The Castle Climbing Centre in London is the busiest indoor climbing centre in Europe.
For two years, Control Esc had provided third-line and holiday support for the Centre’s IT Manager, when a sudden illness left him incapacitated and unable to provide a formal handover to Control Esc.
Control Esc devised a rapid response plan to keep the Climbing Centre running, but as they began their system-wide assessment, they discovered that the entire system was unstable and that there had been no data back-ups for several months. Because the current IT department was potentially liable should there be a sudden system failure resulting in the loss of critical business data, Control Esc felt it prudent to bring in a disinterested third party to assess the situation. This allowed management to objectively document the findings in order to fairly revue the conduct of the existing IT department.
This particular system had been allowed to drift to a dangerous level of disrepair, but it often requires a crisis to motivate a thorough re-examination of the IT infrastructure and to appreciate the vital role it plays in the smooth functioning of a business.
Management and Control Esc both viewed this crisis as an opportunity to make system-wide improvements that would reduce ongoing support costs and make the business run more efficiently.
The Centre’s computer systems were typical of a small business, with computers of different ages and capacities, all requiring a high degree of site-specific knowledge to support. The range of desktops, thin clients and laptops with different operating systems and software versions were already seen as a drain on the IT Manager’s resources, and the inefficiencies of the aging infrastructure were beginning to affect the operation of the busy reception desk.
These inefficiencies build up slowly, and are most often not the fault of the IT Manager, but the result of limited budgets and misplaced priorities.
As this is a familiar scenario for a growing business, Control Esc knows just what action to take.
First, Control Esc provided on-site staff to make sure there were no catastrophic hardware failures. Then a team was assembled to quickly draw up a plan to take advantage of recent technology advances that would help simplify the infrastructure, and make it easier to support and maintain.
Desktops and Warranties
The first priority was to get everyone on the same versions of system and business software while methodically upgrading the oldest hardware.
The Control Esc plan accommodated the company’s stringent environmental policy by recycling existing computers and limiting outright hardware replacement.
By simply replacing the hard drives in older machines with solid state drives, they were able to provide a performance boost to the older computers while reducing their energy usage and extending their useful life by 2-3 years.
Control Esc replaced older warranty-less machines with small form-factor Dell PCs that mounted on the back of the monitors to reduce cable clutter. For the reception computer and other mission-critical machines, five-year, same-day service warranties were introduced.
It was discovered that much of the software licensing was out of date or missing, which made the management and verification of the software assets more difficult.
The new computers were all installed with the same versions of Microsoft Windows and Office software, and an automated process was introduced so that, in the event of software corruption, the client could easily rebuild and reconfigure a computer in less than an hour without the need for assistance from the IT department.
By eliminating the thin clients, Control Esc removed an entire layer of server complexity and licensing, saving money to offset the cost of the new desktops.
Servers and the Network
In order to make the overall system more resilient and improve disaster recovery time, multiple servers and storage arrays were consolidated onto new virtual servers split between the client’s location and a remote data centre. Switches and firewalls were simplified to reduce both the number of units and the electrical load, but also to provide automatic failover in the event of a dropped internet connection.
By hosting remote workers on the data centre servers, the workload was reduced on the client servers. This had the dual benefit of improving both remote access and computer performance in the office.
The Castle Climbing Centre is in a vast Victorian pump house in the style of a medieval castle, making consistent wireless reception a challenge. Control Esc managed to reconfigure the wireless routers to give customers an isolated guest network while providing staff a secure and strong wireless signal throughout the building for use with their wireless phones, laptops and mobile devices.
Phones and Cabling
The existing phone system was a freepbx dedicated server, with separate inbound and outbound telecoms providers. This configuration, combined with intermittent internet service and routing issues, made diagnosing problems difficult and time-consuming.
By migrating to a virtual hosted VOIP platform with a single provider, Control Esc reduced the need for dedicated hardware, removed two layers of service provider, and was able to install phones throughout the building by using reliable PoE switches.
The new system managed to eliminate outages, cut costs, and resulted in significant improvements in voicemail workflow and account management.
Custom Software and IP
Over the years, The Castle Climbing Centre had developed a variety of custom software applications, booking systems, and websites with little supporting documentation.
Control Esc initiated a central source-code control system where third-party developers could add their application code. This system allows the client to protect their intellectual property, while making it easier to delegate work to developers, track progress, and control access to the source-code. The result is better management of software development, reduced costs, and fewer cost overruns.
Ongoing Maintenance and Support
Because the new system at The Castle Climbing Centre is so much more efficient to manage, Control Esc were able to offer the client an all-inclusive IT support package at a reasonable fixed monthly cost. As a result, the client decided not to replace their IT Manager and has instead relied exclusively on Control Esc for all their IT support and maintenance, significantly reducing their monthly costs.