• ICT infrastructure transformation at Swanswell


Swanswell is a national recovery charity, which believes in a society free from problem alcohol and drug use. They help over 10,000 people a year, both face-to-face and remotely. Swanswell has approximately 300 team members, the vast majority of whom work with service users in the community to some degree.

The Challenge - A high number of support requests

Swanswell had been receiving a high number of support requests from team members experiencing issues with their IT equipment. These problems were affecting productivity and employee morale, and Swanswell wanted to cut these incidents down to a minimum.

An inspection of the support requests revealed the majority of issues could be traced back to ageing architecture in the organisation’s data centre. It became clear that in order to improve employee productivity, Swanswell would need to refresh its network infrastructure and cabling.

Kashmir Heer, Swanswell IT Infrastructure Manager, said: “The support requests from end users were fairly varied. People were having problems sending emails or they couldn’t open files, but in the end it all came down to the infrastructure at the back end. Our ageing architecture had become the cause of a major headache.”

With a large number of employees working in the field, Swanswell also needed to improve remote access. Given the nature of its work, and the data privacy requirements of its partners, it was imperative that systems were accessed securely and data was safe at all times. “We needed a robust solution which would give access without compromising our systems or data,” Kashmir said.

The Solution - VMWare environment

Probrand Ltd investigated Swanswell’s IT problems and discovered that a number of legacy virtual servers in the data centre were responsible for many of the issues staff were encountering. As the inherited virtual environment was proving to be unstable, it was decided to re-provision and migrate ten servers to a more robust VMWare environment, in addition Probrand rebuilt three existing virtual servers to future proof the new infrastructure.

After a review of the physical infrastructure, Probrand also replaced several network switches with the intention of removing potential bottlenecks and increasing traffic. The physical hardware hosting the virtualised environment was also replaced by two faster and more efficient HP servers.

Rather than disposing of the old hardware, Probrand creatively redeployed the existing equipment at a new co-located Disaster Recovery (DR) centre. The creation of a DR centre will now ensure Swanswell’s data is protected in an off-site location, in the event a disaster hits the main data centre. A new NetApp Storage Area Network (SAN) was also installed in the DR centre to replicate data from the primary data centre, providing double fail-over and peace of mind.

To ensure remote workers can access systems safely and efficiently,Probrand deployed a Dell Sonicwall Secure Socket Layer Virtual Private Network (SSL VPN). It also protected the organisation’s network with a Dell Sonicwall next generation firewall.

The Benefits - Time saving, secure and backup.

The refresh of Swanswell’s infrastructure, and introduction of data protection solutions, has produced numerous benefits for the organisation. It is now experiencing fewer calls to the helpdesk, mobile workers have secure authenticated access to systems and sensitive information is secure from the threats of cybercrime. All systems, workloads and data are also safely backed-up in the event of any failure in the primary data centre.

Helpdesk calls dropped 40%

Since undergoing the refresh, the datacentre has become more efficient and robust. The number of calls received by the support desk have almost halved since deployment. This is now helping Swanswell be more productive both in the office and when working remotely.

“The statistics speak for themselves, support calls have dropped by 40% per month within two months of the solution being implemented,’’ said Kashmir. ‘‘We have fewer team members wasting time on calls to the support desk and that clearly has a knock effect for productivity. People can get on with what they are supposed to be doing without the distractions created when the tools of their job let them down. Our team has also released time to focus on more strategic tasks.”

Robust remote access

By providing a secure remote connection, through a VPN, case workers can now safely access the company network and systems while out of the office. Kashmir claims this is helping staff to achieve more during the course of a standard working day.

“Our team members can now stay out longer in the field as there is less need to come into the office – they can do most things remotely now. This is reducing the time lost during travel and has again transformed the way we operate. This is better for our team members, our partners and ultimately the people we are here to help. It has radically cut admin time and has enabled us to deliver a better service in the field.”

Greater protection from threats

By introducing a next generation firewall, internet bandwidth has been maximised and Swanswell is protected from modern web threats and coupled with a DR facility, it has cemented business continuity. The organisation has ensured that even if there is a catastrophic failing in their data centre, they can carry on operating as usual.

“We needed to ensure we are protected against modern day threats, and it is reassuring to know that everything is now securely backed up, in the event that anything ever did go wrong,” said Kashmir. “Having this level of protection in place is not just important to us but it also helps maintain the confidence of our partners.”

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