IT Support for Historic Palace

As World Heritage Sites go, Blenheim Palace is truly a magnificent example; a masterpiece of Baroque architecture which is set amongst more than 2000 acres of landscaped parkland by the famous architect ‘Capability’ Brown.

When it comes to protecting the Palace’s IT environment however, we are presented with a few ‘out of the ordinary’ challenges…

Fortunately, the power of SystemCare (TSG’s formidable and proactive monitoring solution used by thousands of TSG customers) means that we are always on hand to keep things running smoothly, and the intricacies of the Palace’s technology requirements keeps us on our toes (which is always a good thing in our eyes).

The Customer

Blenheim Palace has over 300 years of fascinating history. It was built in the early 18th Century to celebrate victory over the French in the War of the Spanish Succession.

In particular, it was built as a gift to the 1st Duke of Marlborough, John Churchill, the military commander who led the Allied forces in the Battle of Blenheim on 13th August 1704.

To honour the Duke’s heroic victories, Queen Anne granted his family the ruined Royal Manor and park at Woodstock, along with £240,000 with which to build a house to mark the occasion.

The architecture was completed in 1733. In 1874, Sir Winston Churchill was born at the Palace, and, as was showcased in the 2014 documentary ‘Blenheim Palace: Great War House’ (produced by Julian Fellowes of Downton Abbey fame) he inspired a number of Downton storylines. Including how he reportedly took a lowly servant from Blenheim Palace (which became his family home) to be a secret messenger during the First World War.

In 1950, it opened its doors to the general public for the very first time and has been a visitor attraction ever since, exhibiting stunning portraits, tapestries and an exquisite collection of furniture grace the Palace interior, which is set against a backdrop of ornate ceilings and striking stonework.

However, there is much more than initially meets the eye. Blenheim Palace is a multi-faceted business which includes farming, commercial and residential property, and bottled mineral water.

Dave Horwell, IT and Systems Manager for Blenheim Palace, says, “Blenheim Palace has a very long and proud history, and we have built our recent reputation on providing a great experience for people who want to come and explore the Palace, people who want to get married here, and large scale productions who want to hold their events here. We were looking for an IT provider who could support us through the vast amount of activities we conduct, and wouldn’t buckle under the considerable pressure of making sure those events run smoothly. We found that partner in TSG, and they haven’t let us down.”

IT Support: TSG SystemCare

Blenheim Palace has been a customer of TSG for over a decade. We are their source of IT Support through TSG SystemCare, which, amongst many other things, checks the availability of the Server and the entire network infrastructure. The Palace has a number of remote users spread across the Estate, and if this were ever to go down, this would cause a significant amount of disruption to the business.

Dave continued, “TSG are a crucial part of our IT team. They provide us with the peace of mind to get on with our day to day job of improving the IT systems of the Palace – we don’t have to be chasing our tails, picking up on issues both large and small, which SystemCare handles in its stride.”

SystemCare works by proactively monitoring your IT systems 24/7, ensuring that we – and you – are fully informed of any threats; unlicensed software and unauthorised attempts to access your system.

As part of that service, we provide Blenheim Palace with regular system reports to keep the IT Team fully informed of the server uptime percentage, and ensure that they understand any areas which are operating close to or beyond the limits of their capacity.

Intelligent Reporting

SystemCare reporting means that the IT Team know that their backup routines are working, or alternatively how often storage was offline, that licences are up-to-date and that people are adhering to IT policies that are in place to mitigate the risk of potentially damaging downtime and data loss.

In addition to acting on the alerts we receive for Blenheim Palace’s systems, we are analysing the enormous amount of data which this produces. It means we have a great understanding of the network needs, and the significant amount of intelligence we gain means that we have the unique insight into how to best support the Palace going forwards.

Scale of Activity

Blenheim Palace plays host to an increasing amount of large and complex events including weddings, balls and sporting events, and provides a location for many TV series and Hollywood blockbusters.

It was recently chosen to be the venue of the very first BBC Countryfile Live in the summer of 2016. Countryfile is Britain’s most watched factual programme with a regular audience of more than six million viewers, and thousands of visitors are expected to attend the inaugural event throughout an action packed 4-day open period.

The Palace has also been used as a location for huge film productions such as Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, Cinderella, Little Chaos and the fifth instalment of the Harry Potter series: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

With so many eyes on Blenheim Palace and having been named the venue of choice for such big scale productions, Dave says,

“If the technology ‘behind the scenes’ doesn’t work, that gives us a huge problem which will affect every aspect of these events. There is a multi-million pound risk, not to mention reputational damage, if any downtime and lack of support is experienced. We need to have absolute faith and trust that our systems are being supported in the best way possible, and we have that trust in TSG.”

As well as dealing with the business critical issues, TSG SystemCare also deals with all the day to day frustrations – taking routine support in its stride, and applying patches, checking anti-virus signatures are current and installing updates to keep everything optimised and secure.

“TSG SystemCare means I don’t have to worry about everything being kept up to date. I know that the TSG engineers are doing that for me, and will alert me to any issues that need addressing.”

Given the sheer size and scale of the Palace’s operations, TSG also conducted a thorough analysis of the business’ plan of action should disaster hit. Based on this intelligence, we offered experience based advice on how the business could get back up and running quicker, and that their data was as protected as it could be.

Dave says, “Having TSG as our technology partner means that whatever we throw at them – from the pressures of making sure large scale events are run smoothly, keeping Hollywood producers happy, making sure our visitors have a great experience, to the day to day running of the Palace – they are on top of it and keeping our systems ticking over. They are an invaluable resource.”