CASE STUDY

Education publisher gives masterclass in business continuity planning

With nearly half a million weekly readers and nearly two million monthly website visitors, the TES newspaper and TES Connect website serve teaching professionals every single day.

TES Connect is one of the world’s leading industry-specific professional networks and the UK’s largest teaching exchange platform. The website houses one of the world’s largest free resource banks, with over 50,000 uploads to date, which are downloaded one million times every week.

TSL’s online recruitment platform, HireWire, is used by schools, colleges and universities to manage their whole recruitment process online.
2010 marked the 100th year of uninterrupted publication of the TES. Failure to publish an edition would result in damaging its reputation as industry leader. Similarly, the Times Higher Magazine reaches 40 years of uninterrupted publishing in 2011. It is inconceivable that these titles are not able to continue this unbroken record of publishing because of failures in the IT infrastructure.

The TES team prides itself on the valuable recruitment service it provides to schools and local authorities. Hundreds of thousands of readers scour its pages and website every week to search for jobs, find the latest news, participate in chat forums and share learning resources contributed by teachers for teachers. Exceptional customer service is key to their success. During peak trading periods thousands of phone calls are received every week from schools who want to place recruitment adverts, which appear in the newspaper and on the website. Each member of the team understands that if the firm was to lose its telephony or IT systems during this time the recruitment section would not exist.

“It’s like the annual event of salmon swimming upstream – if TSL was to miss the short season, it has an impact on our clients, our reputation and the entire teaching market.”

Fast-forwarding 100 years since the very first edition of the TES in 1912, technology plays the most critical part in the production of the newspaper and the operation of the websites. From ensuring that there is always a voice at the end of its customer services line to take advert bookings to transferring files to printers within very tight time-frames, the publishing team is completely in the hands of technology.

Head of IT David Grain and BCM Program Manager Joanna Thornton are responsible for ensuring the business is always able to function, no matter what obstacles are put in the way. Working together, they and their dedicated teams have achieved the business continuity (BC) professional’s ultimate goal: to embed a BC culture throughout the organisation. David Grain explains, “News is more perishable than fresh fruit – nobody wants yesterday’s news. No journalist should miss a breaking story so BC is a key operational function, an integral part of our daily operations.”

The TES journalists and production team rely heavily on PCs and Apple Macs to create and publish the highly regarded TES newspaper and THE magazine. The importance of technology to the publishing house cannot be underestimated: from the creation of adverts on which its revenue depends to the composition of each page, it is fair to say that without its Apple Macs there would be no paper.

For this reason, TSL particularly values Sungard Availability Services’ technical expertise in this area: “There are very few business continuity providers that can offer the state-of-the-art recovery service for Apple Macs that Sungard does.” TSL Education contracts 150 seats at one of Sungard AS’s workplace recovery centres, which are located throughout the UK. The recovery centre, which is connected to TSL Education’s in-house data centre via a 24-hour dedicated communications link, would act as an alternative workplace for key staff while its remaining employees would work from home using the company’s Citrix infrastructure.

The self-contained, fully equipped recovery facility has everything the TES would need to produce its titles and support business units in the event its own premises were inaccessible for any reason. The publisher has good reason to feel confident in its ability to withstand a business interruption. Every year since 2009, as part of its testing programme, it put its plans to the ultimate test by producing an edition of the paper while working out of the recovery centre. This is supplemented by numerous technology tests throughout the year.

While to date the publisher has not invoked Sungard AS’s services, it is all too aware of the many and varied threats to its business including serious incidents at nearby Holborn tube station and the ongoing danger of vital power cables being inadvertently severed due to major infrastructure projects.

Against this backdrop, TSL Education’s Executive Board understands the value of business continuity and doesn’t merely view it as a tick in the box. Although David values Sungard AS’s unrivalled infrastructure, in his view, “That is just one part of the service required to maintain the operation of the business – what really makes the difference is Sungard’s people. They’re always there when you need something actioned.” Looking ahead, TSL Education’s priorities are to reduce its Recovery Time Objectives still further from its current three hours – as David puts it, “to speed up the pitstop” – and work towards gaining ISO 27001 (Information Security), ISO 9001 (Quality) and ISO 14001 (Environment) accreditations, all of which require solid BC foundations. Its Board wanted to deal with “a big player” and as David says, “Sungard has a reputation for being the premier provider of business continuity - they provide a fully rounded service. Dealing with a company that has this level of credibility in the marketplace gives us confidence that in an emergency they will be ready and waiting to react.”

“Dealing with a company that has this level of credibility in the marketplace gives us confidence that in an emergency they will be ready and waiting to react.” David Grain, Head of Information Technology TSL Education

“TSL is committed to supporting all education professionals, and prides itself on providing them with uninterrupted live access to services that help them do their job.” David Grain, Head of Information Technology TSL Education

Business problem

TSL Education, owner of the Times Educational Supplement (TES) and the Times Higher Education (THE), is firmly established at the heart of the UK educational community offering ground-breaking and innovative online services, marketleading publications, and a series of conferences and exhibitions, all designed to support the needs of the entire education community. TSL’s publications, websites and events provide a unique, highly valued recruitment, news and networking service that is heavily relied on by the entire teaching profession. Interruption to any one of its services would severely tarnish its authoritative reputation.

Solution
  • Workplace Recovery
  • Technology Recovery

THE BUSINESS BENEFIT

  • Ensures TSL Education continues to provide an uninterrupted service to the teaching profession
  • Preserves TSL’s solid reputation
  • Peace of mind that critical systems will be recovered within three hours
  • Minimises downtime
  • Protects TSL’s market-leading position
  • Guards against lost advertising revenue running into millions of pounds
  • Lays foundations for ISO 27001, ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 accreditations.

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