International Art Materials Supplier Daler - Rowney Invest in IT Systems and Use Local Support Company

"The original systems were no longer providing the flexibility and functionality we needed."
TR, Daler-Rowney

Project name:

Infrastructure refresh

Project description:

The History

Although a leader in the art materials world there had been no significant investment in the IT infrastructure for a number of years. As a result systems were becoming outdated and the Daler-Rowney IT team were spending an increasing amount of time ‘managing’ issues that were having a negative impact on the business.

The UK head office in Bracknell and two regional sites (Wareham and Belgium) were running Netware whilst the US office had a Windows 2000 Active Directory. The manufacturing office in Dominican Republic and regional office in Paris had no significant IT infrastructure.

A legacy MS mail system was straining under the increased demands as email became the communication medium of choice both internally and with customers.

A number of critical applications were hosted on ageing and unreliable hardware. Tape backups were being taken in Bracknell and Belgium and were starting to fail due to increasingly
unreliable tape drives. Remote access was provided by dial up and IPSec VPN solutions that were difficult for non-technical members of staff to use.

The Business Need

Daler-Rowney’s IT team were facing a number of challenges due to failing hardware, obsolete operating systems and application software.

  • There was an immediate need to upgrade the hardware and make it reliable. However this introduced its own problems as legacy operating systems and applications would not run on new hardware.
  • There was a need to integrate all sites into a common Directory Service to enable centralised management from the UK head office.
  • The email system needed to be robust and able to handle the demands of today’s email centric communications.
  • A reliable backup solution would need to be deployed, consolidating lots of different solutions and associated media to manage.
  • There was an increased demand from users to be able to access applications and email from home or remote locations.

The existing solution needed to be replaced.

The Solution

It soon became apparent this was not a simple upgrade project therefore it was decided to redesign the infrastructure from the ground up.

Having reviewed trends in the IT industry it was agreed that the new systems at the head office should be virtualised. This would allow the production servers at the head office to run on fewer physical servers and present more options for additional application capacity and high availability.

After careful consideration VMware was selected as the virtualisation hypervisor. Daler-Rowney chose a combination of HP and Dell hardware for the various server, storage and network functions. Four servers would be deployed in Bracknell, 3 Virtual hosts and 1 dedicated physical backup server. Remote servers were also deployed in the larger regional offices at Wareham, New Jersey and La Romana.

A SAN would provide the shared storage for the Virtual Machines. This would maintain the high availability required in the event of a host server failure. Having evaluated various offerings the Dell iSCSI EqualLogic PS series was chosen for its scalability, performance and ease of management.

In order to centralise administration and improve systems integration between regional offices a brand new Windows Server Active Directory Domain was built and each office migrated over.

When considering a new remote access solution one of the prerequisites was that it had to be easy to use, secure and accessible from any PC with Internet connectivity.

To meet these requirements secure application and network access was provided by AEP Networks Series A appliances located in Bracknell and the USA. The Series A appliances have the option of being virtualised so this was taken in order to simplify management and reduce the hardware count at the HQ. The Series A provides secure granular access to data and resources via Terminal Server sessions and SSL VPN links.

MS Exchange was chosen as the new messaging system for its integration with Active Directory, performance and features.

A new autoloader would be deployed in Bracknell to consolidate backups with Symantec Backup Exec protecting both servers and desktops.

To aid proactive management, centralised deployment of security fixes and software packages, System Center Essentials was installed and configured.

Network connectivity and security was provided by SonicWALL appliances. They deliver robust, affordable and easily manageable Internet security solutions, protecting the network resources of the branch offices and UK HQ.

SonicWALL’s scalable security provides secure data communications and protects online transactions. The appliances were deployed in each region allowing the use of site to site
VPN links and seamless connectivity between offices. Their bolt on features including Web Content Filtering and centralised ViewPoint reporting was of particular interest to Daler-Rowney.

The Project Approach

The project was implemented using a tailored PRINCE2 methodology. A comprehensive Project Initiation Document (PID) was the first step.

This outlined:

  • Terms of Reference
  • Roles and Responsibilities
  • Project Objectives and Scope
  • Constraints and Assumptions
  • Project Structure
  • Deliverables
  • Timescales and Milestones
  • Reporting and Control

The project was then broken down into a number of phases. This provided easy budgeting for Daler-Rowney, safe in the knowledge that project costs would not escalate out of control. The scope of each phase was agreed and work schedules assigned.

The business stakeholders were provided with regular updates and highlight reports to keep them informed of progress. Each phase was signed off before starting subsequent ones, thus ensuring there were no issues that could impact future phases.

Server virtualisation has provided a number of benefits: significantly reduced hardware costs, increased resilience, a reduction in power consumption and heat output. Daler-Rowney enefit from the increased flexibility, and reliability brought about by virtualisation. It also simplifies the management and recoverability of the server environments by reducing the dependency on specific hardware.

The integration of all sites into a WAN (wide area network), with a common Directory Service has enabled the centralised administration and monitoring of all systems and has allowed for a robust, integrated email system.

Remote access solutions have enabled greater flexibility allowing a remote workforce to work smarter and more efficiently.

The Support

Having completed the project Daler-Rowney needed a support partner that had the skills and resources to help them maximise their investment and support the new infrastructure.

In selecting a support partner Daler-Rowney wanted to use a local company that had in-depth knowledge of the technologies that had been installed and could provide a tailored support
structure that would meet their needs. They didn’t want to be tied to an expensive annual contract or have to speak to an anonymous person in a call centre.

IS People’s flexible support approach appealed to Daler-Rowney, whereby blocks of support time are paid for in advance and can be used to access IS People’s industry leading skills for either remote, telephone or onsite support.

This suited Daler-Rowney because as they became more familiar with the technologies deployed the need for regular support would diminish over time.

In addition to the flexible support, IS People’s free proactive monitoring seamlessly integrates with Daler-Rowney’s own infrastructure providing the ability to quickly identify, diagnose and resolve issues with minimal disruption.

Company Background

Established in 1783 Daler-Rowney is the world’s premier supplier of art materials for amateur and professional artists alike.

Key Facts

The Challenge

To upgrade the aging IT infrastructure and systems software in the UK head office and regional offices to centralise management, improve communications and provide a high degree of availability for critical systems. To provide ongoing support services for the IT Team as they become familiar with the new systems.

The Solution

VMware technology creates a virtual infrastructure that streamlines IT administration while providing greater availability and redundancy. Dell EqualLogic provides a cost effective, scalable storage infrastructure that lowers the cost of data management. Microsoft server technologies provide a familiar, robust platform on which to host business critical applications

The New Infrastructure

3x HP Proliant DL Servers (Bracknell VMware Hosts) 1x HP Proliant DL Server(Bracknell Backup Server) 4x HP Proliant ML Servers (Wareham, USA, and Dominican Republic regional offices) 1x HP Autoloader (consolidated Server and Laptop backups at Bracknell) HP Procurve Switches Dell EqualLogic iSCSI SAN VMware Virtualisation Technology Windows Server Active Directory Windows Server Terminal Services Exchange Server Email System Center Essentials (server management) AEP Series A Virtualised and appliance based Remote Access Solutions Sonicwall Firewalls, gateway services and ViewPoint reporting Websense email filtering