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Case study

Northgate Information Solutions: Global IT services company enhances business resilience

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Overview

BT Ethernet Connect strengthens Northgate Information Solutions network, and enables it to extend its market proposition, at lower cost

When the Buncefield oil depot exploded, it wiped out Northgate Information Solutions’ UK HQ. A quick switch to another data centre meant business didn’t stop.

But Richard Shaw was keen to be even better prepared if lightning strikes twice. He also took it as the perfect opportunity to boost network bandwidth and speed as well as business continuity. So he spoke to BT.

Now, BT Ethernet Connect links 44 customer sites to Northgate data centres across the UK. Capacity’s up but costs are down. Customers know their business critical applications and data assets are in safe hands. And Richard knows he’s ready for anything.

BT has excellent geographic reach in the UK. With Ethernet Connect we have the advantage of much larger capacity bearers, yet costs are around 25 per cent lower.”
- Richard Shaw, Principal Consultant, Northgate Information Solutions

Challenge

Northgate Information Solutions is a market leader in providing specialist software, outsourcing, and IT services to market sectors such as local government and education. It has over 10,000 employees in 35 countries. Its UK clients need high-speed access to cloud-based centrally hosted applications, making business resilience critical to the company’s reputation.

Richard Shaw, a Principal Consultant at Northgate Information Solutions, takes up the story: “The Buncefield oil depot explosion completely took out our UK headquarters, which included our data centre. We made emergency provision using a data centre in Essex connected over BT CellStream. At the same time we created a new WAN to reconnect our sites using BT IP Connect.”

With the company back on a firm footing, the Northgate IT team focused on further improving business continuity and disaster recovery. New duplicated primary and secondary data centres were planned for London and Woking, while more resilient and cost effective networked IT services were sought.

“We wanted a robust connectivity solution for our new data centres. Meanwhile, because the demand for bandwidth is growing all the time,” says Richard Shaw, “the BT CellStream service was starting to look expensive.”

Solution

In response, BT proposed a network design based on Ethernet Connect services, providing dual diverse Gigabit links into the two new Northgate data centres. Fibre access circuits at up to 100Mbps would serve the company’s 44 customer sites across the UK. Northgate evaluated other options, but decided to stay with BT, signing a five-year contract.

BT Ethernet Connect is an Ethernet-based secure virtual private network (VPN) solution, running over the next generation network platform. As a flagship product, Ethernet Connect provides more flexibility than a standard VPN. It can be configured to carry pure Ethernet or IP over Ethernet. In addition, point-to-point, hub-and-spoke, or any-to-any architectures are all possible. With BT Ethernet Connect customers stay in total control of their networks, including addressing schemes and routing tables.

Many of the applications that Northgate provides for its clients are business critical. The transition therefore required careful planning to safeguard continuity of service at all times. BT set up a dedicated change management service desk to co-ordinate activity throughout the project. Weekly progress calls kept everyone informed.

The transition went pretty much to plan. Richard Shaw recalls: “With BT’s help we achieved our target. We set out a six-month project plan; and we completed it in exactly six months. A few circuits took BT a little longer to install than expected, but those delays were caused by circumstances out of our control, like a blocked cable duct.”

Value

The new network provides improved performance and greater resilience at lower cost. Northgate customers benefit too. BT Ethernet Connect offers more bandwidth than CellStream, accelerating application response times to confer greater efficiency. Ethernet Connect has also helped improve Northgate’s competitiveness.

“Ethernet Connect offers lower costs over longer distances, making our services much more attractive to remote clients,” explains Richard Shaw. “Higher bandwidth options also allow us to extend our market proposition to such areas as hosting services.” Some government clients have already taken this up, for example, moving Microsoft Exchange and Active Directory servers into a Northgate managed environment.

Most recently, BT and Northgate have signed a master services agreement (MSA), which rolls up the Ethernet Connect contract and aggregates it with other BT supplied services. These include a BT IP Connect MPLS-based WAN interconnecting some 60 Northgate locations across the UK. The dual Northgate data centres are also on the WAN, providing interconnection points between its customer and corporate networks.

Other services included in the MSA are:

  • BT Internet Connect
  • Legacy CellStream and other leased lines
  • Calls and lines
  • Break-fix maintenance services for Cisco-based WAN and LAN equipment

Northgate had previously opted for the BT OneBill integrated billing solution. Richard Shaw says: “BT OneBill allowed us to simplify our administration and review inventory – much of which had come through acquisitions – so that we could identify and cease services that we no longer needed. That information helped us to save a lot of money.” Now, the calls and lines package also features BT Accumulate, an attractive pricing regime. This recognises total spend with BT, giving an up to 20 per cent discount against eligible business exchange line rentals.

Richard Shaw sums up: “Having just the one UK service provider is a big advantage to us, and we have a great working relationship with BT. The BT Ethernet Connect architecture has enabled us to cost effectively achieve industry leading standards of business continuity, which confers significant competitive advantage.”

Core Services

  • BT Ethernet Connect
  • BT Internet Connect
  • BT IP Connect
  • Legacy BT Connect services (CellStream and other leased lines)
  • Calls and lines with BT Accumulate and BT OneBill
  • Break-fix maintenance of Cisco WAN and LAN equipment

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