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Zingerman's – A BetterCloud Case Study

BetterCloud Monitor

May 14, 2013

3 minute read

san franciso cityscape

Employees: 650
Founded: 1982
Industry: Food and Beverage

In 1982 Paul Saginaw and Ari Weinzweig opened Zingerman’s, a traditional Jewish deli, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The popular deli served as the starting point for Zingerman’s now expansive community of eight businesses, known as the ZCoB, all located in the Ann Arbor area. While franchising the original deli would have been the obvious option, Zingerman’s founders opted instead to grow the business by developing new independent organizations, all rooted in the local community.

Now, the eight different businesses work together as one organization, but are managed by different partners. Together, the businesses are home to more than 650 employees and include the original deli, a bakery, a creamery, a catering business and more. Zingerman’s was named The Coolest Small Company in America by Inc. Magazine.

Deprecating a Dying Exchange Server

A company like Zingerman’s that isn’t afraid to do something different, went searching for alternative options to a dying Exchange server in 2008. According to Elph Morgan, Zingerman’s IT Director, the company was “looking at an upgrade every five years and we had an inkling that there was something better out there.”

The distributed nature of Zingerman’s team, the sheer amount of data the company produced – it took more than 24 hours to backup data – and inconsistency across interfaces (at home, on mobile devices and in the office) ultimately left Zingerman’s searching for an Exchange alternative.

Choosing between hosted and cloud-based options, Zingerman’s opted for the latter as the company was spread out over several different locations. In terms of cloud-based options, “Google was at the top of the list,” so Zingerman’s rolled out the suite to their internal service department and asked the beta testers to play around with Google Apps for about a year and half to ensure the suite addressed Zingerman’s needs.

Google passed the test with flying colors and the company moved their entire staff to Apps in 2010 with the help of Google Apps reseller, Cloud Sherpas. Zingerman’s chose not to give employees the option of Outlook Sync and instead moved exclusively to the web interface. “This took a lot of internal education,” noted Mr. Morgan, but the team was ultimately able to transition.

Zingerman’s initially rolled out Apps for Mail and Calendar, but now actively uses Drive as well. ZCoB pushes its employees to use Google Docs for collaboration, noting that it’s simply the easiest way to work together – now there are over 26,000 Google Docs across the entire user base.

Firmly on Google Apps for more than three years, Zingerman’s is still loving the suite. “As a food business, we have high turnover” noted Morgan, “so having something where we can easily shut down and create new accounts with the same licenses is perfect.”

Managing the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses with FlashPanel

To manage Google Apps across eight different businesses, Morgan and the IT department use FlashPanel in the following areas:


FlashPanel’s in depth reporting tools help Zingerman’s optimize the use of Google Apps accounts. Specifically, the IT department runs the inactive user report and sends results about every two months to different company managers. Managers then encourage inactive users to fully utilize the account. “If we don’t see a change in usage behavior, we’ll trim the account,” noted Mr. Morgan.

Inbox Delegation and Google Group Management

Zingerman’s uses FlashPanel’s inbox delegation feature to transition information when an employee departs as well as for shared accounts – like the “Support at Zingerman’s” email address.

And FlashPanel’s group management tools enable the company to quickly and easily make changes to groups in bulk.

Google Drive Tools

As noted, Zingerman’s employees have collectively created upwards of 20,000 Google Docs. To view these docs and how they’re being shared, Morgan uses FlashPanel’s Drive tools, which provide a comprehensive look into the Google Drive account of each user.