Hilco Industrial lowers costs, speeds deployment, and simplifies infrastructure with Microsoft Azure

Hilco Industrial is the leading international authority on machinery and equipment monetization, managing nearly $5 billion in assets. Its platform allows users to visualize, track, and integrate bidding on assets during auctions. Users can also provide logon credentials so they can review purchases through a personalized web portal. Its clients include Procter & Gamble, Hershey’s, Kodak, PepsiCo, and John Deere. The company is a subsidiary of Hilco Global, an independent financial services enterprise.

Business Needs

Hilco Industrial created a worldwide industrial auctioning center that enables businesses to purchase distressed assets and property. One of the key differentiators of Hilco Industrial’s service is its global scale. The company’s auction sales generate tens of thousands of page views from a worldwide audience. Under its previous, traditional infrastructure, the company was required to invest in maximum hardware to ensure uptime for all of its sales.

“Our previous strategy was to make sure that our hosting infrastructure could easily handle web traffic, even on our heaviest traffic days,” said VP of Digital Marketing Mike Ermitage. “Those heavy traffic days, however, represented less than a quarter of the calendar year, but we were forced to pay for the necessary hosting bandwidth daily.”

Moreover, the company’s assets change frequently as new items come in and old ones are auctioned off. However, its backend and frontend systems did not communicate, so purchases had to be updated manually across the website, asset database, and CRM. On top of the existing infrastructure a scalable and easy to use content management was needed to seamlessly integrate the separate systems.
Hilco Industrial executives were aware that managing, maintaining, and organizing their IT infrastructure manually was affecting productivity and their bottom line.

“We had a classic problem – data inconsistency,” said Ermitage. “We required a solution that enabled our data experts to enter the proper information once and enable it to easily cascade to our disparate systems.”
Ideally, Hilco Industrial wanted to maintain its current web applications, keeping its infrastructure familiar for its IT department, while reducing costs.

Ultimately, executives needed their platform to:

  1. Scale instances during peak hours
  2. Streamline Hilco Industrial’s operations across its frontend and backend systems
  3. Secure their client’s data during transactions

Solution

Hilco Industrial executives saw an opportunity to shift their data to a private cloud environment. They migrated their webhosting service to Microsoft Azure, a cloud service that helps business and IT leaders to develop, host, and manage on-premise apps and data. By deploying the Standard version of Azure Web Sites, they are able to operate virtual machines of any size. Furthermore, it also provides the company with up to 10 unique instances to run their service, critical for ongoing development and staging of new features and functionality. Azure Web Sites also integrates seamlessly with Continuous Integration (CI) processes used by Hilco and their development teams.

They worked with Arc Technology Group, an ISV, to help incorporate their backend solution with their frontend service with Joomla!. On the backend, Joomla! allows Hilco Industrial to display all the data from their CRM, assets, and bidding service into one application within Microsoft Azure SQL Database, a hybrid cloud database service built on Microsoft SQL Server technology.

Added Robert Jacobi, president of Arc Technology Group, “We have found Microsoft Azure to be an excellent platform to integrate with Joomla!. It is easy to work with from a development standpoint, seamless to deploy and maintain, and extremely scalable.”

On the frontend website, Arc Technology Group used Joomla!’s services to standardize their webpages across the site. This allows Hilco Industrial’s team to make updates across their website from a single location.

The integration of the back-end systems enables Hilco Industrial to quickly get data from its machinery experts to the website and for internal consumption. It reduces data entry errors and correction, and allows the company to standardize its data output improving its search engine visibility.

Benefits

Microsoft Azure helped Hilco Industrial build a secure and scalable platform to accelerate its business. Enhanced by its partnership with Microsoft, Hilco Industrial will continue to evolve, extending its services to an ever-growing customer base and enterprises worldwide.

Improved flexibility

Hilco Industrial used Microsoft Azure’s Traffic Manager to replicate information services around the world. This allows its bidding service to spin down instances automatically during non-peak hours. Now Hilco Industrial only pays for the infrastructure that it actually uses. This scalability allows Hilco Industrial to reduce costs by 15% per year.

“We would never consider any solution that threatened uptime or our customer’s experience,” said Ermitage. “This solution enabled us to continue to confidently deliver to our audience all of the information they needed accurately and quickly, no matter the volume of traffic we might be experiencing at any given time. And do it for less.”

Seamless migration

Hilco Industrial’s team was able to quickly utilize internal knowledge and Microsoft support to migrate existing applications to Microsoft Azure in less than 30 days. With Microsoft Azure supporting the entire development process, there was no downtime between software iterations moving from development through to production.

Furthermore, the company’s IT department was able to leverage its existing knowledge and reduce training time. Now, Hilco Industrial’s IT staff has more time to focus on building and improving its own service instead of managing its IT infrastructure.

Simplicity and security

With Microsoft Azure, Arc Technology Group was also able to set up a private portal for Hilco Industrial’s customers and employees. This provides Hilco Industrial’s clients the visibility to see their own assets, while securing the transaction and proprietary client information.

Similarly, this private portal allows employees to quickly and securely manage assets across the world, with data from almost any location worldwide, driving productivity, efficiency, and accessibility across the organization.

Said Emitage, “We feel like we’ve now built the underlying infrastructure to grow our business in a variety of ways, including managing data, gathering marketing intelligence, and expanding our software solutions.”