Case study: Colocation to Cloud Data Centre

Abstract: a multi-disciplinary design agency

Abstract wanted freedom from the limitations and responsibilities of managing their own physical infrastructure — and a service provider they could feel secure with for the future.
1st Easy service summary:
  • VMware powered Cloud Data Centre
  • Colocation to cloud migration consultancy
  • Cloud testing environments

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Company background:
  • 2013 was a year of celebration for Abstract — a multi-disciplinary creative agency based in Warwickshire — marking 25 years of business which has seen them deliver brand creation and management services to global corporates and blue chips such as ALSTOM, Aggreko and Siemens.
  • Abstract have constantly adapted over the years to meet the changing demands of their clients, perhaps most notably in recent years with the development of their web-based application, NetPrint. This tool allows their clients to manage their own branding centrally, using a library of approved elements to ensure uniform presentation of their carefully designed identities right across the board — from posters, to email campaigns and brochures.
  • It was the hosting infrastructure behind all of this technology that several years ago brought Abstract and 1st Easy together.
  • Website: http://abstractmrm.com/
    Daniel Meggitt, Director at Abstract, recalls the early days of their hosting setup:

    “To start with, we looked after our hosting in-house using a high speed leased line to provide the connectivity we needed. As the online side of our business expanded, we decided to outsource some of that responsibility by renting data centre space with a large provider in the London docklands to host our equipment.”

    Practical issues, such as a seven-hour round trip in terms of travel times to the facility, coupled with unsatisfactory service levels led Abstract to seek alternative arrangements closer to home. Daniel toured 1st Easy’s Manchester data centre with their director and co-founder Stephen Bell:

    “The fact that Stephen took the time to personally take us round his operation in real detail gave us genuine confidence that there was a solid physical and support infrastructure in place to take care of our business. Once we were up and running in the new data centre, any issues that we had were resolved quickly, and we knew we could rely on their remote-hands service if we needed any quick jobs taking care of. Individual touches such as lending us hardware when we had a failure only added to the feeling that we were in the right place with 1st Easy.”

    With many of the issues resolved, the colocation arrangement served its purpose for a number of years. However, there were still fundamental problems associated with this way of working — not least the ever-present responsibility for managing a physical infrastructure, as Daniel described:

    “The new location in Manchester was a big improvement. Alongside the confidence we now had in our service provider, if we needed to access our equipment it was much closer. Always at the back of my mind though, was the fact that if a server failed or needed replacing, it would mean a four-hour round trip in the car, and however long on-site fixing the issue. That was a big chunk out of my working day, with important time taken away from my more valuable, natural role within the business. I knew I could get that dreaded call at any time of night or at the weekend too — we have a global client base, and so our systems need to be up all of the time. All this, despite the fact that at heart, we’re a creative agency — we’re not IT specialists. The hardware was still our responsibility, and that was a burden that was holding us back.”
    Quick summary:
    • The team at Abstract are finally free from the burden of maintaining their own physical infrastructure — it is now somebody else’s responsibility. The time and energy previously expended on managing hardware has been handed back to the business, while capital expenditure for running the technical side of the operation has been reduced.
    • New compute resources can be accessed on demand, and existing virtual machines can easily be cloned, vastly reducing the timescales involved when expansion is required, and offering the company a new level of agility to respond quickly to client requirements.
    • The inherent resilience of a virtualised infrastructure has helped to ensure round-the-clock availability of Abstract’s NetPrint web application to their global client base.

     

    “The move to the cloud took a lot of planning and effort on everyone’s part but has been worth it. Not only for the reduction in stress levels now that we have passed the hardware responsibility over to 1st Easy but also the fact that we can spin servers up and down as and when we need them. The flexibility that has given us is immeasurable. We are looking forward to our continued working relationship with 1st Easy as we strive to be the leader in Brand Control.”

    Daniel Meggitt — Director, Abstract

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