server gets routed through the helpdesk, which either tries to resolve the issue remotely or else assigns the issue further up the chain — level two handles client support, level three deals with server support, and level four handles networking support.

Unfortunately, the application that Averda previously used to coordinate its helpdesk was simply inadequate for the task at hand. According to Tarek Saade, IT service desk controller, Averda, the  old application was “primitive”, and with the company experiencing rapid growth, something had to be done to improve IT support across the company.

“It was just an in-house application that was developed through normal SQL databases. It had a very primitive user interface, where you couldn’t assign tickets properly. All the technicians signed in to that portal, and they saw all the tickets — there was no ability to see your own tickets in a group, so then they just started picking as many tickets up as they could and closing them,” Saade says.

“What’s more, there was no way to report metrics within the app, so we had no idea about first-time fix rate, or mean time to repair. And also, ticket assignment was really painful for us. It used to go through emails and it was really a pain to chase up on requests and see where they were, why they were hanging, and why they were taking so long.”

With the helpdesk unable to effectively cope with the growing number of tickets being logged by a quickly growing company, Averda found that the availability of business-critical systems was under threat. Meanwhile, recurring smaller issues were becoming a time-consuming headache for the helpdesk, so the team needed a new application that could determine the root cause of a problem, as well as streamline the way in which IT support was delivered.

Why SaaS?
From the off, Averda knew that it wanted its new service desk tool to be cloud-based, so Saade and his team looked for the most appropriate software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions. The idea was part of a larger drive to bring most of Averda’s processes onto the cloud — with so many sites planned across the region, it simply made sense to bring the centralised services onto an available-anywhere platform that everyone can access.

“Averda has been going through cloud orientation, in terms of moving everything to RackSpace. This is why we decided it was a good choice to decommission what we previously had as an on-premise helpdesk, and go for a cloud-based solution. We were already on the track of having cloud-based solutions, so this was only an additional piece of software for us,” Saade says.

“We’re trying to de-commission everything that’s on-premise. In terms of security, confidentiality, and back-up purposes, all that has been moved to the cloud. The software provides more uptime than downtime, and whenever you have the servers on-premise, you just have to allocate more resources to look into them and make sure everything is running. By hosting on the cloud, it’s just buying the whole solution and making it easier for everyone.”

In short, then, Averda felt that hosting applications on its own servers was far more trouble than it was worth. This certainly explains a general push to move to a cloud-based model, but, for Saade, it was the available-anywhere functionality that attracted him to the idea of a cloud-based IT helpdesk.

“The best thing about it is that, whenever you’re connected to the Internet, from any device — your laptop, your phone, or any other mobile device — you’ll be able to log into the system using your active credentials, which we’ve integrated with the portal. You log in, check your requests, check what’s pending, and check what’s on your action list,” he says.

Naturally, opting for any cloud-based solution requires constant and high-quality Internet connectivity, which some enterprises struggle with, particularly in the less-developed parts of the region where Averda hopes to expand. What happens when Internet connectivity is lost? According to Saade, the company has been happy to take extra precautions if it means being able to lighten the load on its own servers.

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