By designing and deploying a new virtual IT infrastructure for Moore Stephens Nathans, MJ Flood Technology has helped this leading accountancy practice to reduce its carbon footprint, significantly cut IT management and hardware costs and improve service levels to users.
Leading insurance broker, First Ireland Risk Management will reduce IT energy costs by up to 60% and boost staff productivity by 25%, thanks to a new IT infrastructure designed and installed by MJ Flood Technology.
The solution encompasses a number of key elements including a new network backbone, streamlined application delivery, IP telephony, data storage and a newly installed CAT6a cabled infrastructure.
The occasion of an office move to a new headquarters in Parkgate Street, Dublin coupled with significant company growth prompted the technology refresh as Sarah Sheridan, Director of IT with First Ireland explains. “The longevity and success of our business is driven by the fact that we are big enough to get the best deal for our clients but small enough to provide a personal service. In reconfiguring our business operations across two sites in Dublin and Leixlip, we needed to ensure that our technology infrastructure was capable of supporting our business vision and commitment to superior customer service.”First Ireland works on the basis of the paperless office – scanning in all paperwork and correspondence using a document management system. This means the capacity, speed and performance of the underlying IT infrastructure is critical in keeping the business up and running.
Delivering More with Less
A network re-design was undertaken with a Gigabit backbone and Gigabit speeds to the desktop. The existing server farm of 23 devices was reduced down to just 2 IBM SAN Storage chassis with 3 blade servers. By virtualising the company’s key applications, the IT footprint was reduced considerably and the cost of adding new applications or allocating more processing resources to existing ones has been drastically slashed. “The comms room is definitely a tidier place to be these days,” comments Sarah Sheridan. “Virtualisation gives us maximum flexibility in terms of managing resources for our critical line of business applications. We can add new IT services easily and eliminate hardware costs by virtue of the scalability of the solution.”
“MJ Flood Technology presented us with a very relevant proposal to match our needs. They have proved yet again their reputation for reliability and technical excellence by delivering on our objectives for this major technology investment.”
Sarah Sheridan, Director of IT, First Ireland Risk Management
Enhanced Customer Service
The Televantage IP Telephony system delivers powerful voice features that help the company’s employees work more effectively. For example, voicemail messages are consolidated within a single account for quick, easy retrieval and response. The solution also boasts powerful call reporting features supporting transparent capacity management as well as performance management for staff. Resources can be easily re-allocated at peak periods thereby reducing call wait times. The imminent addition of a GSM gateway will further reduce the costs associated with mobile calls.
“Televantage supports our ethos of building personal relationships with our customers,” says Sarah Sheridan. “We try to avoid a rigid call-centre structure to our operations. Our staff spend time with our clients, understanding their needs and advising them on the best possible fit for their insurance needs.”
Meeting Regulatory Requirements
The IP telephony solution also delivers “off the shelf” call recording which meets First Ireland’s regulatory requirements. A 5 TB storage area network provides a durable and reliable repository for the company’s electronic data, which must be stored for a period of 6 years.
More Control with Less Administration
The deployment of Terminal Services with thin client at the desktop has enabled the company to centrally “lock down” the desktop with maximum control. With only one person looking after IT for 83 users, this is hugely beneficial as it significantly cuts down on administration overheads and avoids the installation of unauthorised and potentially harmful software which can be installed by users. “Thin client technology is a perfect fit for First Ireland,” comments James Finglas, managing director with MJ Flood Technology. “It delivers the control, scale and responsiveness which the business requires and maximises return on investment.”
One of the country’s busiest hospitals, St. Vincent’s University Hospital has rationalised technical support vendors and enhanced IT service delivery at lower cost, with the help of leading IT services company MJ Flood Technology.
By bundling a reactive support package with pro-active professional services, the company has helped the hospital’s IT department to deliver more reliable, more flexible and enhanced IT services for less.
A technology refresh at leading property consultants, Bannon has significantly reduced IT administration costs and boosted competitive advantage. The refresh, designed and deployed by MJ Flood Technology has resulted in a more robust, secure IT infrastructure for Bannon and helps the company to boost enterprise agility and successfully challenge larger competitors.
Bannon manages some of the country’s largest and most successful retail centres such as the Pavilions in Swords, Co. Dublin, Athlone Town Centre and Whitewater in Newbridge, Co. Kildare. The company openly embraces technology to run its business and is committed to using its power to better service its client base and support team of over 50 people.
“The property market has undergone a radical transformation in a relatively short period of time,” according to Damian Bannon, IT Manager with Bannon. “Bannon has had to adapt in line with those changes. Our focus on the twin strands of property management and asset management has put our company firmly back on a path of growth and this has been one of the chief factors driving our technology refresh,” he adds.
A Virtualised Core Infrastructure
As part of the project, staff at MJ Flood Technology re-designed a new network core to serve the company’s 50 users. The server farm was virtualised using VMware technology, reducing the number of servers from 10 to just 2. This has resulted in reduced administration overheads and an improvement in speed and performance. “New applications can be easily added by simply firing up a new virtual server,” according to Bannon. “We no longer have to worry about purchasing or provisioning new hardware. It’s as easy as point and click.”
A Citrix upgrade provides secure remote access to the company’s line of business application, the lifeblood of Bannon’s business model. Remote access to “TRAMPS” allows Bannon’s largest retail operators to raise service orders and/or purchase orders in the field, covering everything from cleaning services and security to signmakers and utilities. The invoice is then dealt with and paid by Bannon. The entire process is paperless and replaces the use of couriers between offices which was both costly and time-consuming.
“Technology enables us to successfully challenge larger competitors. We have a long-standing relationship with staff at MJ Flood Technology, who deliver for us time and time again.”
Damian Bannon, IT Manager, Bannon
“Our innovative technology footprint allows us to compete with much larger organisations,” explains Bannon. “Thanks to online property management, we can also provide property owners with real-time financial reports. This will be extended to a web interface later this year and we have the confidence of knowing that our back-end systems are secure and robust enough to protect the integrity of data as it passes across the Internet.”
Plenty of Scope for Data Growth with Assured Protection
“HP SAN technology plays a key role in the overall virtualisation strategy we defined for Bannon,” explains Declan Owens, Sales Account Manager with MJ Flood Technology. “We chose a HP Storage Area Network (SAN) as it provides a consolidated approach to their virtualised infrastructure with efficient data management and provides 5TB of raw storage capacity, leaving plenty of scope for data growth,” he adds.
“Data growth has slowed somewhat,” comments Bannon. “Previously 60% of our data would have consisted of very large Photoshop files, some of which could have been 2GB in size. However, the re-focus of our business to property and asset management has resulted in a more linear growth which can be comfortably catered for by the capacity, resiliency and reliability of the HP SAN.”
Disaster recovery was also addressed as part of the overall project. Full or incremental backups can be taken daily using a Veeam backup and replication solution. Bannon have moved away from tape, which had let them down in the past and now perform reliable back-ups of mission-critical data to another site, adjacent to Bannon’s headquarters.
“Always On” Email Management
In an effort to address the challenges associated with managing email, Bannon chose Mimecast., a cloud-based unified email management system which provides continuity, archiving and email filtering. “Mimecast was absolutely invaluable to us during the technology refresh,” explains Bannon. “Email communication was always available to staff even if our servers were down. In addition, the self-service mechanism of allowing individual users to release or block mails as required, ensures I no longer have to get involved processing requests to unblock legitimate email traffic. I can spend my time on much more strategic tasks such as our project to help retail clients use the power of social media to drive their business.”
One of the country’s largest private providers of operations and maintenance solutions for water infrastructure has chosen MJ Flood Technology to assist in its migration to a cloud delivery strategy for its Microsoft business applications and virtualisation of its server infrastructure.
Celtic Anglian Water’s 96 users now access a hosted version of Microsoft Exchange as their main email application while IT staff have slashed administration time and carbon footprint thanks to virtualisation of the server infrastructure.
With offices in six locations in Ireland, serving customers here and in the UK, information technology is a mission-critical function for Celtic Anglian Water. “We are a progressive organisation,” explains Ciaran Callan, IT manager with CAW.
“We are continually looking at ways of engineering our business operations as carbon neutral and the IT function is no different. An infrastructure refresh presented us with an opportunity to choose an approach that would meet that objective.”
Ciaran Callan, IT manager with CAW
Onsite versus Offsite Microsoft Exchange
The first challenge presented to staff at MJ Flood Technology centred on the deployment of reliable and scalable email management. “Our previous Exchange deployment was creaking at the seams and was nearing its data store limit of 75 GB,” explains Ciaran Callan. “I was easily spending up to half a day per week troubleshooting email issues. Opting for a hosted solution essentially removes the infrastructure we were responsible for and passes it to a third party and with it parameters of reliability and application uptime,” he adds.
Opting for Microsoft 365 and hosted Exchange delivers a number of tangible business benefits to CAW as Guido Marchetti, senior account manager with MJ Flood Technology explains. “Microsoft 365 brings an “evergreen” dynamic to the email infrastructure in that CAW will always be working on the latest version of Exchange. The architecture is manageable and with the option of also using SharePoint, Office Communications Server and Office Live Meeting, it delivers a serious amount of technology for a low price point per user.”
“MJ Flood Technology were the natural choice for us. Our long-term relationship with the team ensured they are familiar with our business and our IT infrastructure and in the best position to recommend a suitable solution to us.”
Ciaran Callan, IT manager, Celtic Anglian Water
Building a More Resilient Infrastructure
Adopting a cloud-based strategy has also extended to the company’s server infrastructure and CAW took the decision to virtualise, based on Microsoft’s Hyper-V technology platform and HP hardware. The HP DL380 servers are specified to run all applications on a single node with automatic failover. This introduces a new level of resiliency to CAW’s mission-critical infrastructure.
With Hyper-V, the company has cut the active number of servers from 8 to 6, which reduces power consumption and energy costs. “We used to have a full rack in our comms room,” explains Callan. “Now we just need half a rack which reduces space requirements quite considerably. In addition, virtual servers can be configured in a short space of time and new applications can be added to the network quickly and easily.”
The HP hardware bundle also incorporates a disk array for data storage. “We have about 120 GB of production data,” explains Callan. “The deployment of the Storage Area Network (SAN) gives us total peace of mind that our mission-critical data is secure and can be retrieved at will.”
Exploiting the Power of Remote Desktop
With all applications centralised at the Santry premises in Dublin, users had previously accessed them via thin client. This access method had proved unreliable with lots of latency and poor application response times for remote users. “We introduced Windows 7 to the desktop and Windows Server 2008 to the mix,” explains Marchetti. “This allows users to tap into Microsoft’s Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) feature to access critical line of business applications such as Sage at the central site. RDP delivers high performance, reliability and predictability to application delivery and allowed CAW to retire two servers which had previously been running the thin client application.”
“Our new infrastructure significantly reduces IT administration time and delivers reliable and responsive computing services to all of our staff,” according to Callan. “The other modules in Microsoft 365 give us a platform to build on and for example the future deployment of Office Live Meeting will further cut operational costs and boost staff productivity.”
The independent, public body responsible for ensuring the protection of the Irish people against the harmful effects of radiation, has upgraded its IT infrastructure with the help of MJ Flood Technology. The new architecture, based on HP, VMware and Veeam, provides this critical agency with greater application performance, higher systems availability and all at lower cost.
“We realised that many of our servers were approaching end of life,” explains Paul Fitzgerald,” manager of information management with the RPII. “We went out to tender for a new virtualised server and storage infrastructure, recognising the significant cost-savings that could be made by using these technologies. In fact, cost and disaster recovery were the over-riding requirements driving the solution and choice of service provider,” he adds.
A Mission-Critical Operation
“We use best practice methodology in all our implementations,” comments Gareth Madden, sales director at MJ Flood Technology. “Rather than approaching the project as a one size fits all, we worked with the RPII to understand their existing infrastructure and to recycle existing devices into the current architecture, thereby protecting their investment in technology and meeting their requirements around resiliency.”
The server/storage hardware was upgraded from Dell to HP. At the core, the HP StorageWorks P4300 (formerly LeftHand) forms the primary storage array, reducing SAN costs and eliminating risk with high data availability through synchronous and asynchronous data replication at no additional cost. A total of 12 servers were virtualised using VMware with Veeam providing the platform for image replication to protect data.
“There are three layers of resiliency provided, ensuring data protection and swift recovery management,” explains Madden. “At one level, Veeam integrates with the virtualised infrastructure to provide image replication to an onsite backup server. There is also a separate backup to tape facility powered by Symantec while Veeam also provides the platform for offsite backup to another server located at the RPII’s second office. Recovery time per server has been almost halved,” he adds.
“Project implementation was excellent. I was impressed by the level of technical capability demonstrated by the MJ Flood Technology staff.”
Paul Fitzgerald, manager of information management with the RPII.
Technology in Action
A recent requirement to set up an application server for a short-term project gave staff at the RPII the opportunity to put their new technology into action. “We are undertaking an assessment of the likely impact on Ireland of the construction and operation of new nuclear power plants in the UK,” explains Paul Fitzgerald. “This required a new server to host an application, which uses mathematical modelling to complete the task. Prior to the upgrade, we would have had to purchase a server and commission it, costing at least €6,000. However, thanks to our new virtualised infrastructure, I was able to provide a server with good processing power within an hour. Practical cases like this really demonstrate the power of technology to the business and position IT as a real business enabler,” he adds.
Smaller IT Footprint with Reduced Energy Costs
The new infrastructure delivers other benefits to the RPII. For example, IT staff were able to reduce the space requirements in the comms room by removing two full cabinets of kit – a welcome development as space is at a premium at the RPII’s office. “Reducing the footprint was great,” comments Fitzgerald. “However, we are also able to deliver greater speed and performance on application response times, making for a better user experience,” he adds.
The server/storage infrastructure also provides the RPII with other features and benefits, which can be configured as required. For example, thin provisioning which allows administrators to allocate disk space only as data is actually written to that volume, increases efficiency and utilisation of the storage hardware.
“Overall project implementation was excellent,” concludes Paul Fitzgerald. “I was impressed by the level of technical capability demonstrated by the MJ Flood Technology staff.”