CASE STUDY

3i invests in managed hosting for greater efficiency and better service

For over 65 years, the international investor 3i, a longstanding Sungard Availability Services customer, has been working with management teams to develop businesses that have potential for significant growth. The firm, which focuses its investments in the three key areas of private equity, infrastructure and debt management, has £13bn assets under management and employs around 500 people across 13 countries. 3i recognised that it needed either to invest considerable sums in upgrading its ageing data centre or entrust its critical IT systems, on which the entire business depends, to a third party to manage. Following rigorous examination of all alternatives, and wanting to sell the building in which its data centre was housed, 3i opted to outsource its IT infrastructure management.

The Birmingham-based data centre supports not only 3i’s Birmingham office but also its UK, Mainland Europe and New York operations. Tim Rance, Director of IT Infrastructure for 3i knew their choice of provider was critical to the success of the project. Highlighting just one of its IT systems, he explained, “We store all our deal-related documentation on an internal portal where it needs to be accessible to colleagues globally to collaborate effectively as a virtual deal team. The inability to access our systems for an extended period would cause severe operational difficulties and cost us time and money.”

While 3i had renewed its contract for disaster recovery services from Sungard AS several times since becoming a customer in 2004, in keeping with the firm’s reputation for thoroughness, it conducted a rigorous selection process to ensure its missioncritical systems would be in safe hands. 3i started with a longlist of around 60 possible companies, which it whittled down to a dozen following market research. Sungard AS was among the shortlisted companies asked to complete a Request for Information and, subsequently, a Request for Proposal.

“Sungard came up with the most creative and commercially viable solution,” explains Tim Rance, Director of IT Infrastructure for 3i. “They recognised that we needed disaster recovery and business continuity provision as well as a managed hosting service. They made a strong business case for a blended solution that would not only give us greater resilience than our old in-house data centre but would also save us money – around £1m over five years. We couldn’t lose!” The decision made and a date set for the move, Sungard AS and 3i each set up project teams to plan the data centre relocation. Decommissioning over 120 servers on a Friday night, transporting them 150 miles away and recommissioning them ready for business as usual on Monday morning was a mammoth undertaking. There was no room for slippage: if events did not go to plan, the only possible contingency was to abandon the operation. Understanding the enormity of the task ahead, over the next six months the two teams worked as one, planning every aspect of the relocation in minute detail.

Tim Rance recalls, “We knew we faced a daunting task but Sungard clearly knew what they were doing, which filled us with confidence. Very early on they presented us with a project plan, which highlighted all the actions we needed to take and the timescales. We could see that they had done this many times before – their experience shone through.”

The weekend of the move dawned and the joint project team swung into action. The outcome of thousands of man hours would be determined over the course of a single weekend. Tim Rance reports, “Everything went without a hitch and we were actually back in business again ahead of our deadline, by midday on Sunday. It was a really smooth transition, better than I could ever have imagined. We knew the test would come on Monday morning but, in the event, we didn’t receive a single support call – there weren’t even any teething troubles. Quite simply, it couldn’t have gone any better.”

Several months on, no issues have since come out of the woodwork. In fact, Tim Rance notes, “We’ve just conducted our second service review and everything on the RAG (Red, Amber, Green) rating is green. The best result when carrying out a large technology move is that people don’t notice anything has changed... and that is exactly what happened.”

Reflecting on the working relationship that developed in the run-up to the move, Tim observes, “Our two project teams were effectively one big team – it was a real partnership. The Sungard guys understood our work ethic and culture. Their professionalism and attention to detail showed. We’re very happy with the service we received from Sungard – I felt at all times that we were in safe hands.”

He concludes, “Sungard really has delivered an excellent solution for us. It’s cost-effective and, most importantly of all, it’s improved the service delivery levels we can offer the business.”

“The Sungard Availability Services proposal was the most commercially viable option. It will not only give us a better service but also save us around £1m.” Tim Rance, Director of IT Infrastructure, 3i

“The inability to access our systems for an extended period would cause severe operational difficulties and cost us time and money.” Tim Rance, Director of IT Infrastructure, 3i

Business problem

3i’s data centre was no longer fit for purpose and the investment firm needed either to invest considerable sums in upgrading it or entrust its critical IT systems to a third party to manage. Opting to host its systems at one of Sungard AS’s highly resilient technology centres, more than 100 vital servers had to be relocated in a military-style operation over a single weekend. With multi million pound deals at stake, failure was not an option.

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