Together with Softsource, Chester’s Plumbing and Bathroom transitioned their IT infrastructure from an on-premise solution to a cloud ‘Infrastructure as a Service’ platform enabling greater productivity and business expansion.
Chester’s Plumbing and Bathroom is a Kiwi retailer that provides bathroom fittings and appliances, as well as trade-based fittings and parts. Softsource is an Auckland-headquartered ICT systems integrator, providing specialist technology solutions as well as professional services, technical expertise and data centre services.
As chief information officer (CIO) of Chester’s, Paul Bunbury looks after the business IT infrastructure and business development. He was at the helm of the infrastructure upgrade, working with a small team from Chester’s as well as key Softsource engineers and specialists.
Chester’s had 15 branches throughout New Zealand – three in the South Island, six in Auckland and six in the rest of the North Island – and just over 200 staff. The company had always maintained its own servers and kept them onsite in the main branch in New Lynn, Auckland. The servers, however, were seven years old, and, according to Bunbury, they weren’t performing well and were no longer able to keep up with the needs of the business.
The situation was “precarious”, as the servers could've died at any stage and the IT team hadn’t tested restoring from a backup.
“The servers were well past their use-by date, the user experience was slow and cumbersome and we were getting complaints from staff,” Bunbury says.
Bunbury and the team decided it was time for an upgrade, and it would be best for the business to work with a systems integrator and adopt new infrastructure.
“We’re a plumbing and bathroom retailer, this is the world we know, this is where our expertise lies – not in IT infrastructure like setting it up and maintaining it. It was best for the business to outsource our IT,” Bunbury says of the decision.
Chester’s sent out tenders and gauged their options, costs and how the upgrade would play out. The company wasn’t taking this decision lightly.
“Up until that point we had maintained our own hardware, so this was a definite step into the unknown. We certainly wanted to feel comfortable, and put a lot of emphasis on choosing the right partner,” he says.
Softsource was a clear winner for a number of reasons, Bunbury says.
“It was a combination of things. They impressed us with their customer relationship management and we felt comfortable they were a similar business to ours. Softsource prided itself on its service and looking after its customers, therefore we felt they were the right fit moving forward,” Bunbury says.
Given the sensitivity of the situation, once Softsource won the tender the teams got started on the upgrade right away.
“We didn’t want to hang around, we wanted to get things underway pretty quickly to rectify the situation,” Bunbury says.
Originally Chester’s had explored both co-location and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) options, but they felt more comfortable taking the first transitional step into an off-premise solution, replacing the old equipment with new but housed in the Softsource Data Centre. This solution enabled Chester’s to benefit from improved security measures that included biometric scanners, closed circuit cameras and alarm systems along with improved connectivity, bandwidth speeds and network connections while retaining ownership of the assets.
Completing the initial transition to the Softsource Data Centre - setting up the servers and building the virtual servers - took weeks of work and a lot of planning and coordination, Bunbury says. Then, in one weekend, Softsource and Bunbury’s team made the transition from the existing on-premise servers to the collocated servers in the Softsource Data Centre.
Adopting the Softsource Data Centre collocated servers was the biggest change in IT infrastructure Chester’s had ever had, and the smooth transition was considered a huge success, with staff able to arrive to work on Monday morning with no interruptions. Bunbury says this success came down to the hard work leading up to the transition, Softsource’s expertise and the fact that the two companies were able to work very closely together in a collaborative way so that everyone was on the same page.
Bunbury noticed a ‘massive uplift in user experience’, with functions and applications no longer slow and unresponsive but able to perform in a timely fashion, receiving many positive comments from staff.
“The new infrastructure at Softsource solved the precarious position we were in and allowed us to expand and grow as a company,” Bunbury says.
According to Bunbury, throughout this transition Softsource proved itself to be a valuable partner and they will continue to work closely together as Chester’s now take the next step in their cloud journey to an Infrastructure as a Service platform.
Bunbury says this is a natural progression for the business, and it makes sense from a best practice point of view.
“We’ve made the conscious decision to move to more of the full Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) solution to take advantage of the scalability, manageability and the ‘pay as you grow’ model,” Bunbury says. “We are currently running in a Hybrid model as we migrate virtual machines from our own hardware into the cloud IaaS platform.”