Case Study: Pead PR

When speed counts

Pead PR is a specialist brand public relations firm, one of the few of its kind in New Zealand. One challenge of the business is the many graphics and video files it creates and stores – files that chew up computer disk space quickly.

Another challenge is the speed of the profession. As Pead PR’s David Paine puts it: “We rely so much on being able to supply details to media in an instant. If the media calls wanting client information, we have to be able to provide it now. That means our IT system has to be capable of delivering on demand – and be easy to use, regardless of the user’s level of IT literacy.”

Since 2003, Fisheye has worked with Pead PR to manage all aspects of its IT. In that time, the firm has grown from five to 27 staff and joined the global alliance IPREX. It has also moved offices three times (with Fisheye managing the IT migration each time) and moved from a break/fix model to the Managed Services model of predictable fixed costs.

At the limit

By 2011, Pead PR’s existing IT infrastructure had reached its limit for the size and pace of the business.
Disk storage had reached more than 95% of capacity. The company had to consistently resize or delete images to keep within limits.
Mailbox storage was also at near capacity despite a powerful archiving solution.
Because of this, small but meaningful interruptions, such as hard drives freezing, had become more common.
Server software had reached or was nearing the final stages of support from the manufacturer and was not able to take advantage of the new features and capacity offered by the latest versions.
The firm’s senior staff often work remotely, making a VPN a necessity.

It was time to bite the bullet and undertake a full-on server infrastructure upgrade that delivered all the capacity needed (with room to expand further) and the extra capabilities demanded by the company’s evolving structure.

Easier said than done. Pead PR staff work long hours, including weekends, and a server infrastructure upgrade is inherently disruptive. Another reason was the expense: infrastructure upgrades are a serious capital investment.

Bigger, faster, affordable

Our first step was to appoint a dedicated technical project manager to the upgrade – someone who not only understood the complex technical requirements of the project, but could also speak the client’s language and had great customer relationship skills. In our view, many unsuccessful IT projects are the result of poor communication rather than technical shortcomings.

We arranged planning meetings around the client’s schedule, which often meant meeting on Saturday mornings. Every part of our proposal was explained in plain English (as well as the appropriate technical terms).

Once the plan was agreed on, we arranged to do all disruptive work between 7pm and 7am, to ensure the client’s business was not interrupted. We gave at least a week’s notice for any work that required the server being down for any length of time.

Fisheye also worked with software and hardware vendors to provide an OPEX package that enabled Pead PR to manage costs over time. We developed user documentation that put control in the client’s hands, reducing day-to-day reliance on Fisheye.

In conjunction with the upgrade, Fisheye also developed an ongoing plan to keep Pead PR running smoothly. “Computers only last three years these days,” says David, “and with 30 staff, it makes sense to us to manage future transitions in a staged manner.”

Before

  • The server and its software was out of date and in the final stages of support from Microsoft.
  • It was also unable to take advantage of the features and capacity offered by the hardware in new servers.
  • The email requirements had outgrown the capacity of the system
  • The storage requirements had outgrown the backup capability

After

  • Storage capacity increased 16 times to 8 Terabytes
  • Hardware configured to create a fail-over cluster so the failure of an individual hardware component does not bring down the network
  • Mailbox store maximum size increased from 70GB to virtually limitless.
  • Backup/recovery times reduced through use of ShadowProtect – the frequency of backups has increased from once to 3 times a day
  • Failover cluster reduces downtime in event of hardware failure (to almost zero)
  • Virtualisation provides capacity to increase the number of servers with no/minimal further investment in additional hardware.

What does all this mean? Pead PR’s business had grown to the point that it had exceeded the capacity of its hardware and software and the company recognised it was time to reinvest in IT infrastructure to accelerate the business not hold it back.

Benefits

Thanks to the upgrade, Pead PR can count on its system delivering information whenever required – and its reputation for fast, reliable information remains secure.

The firm’s senior staff can now log in to the company network remotely, which enables them to work securely 24/7 (as is often required by the demands of news media that are on duty 24/7) and from wherever they happen to be.

Image storage and retrieval is now a simple matter – and will continue to be so thanks to a virtual environment that enables Pead PR to “buy” more disc space as needed, without the cost of new hardware. The same applies to email storage and retrieval.

Backups now take place three times a day (previously once daily), providing faster recovery times and less data loss in the event of failure. Thanks to failover cluster technology (having multiple servers available, with one ready to “kick in” should another fail), the new system reduces the impact of any hardware failure to almost zero.

“We were very happy with this project. Fisheye provided one point of contact, which kept things simple. What’s more, we’ve always been able to contact the company’s managers at any time with anything we want to discuss. There’s no hierarchy or red tape to get through – it’s all about getting the job done.”

David Paine, Pead PR


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