The success of a major IT project is often due as much to how the solution was implemented – as to what exactly was put in place. That’s the opinion of Andy Mellor, network manager at Barnsley Academy, which was why when the Academy decided to refresh its server infrastructure he chose to partner with IT provider XMA.
Mr Mellor said: “A certain proportion of our IT budget is allocated to replacing hardware. In the case of our servers, once they get to four years old we automatically refresh them. So we put the project out to tender and shortlisted three organisations. XMA was one of those companies.
In all honesty, each was proposing very similar solutions. There was not much to choose between them but I picked XMA because of a feeling. It was a feeling I got about the organisation’s people. I thought I could work with them the best. I felt comfortable with them. It was mostly just about the impression they gave me.
Better storage and back-up
Since then, XMA has put in place a SAN installation and server virtualisation project for the Academy. Engineers set up a new SAN and used three servers as a virtualisation platform. Another server acted as a domain controller, management and backup server while the fifth ran the Academy’s MIS solution.
Mr Mellor said: “We used all physical servers before but virtualisation is where technology is headed so this was the next step for us. It has dramatically reduced the amount of energy and space we need to run our servers. The new infrastructure is also faster and more efficient. Our overheads are much reduced and the management of the Academy’s IT systems are easier – with just one place to look at all the servers.”
Mr Mellor added: “One of the key advantages is that the new infrastructure has enabled us to restore our server in 30 minutes where before it would have taken a full day. Disaster recovery time is nothing compared to what it was before and that’s a massive bonus.
“The back-up is also fantastic. My back-up window used to take 30 to 40 hours but now it’s three or four. That’s a massive difference because it enables me to make more storage available to our users. The staff and students don’t notice any difference but the new system has made it so much easier for me to manage with everything being in the same place.”
Experts on hand
Mr Mellow said XMA’s technical expertise was one of the major advantages of using the company. He said: “The technical guys have been great. They were very personable and their knowledge is fantastic. If I ask them to show me anything they are very accommodating. We are a small team here even though the Academy is growing quickly and so access to this technical expertise gives us a step up.”
In fact, this technical knowledge was on display from the very start of the project. Mr Mellor explained: “XMA was the only company that sent a technician to the initial consultation rather than just a sales person. I found that a benefit. The engineer had a look at our system and simply talked through what we needed. All the other companies only sent sales people which gave the meeting a very different vibe.”
An on-going partnership
The IT project is now up and running successfully at Barnsley.
XMA provides the hardware and the systems support for everything they provide. That is also going well. We have had a couple of issues but they have been fantastic in sorting it out. The company has a large knowledge nase and the engineers working with us have just got on to it with no fuss. They have answered any questions and everything has gone very smoothly.