CHOICE case study
CHOICE has improved the flexibility and scalability of its IT infrastructure and saved $220,000 in capital costs with a cloud service provided by Core Technology Partners.
Established in 1959, CHOICE is an independent consumer advocacy group that provides advice to Australian buyers of products and services to help them get the most out of their purchasing decisions. The company looks out for unhelpful practices and researches and tests products to ensure consumers get the best deal.
CHOICE also campaigns to protect and assist consumers through changes to laws and industry behaviour.
Since 2010, CHOICE has moved several applications to the cloud. It uses Google Apps and its enterprise resource planning and customer relationship management software is provided by NetSuite under a cloud agreement.
However, around 3TB of corporate data – Microsoft Office documents, video, and images generated by 100 users on its network – was until recently, stored internally on three physical servers at its primary site in Marrickville, Sydney.
Two of these servers were running the VMware ESX virtual server and the third was hosting Microsoft Active Directory Server to control access and security.
“A lot of what was left here was data stores. This was data that we used day-to-day, which was stored inside the network,” said Stephen Macdonald, manager, information and communication technologies, at CHOICE.
“We were running quite short in storage space, consuming capacity at a fast rate and it was going to be a costly exercise to expand that,” said Macdonald.
Macdonald said the organisation was putting in place measures to deal with data growth, supplementing storage area networks with network attached storage but it wasn’t enough.
“There was a strong case to keep historical data – generated from product tests for instance – for longer. This was contributing to the increase in data growth.
“It was becoming costly for us to backup our environment as well – tape cartridges are expensive – and backups were costing us $1000 per month,” he said.
CHOICE also had an issue with the time it would take to recover services in the event of a disaster. Data backup was completed onsite and the organisation did send tape cartridges offsite once a week.
“Realistically, with the infrastructure we had, it would have taken us quite a number of weeks to get services back up and running if the worst happened and there was a disaster in the building.
“In the modern world, you can’t wait that long. So we were looking for a solution for business continuity and backup and recovery,” he said.
Solution provided by Core Technology Partners
After evaluating offerings in the market, CHOICE selected Core Technology Partners to provide 3TB of data storage hosted in a cloud environment.
Users on CHOICE’s network load a Citrix desktop client on their PCs, Apple Macs, iOS or Android tablets and even smartphones for secure access to storage capacity on four offsite physical servers.
“By accessing the server in a virtual cloud, you get faster access to the data,” said Macdonald.
Core Technology Partners also provided a 20Mb/s primary fibre internet link and a 10Mb/s Ethernet link for data backups, which also helps speed up access to data and complete backups faster.
“We already had a wireless environment here but without the Citrix solution, users couldn’t access the local network – it was internet access only. Now, with Citrix in place, users can get access to local data wirelessly,” he said.
CHOICE also worked with Core Technology Partners to build some redundancy into the network using multiple internet links to access data stores fast and increase the scalability of the environment, he added.
Macdonald said users can use any device with the Citrix client to access its network.
“We have people who occasionally or regularly work from home. They can now get full access to network resources here including the same desktop they run at work when they are home.
“So you can have a document open at work, disconnect from Citrix, go home, load up Citrix and the same document will be open on the desktop to continue working if you want to,” Macdonald said.
A flexible, scalable, cost-effective solution
CHOICE has eliminated the need to replace existing data centre infrastructure, which has saved the organisation $220,000 in capital costs, including an investment for disaster recovery equipment.
However, cost wasn’t the determining factor, said Macdonald. Rather, deploying flexible IT infrastructure that could be scaled easily was most important.
In fact, the solution was “cost neutral” compared to CHOICE’s previous infrastructure, but the organisation now has a much better solution, said Macdonald.
“The solution is very scalable so if the organisation grows and requires additional storage capacity or even less storage, then we can basically add it overnight without any capital investment.”
For instance, storage capacity was increased to 500GB for a content migration project, and the can be flexible expanded or contracted as required.
A new disaster recovery system may also have cost $4000 per month, which the company is not paying with the new solution in place, said Macdonald.
“We are probably also saving $5000 per year, which would have been spent on backup cartridges,” he added.
Increased bandwidth and more redundancy
The new Internet links have increased available bandwidth, improved redundancy and saved the organisation $1500 per month in connectivity costs.
“Cloud-based desktops use bandwidth more effectively,” said Macdonald.
“Total bandwidth – including, fibre, Ethernet, and ADSL links – now costs $2200 per month, compared to $3500 previously,” he said.
Thin clients to reduce costs further
CHOICE is also now investigating rolling out thin clients, which cost less and last longer than desktop PCs, said Macdonald. This could save the organisation up to $10,000 in equipment depreciation each year, he said.
“Potentially we could use thin clients inside the organisation, using dumb terminals rather than a PC or a Mac for some staff,” said Macdonald.
Why Core Technology Partners?
Core Technology Partners provided the most cost-effective solution of all providers and CHOICE had an existing business relationship with the organisation.
“We looked closely at two offerings, and liked the solution presented by Core Technology Partners,” said Macdonald.
“We often match the size of the solution provider to the size of our organisation and Core Technology Partners was the right fit.
“I have a strong belief that you need to match solution providers to the organisation in terms of their size. You can very easily be a small fish in a big pond when you are an organisation of our size and that’s not a nice place to be,” he said.
“The internal culture of our solution provider also has to match ours, and that’s probably one of the biggest reasons we chose Core Technology Partners,” he added.
Macdonald said CHOICE has a reasonable amount of technical experts on site and if there’s a problem, these staff members want to talk to the person who is fixing the issue rather than a call centre or someone who is relaying information to someone else.
“There’s nothing more frustrating than knowing what the problem is but not being able to talk to anyone about it. With Core Technology Partners on board, we know that this will never happen,” he said.
Choice outcomes at a glance
Replace storage and backup infrastructure that was becoming costly due to a period of data growth. Reduce the time it takes to recover services in the event of a disaster.
- Engaged Core Technology partners to provide 3TB of data storage hosted in a cloud environment
- 20Mb/s primary fibre internet link and a 10Mb/s Ethernet link for data backups
- Citrix desktop client installed on PCs, Apple Macs, iOS and Android tablets and smartphones for secure access to storage capacity on four offsite servers
- Eliminated the need to replace existing infrastructure, saving the company $220,000 in capital costs, including an investment for DR equipment
- Provided a flexible cloud infrastructure that could be scaled easily as required
- Removed the need to spend $4000 per month on a new disaster recovery system
- Saved $5000 per year on backup cartridges
- Saved $1500 per month in connectivity costs; total bandwidth – including fibre, Ethernet, and ADSL links – now costs $2200 per month, compared to $3500 previously
- Expected to save up to $10,000 in equipment depreciation each year when thin-clients are rolled out soon