Replacement of the core Network Infrastructure
Hancock Cash and Carry are a wholesale confectionary distributor with 21 Depots nationwide. There is also a large HQ and Distribution Centre and over 300 staff across the business. Hancock’s approached ESP with major problems; they wanted to grow the business, but the IT systems were holding them back.
There were a multitude of different problems to overcome, but effectively, they covered 3 major areas; 1. Core Network Infrastructure. 2. Telephone Systems. 3. Software Systems. In this particular case study, we will explain how we went about improving the Core Network Infrastructure, however separate case studies surrounding a new VoIP Phone System and Software Systems can be found by following those links.
ESP Projects began working with Hancock’s in the spring of 2015. Key aspects of the system that they wanted to develop were:
- Office 365 for email
- Active Directory Sync
- Distributed File System
- Database Synchronization
- Remote Desktop Services
- Managed Switches
- Windows Server 2012 R2
- Disaster Recovery
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We started by auditing everything that Hancock’s had in place, from Internet Connectivity, Servers & End User devices. We then began to create a plan of how to get the network to really benefit the company and its staff.
We decided that the overall model of the network would be a Remote Desktop Services based system, which provided centralised management along with the benefit of being able to concentrate the bulk of the financial spend on a single set of hardware. Remote Desktop does, however, rely on good quality internet connectivity. It turned out that there was already a Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) which would be perfect for what we needed but may need improvements.
After several meetings with the customer, together we decided that 5 servers would be required along with Office 365 for email. We then set out to work on how they would be implemented, in such a way that the business could continue to trade. Three servers were to be based at Head Office, with 2 being placed in a UK Datacentre to form part of a disaster recovery plan, should anything ever happen at the Head Office Location. Databases, files, Active Directory and various other resources, would be replicated between Head Office and the Datacentre on a regular basis. Multiple Remote Desktop Servers (virtualised and physical) would be available both at Head Office and at the Datacentre.
Our engineers discussed with the management team, the easiest way to roll out the new system. We decided that the server work could happen first, without directly impacting on users. Once this was complete, we’d look to do a data migration which would take place in various steps. The email was separated from data and other resources as this was identified as mission critical.
The work was to be completed over a 2 week period, using 6 engineers.
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The engineers were split into two groups, those working at Head Office / Distribution Centre and those working at the Depots around the country who were in turn, separated out into different geographic areas. During the first two days, the entire team would work at Head Office, to get the project underway with men on the ground! The server hardware was installed and configured on day one, with the software also getting some attention. Thin clients were rolled out to all staff at Head Office and Distribution, but connected besides each person’s existing PCs. Once everything was in place and ready, emails were switched to Office 365 and users were asked to access it via webmail until they had their new device in place. Other user data and network resources were copied over to the new server hardware and then out of office hours, all users equipment was replaced. When staff returned the following day, the engineers set out to work with every individual to ensure that they had access to everything they needed and resolved any ‘niggles’. Three servers had been implemented at Head Office, the first contained Active Directory, file data and a VM to be used as a backup Remote Desktop Server. The second was the Database server, implemented to run the company’s main Database system plus some other databases. The third was the Physical Remote Desktop Server. Other roles were split between the servers, but in the main, this was the configuration. Two servers were implemented at the Datacentre, one being the backup for the Database system and the other having various Virtual Machines installed, all acting as backups for various services that had been implemented at Head Office.
Next to get our attention were the Depots. Engineers had to get around these sites very quickly, staying in hotels all over the country to make sure that they were close to the next site that needed our attention. New thin clients were implemented at all sites and various PC work was undertaken on the Till Systems, in preparation for a later piece of work which was to implement a replacement database system – completed by a third party. Our engineers communicated with the managers at each site, to ensure that the staff on the ground had everything they needed.
Another important part of this project was to improve the support offered to staff on a day-to-day basis. They were provided with access to our Helpdesk and Onsite Support teams, which operate from 7 am until 6 pm Monday to Friday and for this customer, also on a Saturday. The helpdesk operates on an unlimited basis, staff are able to contact us as many times as they need to get issues rectified, but not only that, they are able to ask for help if they get stuck with the many different office applications at their disposal, “how do I do…..” type questions are not outside of the scope of this agreement.
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