• Probrand Supercharges IT At CCSS Ltd

Client

Close Circuit Security Services Ltd (CCSS) is a security company with over 115 employees founded in 1998 by electronic security subcontractor Martin Hulse. Hulse repaired a defunct door entry system for a client who was so impressed that he began using Hulse’s services regularly. Hulse expanded his business, which now employs over 115 people and services a range of safety systems including fire alarms, emergency lighting and warden call systems and security systems including Intruder alarms, CCTV, and automated gates/barriers.

CCSS services thousands of properties for clients including social landlords, local councils, NHS Health Trusts, and educational institutions. It has been a Probrand customer since before the formation of its services business.

Challenge

In 2016, CCSS had attempted to cut costs by using another services company to supply computing equipment, and used its own electricians to build and cable a rack for it. Within 12 months, it parted company with that provider following four serious technology issues.

The first was an inadequate backup and disaster recovery solution, which only backed up some data and didn’t do it frequently enough.

It backed up the company’s data once each day to portable hard drives that employees took offsite manually. This left CCSS with only partial coverage; data created and lost on the same working day was vulnerable. The support provider wasn’t monitoring the backups properly, and they were only working half the time.

The backups only covered Alarm Master, which is a core application handling CCSS’s contracts, workload, and billing, and serving engineers on the road. The system omitted crucial data including email.

The second challenge facing CSSS was the Alarm Master application itself, which wasn’t performing well. The system would slow to a crawl for employees, affecting its customer service.

CCSS’s third challenge exacerbated this problem. Inadequate networking between the CCSS head office in Birmingham and its second office in Warrington cut Alarm Master’s performance by a further two thirds. Staff at the remote office also had problems accessing data from the company’s file servers.

Finally, CCSS faced security challenges. It wanted to introduce remote office functionality, improving the productivity of field engineers and sales staff who could be left idle by inadequate remote access. That meant bolstering its mobile computing capabilities and protecting its data.

CCSS needed a new approach, and it turned once more to Probrand as its trusted service provider for help and advice.

Solution

Probrand advised CCSS to virtualise all the server-based software it had, upgrading one of its existing physical servers and decommissioning another. This left the company with two rack-mounted HP servers. both running VMware Essentials in a clustered configuration. They ran virtual machines containing an Active Directory domain controller and file and print server, Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft Remote Desktop Server (RDS), and Alarm Master. They all connected to an HP SAN running eight 800Gb SSDs to improve Alarm Master’s performance.

This setup enabled CCSS to fulfil its remote office mandate. RDS, along with a SonicWall firewall from Probrand, enabled workers to access systems from home periodically while keeping computing resources secure. Probrand enhanced the flexible working environment with a hotdesk environment for staff that only needed to be in the office occasionally. This involved installing and configuring five laptops along with dual monitor setups and docking stations and migrating those users from their old PCs.

Probrand implemented a managed backup solution from Infrascale that backed up all systems four times each day, with an hourly backup for Alarm Master. The system replicated backups from an on-site storage appliance to the cloud. Both those systems can instantiate backups as virtual servers for instant disaster recovery. Probrand constantly monitors this service to ensure that it is running properly.

Benefit

Probrand’s project delivered several benefits to CCSS. One of them was reliability and peace of mind. It shortened its recovery time objective (RTO) from hours to mere seconds. It also now measures its recovery point objective (RPO) in hours rather than a full day, and it knows that its disaster recovery will work.

CCSS also saved money on the backup and recovery service. The new backup system saves the company at least £3100 per year.

Moving the entire infrastructure to virtual machines on a high-performance SAN also boosted overall system performance. Alarm Master, which is the beating heart of CCSS’s business, now runs 400% faster than it did under the old system.

Finally, Probrand delivered the project with minimal disruption, completing the entire reconfiguration in just two weeks during October 2018.

Now, CCSS has a platform on which to continue its long-term growth, comfortable in the knowledge that its IT systems will support its future direction.

Sarah Kerr, Director at CCSS, said: “After Probrand had finished with our server rack, the cabling was neat and organized and we were only using the physical servers we needed. Everything felt lean and efficient.”

“Now that Probrand has installed on-site backup appliances with cloud replication, we feel more confident that our data is properly protected from physical or logical disasters.”

“Employees used to be embarrassed when speaking to customers on the phone because they’d have to wait for Alarm Master to respond before they could continue. Thanks to Probrand’s server infrastructure, there are no more awkward silences.”

“This whole experience proves that sometimes buying on price alone is a false economy. Probrand’s product knowledge has saved us thousands in ongoing support costs while providing us with a better service,” Kerr concluded.