Founded in 1861 as Sale Football Club, Sale Sharks is a professional rugby union club based in Greater Manchester. It is one of the oldest English rugby clubs and currently plays at the AJ Bell Stadium in Manchester, which has a capacity of 12,000.
The Club has worked with Probrand since 2016, sourcing managed support including patching and monitoring for its users, who number fewer than 100. Probrand also provides Office 365 services for the Club along with some security services including managed antivirus.
Sale found itself under technical pressure as it planned a move from its existing training ground to the old Manchester City facility at Carrington. The Club had assumed that because most of its IT operations happened in the cloud, it wouldn't need to move its existing IT equipment to the new site. However, several pieces of on-site equipment were still vital to its operations, and it realised late in the day that it needed technical help with the move.
The Club had two Dell tower servers, a micro server, and an existing switch and power distribution unit (PDU) in its server rack managing various functions including domain control and some Sage accounting. It also had to move a network attached storage device containing valuable game video footage that it used in its play analysis and strategic planning.
Things were in disarray at the incumbent site. Sale had worked with a separate company for its telecommunications solution. It had old equipment including switches and telephones that stretched back for years. Although much of it was still switched on, Club staff didn't know which equipment was in active use. It had no asset management database to keep track of these assets.
The Club realised that it needed technical help in late March, just three weeks before the move and turned to Probrand for help. The situation was complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic, because the country was on lockdown.
"We had no idea how to sort through this equipment, move it safely, or set it up again," explains Paul Smith, Sales Sharks Rugby Club. "We needed expert help to keep our IT running, and we needed it quickly."
Probrand got to work immediately, planning the move to minimise disruption and maximise safety. It assessed the server room at the existing training ground, which was split into two with communications equipment on one side and IT on the other. Probrand's team audited the existing equipment using a combination of on-site photos and remote access to identify what hardware was still in use.
A complete site-to-site IT move is usually disruptive, but the pandemic worked in the project's favour because both sites were shut down. Probrand's engineer took a day to move all the equipment and another to install and configure it, taking all necessary health precautions along the way.
The Probrand engineer assessed the power infrastructure at the new site and connected the new equipment accordingly, adjusting the positioning of equipment in the new location's server rack to make better use of the space.
No Probrand engineer likes to see a chaotic cable room, so he also took the opportunity to tidy and reorder Sale's on-premises IT infrastructure during the move, tidying the cabling for more streamlined and efficient future operation.
"This was one of the most satisfying aspects of the project," said Paul. "Walking into the server room and seeing everything neatly arranged reassures us that everything is running safely and securely with no loose ends."
One difference between the old and new sites was the internet connectivity. Sale inherited a 1Gbit fibre link at Carrington, giving it more bandwidth than it had before. This gave the Club an opportunity to enhance its communications infrastructure.
The Club didn't have a proper firewall, instead relying on a router that provided some basic firewall and wireless LAN functions. To protect Sale's communications, Probrand installed an enterprise-class firewall as a managed service, amortising the cost of the equipment, installation, and support over 36 months.
This security service complemented a Mimecast cloud-based Secure Email Gateway that Probrand had installed for Sale a year earlier following an unsuccessful phishing attack on the Club. This device shielded it from spear-phishing attacks along with malware and spam.
Now safely migrated to the new site, Sale enjoys a tidier, streamlined local server room that is easy to navigate. It also benefits from enhanced security protections for all of its staff, most of whom have been working from laptops at home. The managed firewall filters content for Sale's users and gives them proven protection from viruses and spyware. It also offers cutting-edge intrusion prevention system (IPS) technology to mitigate any attacks should they make their way inside the Club's infrastructure.
"This has given us great peace of mind," explains Paul. "Probrand has our network security completely covered, and its managed service option means that we don't have to worry about management or configuration."