Modern IT environment for bar/restaurant furniture and lighting manufacturer

TSG helps Andy Thornton migrate to Office 365 and invest in telecoms, SharePoint, SystemCare and security to modernise their business

The customer

Since its inception in 1975, Andy Thornton Ltd has evolved significantly from supplying architectural antiques to restaurants and bars in the USA, to becoming a truly global business, servicing the hospitality, leisure and retail sectors.

Andy Thornton Ltd supplies thousands of products in ranges including contract furniture, decorative lighting, architectural metalwork and wood carvings all over the world including some well-known UK brands such as Jamie’s Italian, JD Wetherspoon, Morrisons and Marks & Spencer.

Based near Halifax in West Yorkshire the business has a huge products showroom, workshops and significant warehousing facilities for carrying the large inventory of stock, architectural antiques and decorative accessories.

TSG and Andy Thornton Ltd

Andy Thornton initially engaged with TSG back in 2007 when they deployed Microsoft SharePoint and subsequently installed SystemCare, TSG’s proactive IT support service, to protect their investment and maintain optimum efficiency levels.

Since then the business has built a good rapport with TSG for advice and support on all aspects of their system to create a better technology environment.

The customer objectives

With a number of outdated systems in place, Andy Thornton turned to TSG for advice on modernising their technology environment to ensure improved resilience and position them well for the future as the business continues to evolve.

They were also keen to tap into TSG’s telecoms capabilities to replace their existing BT telephone system and Cisco Call Manager.

Tim Berry, IT Manager at Andy Thornton explains, “We recently reduced the number of sites we operate and it was apparent that our telephone system was not only out of date but also too complex for our requirements. It appeared that there would be an opportunity to consolidate but we needed a telecoms solution that would accommodate our current requirements and not restrict us in terms of scalability and adding users in the future.”

Alongside the telephone system, Windows XP end of support prompted a full review of Andy Thornton’s IT infrastructure which also included two aging servers running Windows Server 2003 which is also due to reach end of life in 2015.

“We knew that the on-premise Exchange servers and XP machines needed replacing, so it made sense to explore the potential for efficiencies that a modern approach can bring”, says Tim.

TSG’s review also included the existing installation of SharePoint which has been used successfully to maintain and share documents internally across the business. 

The TSG Solution

TSG designed and deployed an end-to-end solution, adopting a hybrid approach that has created a robust, future-proof technology platform for Andy Thornton.

The outdated BT telephone system was replaced with Mitel MiVoice Office, a cost-effective and feature-rich system which offers the possibility of integrating voice into the data network. It is designed specifically to scale and delivers a complete suite of business applications out of the box.

Data connectivity has been upgraded with the provision of an EFM (Ethernet in the First Mile) circuit which delivers higher grade broadband access with a defined SLA – or service level agreement.

The EFM circuit provides the platform and connectivity required for the deployment of the cloud-based Microsoft Office 365.

It was clear that field staff would benefit from the mobility and availability that come as standard with Office 365 and the opportunity to consolidate the number of on-premise servers required was also viewed as an attractive option, as Tim explains, “TSG’s experts provided comprehensive guidance around the benefits of moving to the Cloud. One key factor that contributed significantly to our decision to adopt Office 365 was the fixed monthly subscription rather than outlaying one large sum for a replacement server.”

By moving a proportion of the existing workload into the cloud, a single HP ML350 running Windows Server 2012 was installed to handle the remaining on-premise requirements as part of the hybrid solution, integrating seamlessly with Office 365.

The hardware refresh was completed with the replacement of all PCs running Windows XP and Office 365 ensuring that users will always be working with the latest versions of productivity software including Word, Excel and PowerPoint; and the end of any compatibility issues.

As a cloud-based solution, Office 365 provides disaster recovery built in, so to complement this, an automated online backup solution has been deployed to protect all of the business’s other sensitive data and also remove the risk of tape failure or human error.

Security has also been upgraded with the Sophos Endpoint solution and Andy Thornton has extended their TSG SystemCare cover which will continue to provide the peace of mind they’re accustomed to with the knowledge that their essential systems are monitored 24/7.

The benefits of a modern technology environment to Andy Thornton

Dealing with one trusted partner across everything from telecoms and connectivity to infrastructure and support has proved to be invaluable for Tim, who is the only in-house IT staff member.

“I look after the PC support myself, so if I get stuck with something it’s great to know that I can call TSG for advice. It’s a comfort for me knowing that our network is being monitored on a daily basis with SystemCare acting as a safeguard to ensure back-ups run successfully and there’s nothing untoward happening on the network. These are things I often don’t get time to think about being so busy on other projects day to day.”

Adopting a hybrid cloud approach is already paying dividends both in terms of cost and operational efficiencies, “What’s great about adopting Office 365 as a subscription service is having fixed monthly costs. Not only that, our move to the cloud has reduced the hardware in our office with the removal of bulky servers.”

With ‘access any time, any place, anywhere’, Office 365 offers a flexible and scalable solution for Andy Thornton, and has seamlessly integrated all of their key operating systems to improve departmental processes and consolidate information.

New starters to the business can be set up easily with additional licence keys and small increase to the monthly cost.

Another benefit for Andy Thornton in adopting Microsoft Office 365 is that it includes the latest version of SharePoint as part of the subscription. This upgrade to SharePoint 2013 has provided the business with a solid platform for collaboration, with staff now easily sharing customer information and even updating internal documentation and policies.

Tim adds, “Having everything in the Cloud also means that we now have version control across our operating systems, with everyone in the business using the same version of Microsoft’s various tools – I think for the first time ever!”

The new Mitel telephone system has also made an immediate impact, with Tim commenting, “It’s a much easier platform to work with and has already allowed us to make better use of conference calls to save on travel costs. We thought we would have to sacrifice some degree of functionality but we’ve been impressed that the new Mitel system provides most of the features we’d seen. Better still, we’re paying significantly less than we were previously.”

The Future for TSG and Andy Thornton

With their modern IT platform now in place, the business is well placed to explore how they can use technology to achieve further efficiencies and make improvements across the business.

Tim concludes, “We are currently working with TSG on the provision of Microsoft Dynamics CRM to replace our Goldmine solution. Again, we’re looking to move the solution into the cloud and benefit from seamless integration with Office 365.”