Case Study Published: 21/05/2019

Thameside Fire Protection - Improving IT Performance & Decreasing Downtime

Design, configure, install, support: A unified IT solution for improved performance and lower risk of downtime

"Our reputation depends on our ability to respond quickly when customers have issues. Any downtime holds things up. Excitech found the source of our problems and gave us a system the business has complete confidence in. We now have a robust platform on which to build our reputation even further.”

John Allen, Company Operations Director, Thameside Fire Protection  

Excitech services provided:
  • Full IT audit
  • Network optimisation
  • Hyperconverged Infrastructure (HCI) Implementation
  • Office 365 migration
  • Unlimited IT support (Excitech Gold Support)

​Meet Thameside Fire Protection

Founded in 1985, Thameside Fire Protection is one of the largest independent fire protection companies in the UK. Certified to ISO 9001, LPS 1048, LPS 1014 and BAFE the company is the supplier of choice for many leading blue-chip companies throughout the country.
 
Its services range from fire risk assessments and consultancy, and fire safety training, through to the complete design, supply, installation and servicing of fire detection or suppression systems and passive fire protection.
 
Based in Basildon, Essex the company also has offices in the south-west, north-west, north-east and London, plus a national network of engineers to ensure 24-hour nationwide callout services.

The challenge: Better IT for better business outcomes

Thameside faced two main challenges in ensuring its ability to provide these services: an ageing IT infrastructure prone to downtime, and an email system based on the same infrastructure also proving to be increasingly unreliable.
  • Getting the IT infrastructure up to date
    Effective operations in all areas of the company’s activities – as with any business of any size – depend on a robust and reliable IT infrastructure; downtime is unacceptable. “Our engineers are always on customer sites, or moving between them,” explains John Allen, Company Operations Director at Thameside Fire Protection. “Our office team is constantly serving customer requests. From this focus comes our reputation for customer service excellence. Somewhere along the way, however, we sidelined our own needs. While we were looking after customers, nobody was particularly looking after us. Our IT systems began to creak at the edges as a result.”
  • Creating an efficient and reliable email environment
    The volume of email interactions at Thameside runs into many thousands daily. John estimates that 90% of customer requests come in through email. The company’s email server was also giving problems, with downtime occurring more frequently. When this happened, the company had to rely solely on telephone contact with customers.
IT can hide its age right up to the moment it no longer can
Ageing infrastructure can fail a business when it least expects it; it’s a common problem. Along the way, businesses often patch the system themselves (as Thameside Fire were doing) and replace constituent parts of the system architecture as the need arises. While an expedient approach can resolve issues in the short term, the lack of a coordinated and integrated approach to IT management can sow the seeds of problems further down the line.
 
The long view of IT secures the business
Over time, a system with multiple patches and multiple vendor contacts for support and maintenance can show the strain. “The strain for us,” says John, “was showing in more frequent system downtime. It could have reached a point where it affected the company’s ability to respond to customers, but we got to the problem just in time.”

John explains how deep-seated issues within the IT infrastructure were manifesting themselves as operational problems. He says that it wasn’t just emails that were going down. Access to files, records, databases, and documentation across customer details and projects, essential information at the core of the company’s operations was also intermittent on some occasions. “It was frustrating, and starting to have an effect on our productivity,” says John.

Going beyond basic problem-solving support
Thameside was already an Excitech customer, subscribed to the ‘bronze’ level of Excitech IT support, giving the company unlimited support by telephone, email, and remotely. While Thameside therefore had a means of ready contact to help with problems, there was no support in place for monitoring; i.e. anticipating the problems and resolving them before they caused issues that would affect business performance.

Optimising IT investment
The company wanted a strategic partner able to provide expert input and advice on a more holistic and sustainable approach, together with practical interventions whenever the need might arise. John outlines the company’s requirements: “We wanted to take a clean sweep and put the technology, the hardware and the software in place that would let us get the best out of technology. We were looking for ways of optimising our IT investments and being confident that we had a strong infrastructure in place to enable and support our operational requirements and customer end user expectations”. Having decided that a proactive resource was needed, John asked Excitech to upgrade his support agreement to the ‘gold’ level.

The solution: IT infrastructure refresh, Office 365 migration, and highest-level proactive IT support

“Our overall problem was about perception. We were experiencing problems on a regular basis but we thought this was par for the course with technology. We thought we were probably just having the same problems that everybody else has,” says John.

The positive steps to better outcomes
The first action Excitech undertook was to audit the entire IT system to see where the problems were, where the immediate fixes could be made to restore the company’s confidence in both its IT and its email, and to serve as a strategic platform to support a five-year plan.

1. IT audit: Understanding the weak links

It’s essential for all parties to understand, in detail, the configuration of the infrastructure that will be supported. This understanding covers hardware and software, vendor support agreements, and integration, through to an evaluation of equipment nearing end of life and the potential, or actual, incompatibilities between different types of kit from multiple vendors.

The Excitech audit of the IT detail took three days and the immediate actions arising from it were completed within six weeks. This included:
  • replacing ageing and unsupported servers
  • improving backup and disaster recovery to ensure no loss of data should there be any system failures in the future
  • installing solutions to eliminate security flaws
2. Infrastructure make-over: A unified, integrated approach to robust, scalable and secure IT

Following the audit and the quick fixes to ensure operational resilience, Excitech designed, configured, and installed a hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) from Nutanix. This is where hardware can be minimised and some of the principle aspects of IT moved over to a virtual environment making it easier to manage, enhancing operational efficiencies, and reducing risk. HCI brings computing capabilities, storage and networking into a single system, managed through a single pane of glass (a unified display of performance across all parts of a system or network) to provide simple-to-manage IT.

Excitech installed three so if one fails, another takes over. Previously, with a single server set-up the company was exposed to potential downtime through one single point of failure meaning that if the system went down, it was down. Now it’s resilient.

3. Office 365 Migration

All that then remained was the email issue. Thameside had been working with the 2013 version of Exchange server, physically hosted in the company’s server room. Office 365 delivered integration the company had been lacking. The company was now able to give its workforce, and particularly the field engineers, an integrated suite of applications (including everyday essentials such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint) making it far easier to access information and collaborate with others. The email mailbox capacity has been vastly increased to handle Thameside’s large volume of emails without restriction.

With solid foundations in place, the new IT environment is fully supported
Following the design, configuration, and installation stages, Thameside was ready to upgrade support to the Excitech Gold level, delivering on the requirements John had expressed for a strategic partner, expert input and advice, and proactive systems monitoring to jump on any issue the moment it crops up.

What is Gold support?
Moving from basic remote, telephone, and email support, Thameside now benefits from:
  • Unlimited telephone, email, and remote support
  • On-site support
  • Proactive monitoring
  • Patching
  • Housekeeping
Thameside’s IT infrastructure is under the constant surveillance of Excitech engineers; proactive monitoring of all hardware and applications across its network.

The result: Zero downtime, more efficient, less risk, and more secure

From a complete infrastructure refresh, delivering the clean sweep that Thameside was looking for, the company now has a platform for confident and efficient operations without the constant fear that something might go wrong at any time.

Risk of failure or security breaches have been significantly reduced and John estimates that by moving to a hyperconverged infrastructure the company has reduced its yearly IT costs by over 50%.

“Everything we do is in response to what our customers need. We work hard to anticipate their needs, and ensure reliability and operability of all the services we provide. Now we have an IT partner doing the same for us.”

“Excitech completely revitalised everything for us; probably about twenty constituent improvements as part of the whole project. Despite the investment in new servers and infrastructure, our IT costs for the last year were still a significant saving on the previous year’s costs. Excitech Gold Support works quietly in the background giving us a huge amount of confidence that an essential facet of our business is now taken care of by experts,” says John.
To learn more about our IT solutions and services, click here. To learn more about Thameside Fire Protection, click on the links below. 

 
https://www.thamesidefire.co.uk/

 @thamesidefire 

 @thamesidefire 


  Thameside Fire Protection


 
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