Case Studies

Resilient

by Think iT

Having experienced three years’ worth of rapid growth in revenue, client base and staff numbers since its 2002 listing and an IT environment that quite simply wasn’t keeping pace with that growth, Resilient Property Income Fund in 2005 went in search of an IT partner it could task the day to day running, maintenance and long-term evolution of its technology infrastructure with.

Within weeks of starting its search, Resilient had landed it in the boardroom of Think iT Solutions – a company which Rual Bornman, Resilient’s IT manager says was cut from the same cloth as his company when it came to priorities, customer service and its ability to deliver.

What has followed is a strong, valuable relationship, which Bornman says epitomizes partnership.

Keeping IT on track

“Our company had undergone substantial change in the three years since it’s listing and unfortunately, our IT environment hadn’t adapted accordingly,” Bornman explains.

“We had no doubt that the correct hardware and software choices had been made along the way,” he continues, “but the manner in which the environment had been configured and pieced together clearly needed some attention.”

As most companies realize at some stage in their development lifecycle however, Bornman says, Resilient wasn’t – and by all means today – is not an IT specialist and as such, needed the help of a partner that could come into its environment, get things back on track and continue driving its infrastructure in the right direction.

Dominic Oettl, CEO of Think iT confirms that Resilient had the right building blocks in place, but that these weren’t configured optimally.

“While the Microsoft Small Business Server 2003 was the right choice for the 11 person IT environment Resilient was supporting, there were numerous issues with user permissions, as well as the security and stability of the server,” he says.

“So after a thorough analysis of Resilient’s IT shop, we elected to backup all of the company’s data and redeploy the same server operating system on the same hardware, ensuring all of the elements were correctly configured.

“To this, we added an end-point security solution from CA and a mail-security solution from Mimecast, which eliminated spam and other malware from Resilient’s e-mail – cutting down on both the security risks the company faced and the amount of Internet bandwidth it required to handle its e-mail volumes,” he says.

“This project, concluded within a couple of weeks of taking over Resilient’s IT environment and provided us with a sound, solid and stable platform on which to begin unlocking real value for the customer,” he adds.
 
Oettl says that the steps following the stabilization of Resilient’s environment brought the company in line with international best practises and allowed the maintenance elements of its IT environment to fade into the background.

Part two – implementing best practises

“We started out by standardizing all of Resilient’s desktop client images – allowing for quick recoveries to be orchestrated from desktop side software crashes – and proceeded to furthermore lock-down access to local drives on the desktop, which meant that users had no choice but to save information to a centralized, online data store,” he says.

This paved the way for Resilient’s centralized data store to be backed up and kept safe from harm – first locally to an on-site tape and disk backup set and then to an off-site cloud-based backup solution driven by a tool called Attix 5, which Oettl says Think iT hosted within its own datacenter.

“So essentially, within a couple of months of taking control of Resilient’s IT environment, we had stabilized its IT environment, centralized its information storage and put disaster recovery measures in place to ensure the company’s critical information was kept safe from harm should unforeseen circumstances occur,” he says.

“We were extremely proud of the progress made in such a short time,” he adds.

Bornman says that the work done by Think iT in such a short space of time was extremely valuable, since it allowed the numerous moves of premises and one merger with another company over the years that followed to take place unhindered.

With each move, Bornman says that Think iT ensured that the outsourced parties taking care of the power and data cabling were properly briefed and did a satisfactory job of the reticulation, while at the same time ensuring that breakdown and setup of Resilient’s client-side infrastructure was carried out satisfactorily.

“Think iT’s expertise furthermore carried through to it managing the installation and setup of our Internet connectivity – a dedicated leased line connection on the first move and dual business ADSL solutions with load-balancing technology on the second move,” Bornman adds.

“Think iT furthermore also use the downtime afforded by the moves as an opportunity to build resilience into our wide area network by commissioning the installation of a backup ADSL connection and a wireless iBurst link – measures that could be invoked should hiccups have occurred with our Telkom infrastructure,” he says.

Lastly, Bornman says that for each move, Think iT took it upon itself to move Resilient’s server and storage environment, since this is the most critical portion of the company’s IT environment.

When the company merged with Pangborne Properties LTD in late 2007, Think iT’s integration and consolidation skills once again came into play.

“We did a thorough analysis of both companies’ IT practises, including analyzing what the companies had hosting their SQL server environments, accounting environments and the different property management environments, picked the best from each and took that road forward,” he adds.

For the most part thought, Pangborne’s information and systems were merged into Resilient’s back-end, which was in-turn upgraded with resources from Pangborne’s IT environment to accommodate the additional load.

“The chosen route on the licensing front was to adopt the mechanism Resilient was using, namely buying licenses outright and upgrading them when needs dictated as opposed to following an Open Licensing route,” Oettl says.

“We also elected to move the merged entity from a Microsoft Small Business Sever environment to distinct servers for their file and print, Exchange groupware, financial systems and Internet security needs, absorbing Pangborne’s hardware resources where possible,” he adds.

“When the merged companies chose to move to Rivonia months later, we decided to extend Resilient’s disaster recovery environment to include a three-tier Attix 5-based solution that saw it backing up locally, replicating this backup to Think iT’s datacenter and then performing a third replication of this data to Think iT’s offsite facility in the Internet Solutions data centre.

“At the same time, we also created an offsite replication of Resilient’s Primary Domain Controller within our offices, so recovering from an unforeseen disaster would be a speedy, trouble-free process,” Oettl says.

And the companies have plans to extend Resilient’s IT environment even further over the coming years.

Overall, Bornman says that Resilient is extremely satisfied with the partnership it has developed with Think iT in the past four years and that testimony to the strength of the work conducted by Think iT is borne out by it not having experienced a second’s unplanned downtime during the entire time Think iT has been handling its IT environment.

“Besides the high-skill level and excellent service we are afforded by Think iT, we’re extremely appreciative of the proactive manner in which our relationship is managed,” Bornman says.

“By constantly making worthwhile suggestions for ways we can either gain more from our IT environment, or bringing new cost saving measures to the table, Think iT has made our relationship into a partnership and in doing so, secured our loyalty for the coming years,” he concludes.