Architect benefits from outsourcing IT to managed service provider

By having its IT function supplied as a fully managed service, architectural practice Hunter & Partners can now focus on the work...

By having its IT function supplied as a fully managed service, architectural practice Hunter & Partners can now focus on the work it does best.

Hunter & Partners (H&P) was set up 50 years ago and now employs over 150 staff, including project managers, in offices in the UK and the Far East. The company provides strategic planning and design of new developments for education, housing, health and business.

The practice has more than £300m of public sector work in progress across England. H&P has intensive IT requirements due to the fact that its architects and project managers produce large volumes of data to complete the planning, design and monitoring of new-build and refurbishment work.

The IT function was originally managed by the company’s group finance director, Ian Hurlstone. When the time had come to boost levels of IT support, Hurlstone opted to outsource this function rather than bring technology expertise in-house.

“From the outset, I was keen to work with a managed services provider which would supply the right solutions to suit the H&P business model, and in a cost effective way,” he says.

In 2001, following a thorough analysis of potential IT partners, H&P chose to work with hSo, a managed services provider specialising in the SME sector.

Hurlstone says, “We were looking for a supplier that would provide high levels of support, and a single point of contact. hSo offered the flexibility you wouldn’t ordinarily receive from an organisation that isn’t geared up to dealing with SMEs.”

H&P initially subscribed to a managed internet service with security concerns addressed through a service that filters out viruses and spam, and a firewall to prevent security breaches from compromising the network. These services included complete network management and 24-hour support.

Two years into the contract H&P opted to install an online back-up and recovery system to protect its company data as part of its disaster recovery process. The organisation previously backed-up data on tape, a cumbersome process that required an employee to physically transport back-up tapes to a separate location. This system was insecure and data loss could mean reproducing labour-intensive files, including CAD and 3D presentation proposals.

With the managed service, all information is encrypted and then transferred to a secure, remote datacentre. H&P can now access company information online, and retrieve files quickly in the event of a disaster. The service includes a data monitoring facility to alert H&P when there are any data irregularities. Additionally, H&P can prioritise what types of data are backed up, and at what intervals.

“We have an excellent customer interface,” says Hurlstone. “We have a dedicated account manager who we can call if a problem arises. All our data is backed-up automatically. However, if a member of staff does lose any information, we can phone hSo and have it restored within minutes. A business continuity solution like this is essential in a fast-paced, project-based environment.”

In July 2004, following an analysis of the company’s spending patterns, hSo advised H&P of the business benefits of integrating its voice and data services. With voice over IP (VoIP) becoming a mature technology, the company decided to subscribe to an IP telephony product that allows companies to leverage its data network to make telephone calls.

hSo installed the product directly onto the company’s PBX network, without having to replace handsets, which can be expensive. With VoIP H&P saved on the costs of dialled calls and line rental and was able to upgrade its 2mbyte network to a 4mbyte network for the same cost. The VoIP installation has so far helped H&P to save more than 10% on its phone bills and 30% on its monthly line rental.

Ultimately, with the IT function now fully managed, H&P is now able to focus on the work it does best. Hurlstone says, “Managed services have revolutionised the way we handle IT, delivering real and tangible value to the company. H&P now has an effective disaster recovery system in place, and we have already witnessed significant cost savings from the VoIP installation.

“Managed security services have significantly reduced the time spent dealing with junk e-mails and viruses. Remote e-mail access has enabled home working, and increased bandwidth has enhanced overall productivity.”

Hurlstone adds, “hSo has provided solutions with the functionality and scalability our business demands. As a mid-sized company operating in a highly competitive market, our philosophy has been to work with organisations with which we can build a relationship.

We want to work with companies that can help to increase our efficiencies, and effective IT management has always been a must.”

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