Eltherington has begun to exploit the flexibility and scalability of CPiO's hosted model to support business change.
Since moving to CPiO Cloud Services in 2011, Eltherington has exploited the robust, backed-up and resilient infrastructure to enhance the application suite. CPiO’s upgrade to Sage ERP 1000 and implementation of Sage CRM and QlikView business intelligence applications are supporting the company’s customer focused restructure and ambitious growth plans.
Based in Hull, Eltherington Aluminium Group has over 50 years’ experience in the stockholding and fabrication of sheet and extrusions and is a major producer of coated aluminium cladding. The company has also been manufacturing PVCu double glazed windows and doors for over 25 years.
In common with many manufacturing organisations, Eltherington experienced a drop in demand during the recession of 2008. The resultant downsizing had a significant impact on the IT strategy, with the company opting to minimise internal IT staff and rely on a local IT company to provide day to day hardware and network support for the existing five-server infrastructure.
While this model worked well to help Eltherington manage the difficult economic times, it was not sustainable in the long term. By 2010 server replacement was becoming an issue; while the company was also struggling with the day to day logistics of data backup and equipment resilience. In addition, with a mixture of Office 2003 and 2007 there was a need to upgrade all 40 users to Office 2010.
With no dedicated in house hardware and networking skills, the prospect of server and software upgrades was both daunting and expensive. As Keith Billinge, Group Financial Director, Eltherington explains, “Eltherington is an aluminium company – do we really need to be spending valuable time on IT? Hardware and networking is now so complex and extensive, it requires a dedicated person – but there was no way that could be a full-time role in this business. There had to be a better way.”
Eltherington decided to explore the economies of a hosted model and assessed CPiO’s CPiO Cloud Services managed service. “Moving away from the continuous cycle of capital expenditure to replace servers and upgrade software towards a revenue based, per user spend makes sense for this business,” he explains.
In addition to the financial appeal, hosting offered a number of additional benefits, including robust data backup and a full Disaster Recovery solution. Keith says, “The insurance company requires a Disaster Recovery plan – and the biggest disaster that could befall us would be a lack of IT. Locating the servers within a dedicated data centre, with full fire resilience and security as well as failover to a secondary site gives Eltherington far more confidence than locating the equipment on our own site.”
The challenge, however, was how best to achieve the right hosted solution, especially given the complexity of an IT environment that has evolved over several decades to support manufacturing as well as in house product design and development. The core infrastructure included Sage Line 500 ERP, implemented and supported by CPiO, Windowmaker and Caravanmaker manufacturing software, DataLinks and Zetes warehouse management, as well as a mix of reporting tools, including Crystal Reports and Microsoft Office. “We wanted a provider that could manage the entire environment,” he confirms.
Having considered its local server support company, it was clear CPiO’s CPiO Cloud Services managed service was a better fit. “One of the primary issues was the current state of the infrastructure. CPiO offered more than simply moving our existing servers into another site – they could improve the overall structure of systems to deliver performance benefits,” Keith says.
Eltherington also preferred the CPiO Cloud Services model which is based not only on migrating the software applications to the state of the art data centre environment, but also refreshing the desktop experience for users, including the up to date version of Microsoft Office.
This approach provided the company with access to the latest IBM BladeCentre and Storage Area Network technologies, as well as real time monitoring, out of hours upgrades and system patches, and proactive platform management to deliver unprecedented levels of performance and resilience – all supported by a Service Level Agreement based on 99.5% availability.
“I wanted a company who could manage and solve any problems that arose: hardware, software or network. CPiO has consistently delivered a good service over the years and demonstrated excellent Sage expertise, which gave us a lot of confidence, and with CPiO Cloud Services has a depth of IT expertise and skills that ensured they would take control of any problems,” Keith says.
Having successfully moved the entire IT infrastructure over to the CPiO Cloud Services managed service in 2011, Eltherington has begun to exploit the flexibility and scalability of the hosted model to support business change. With ambitious 15% annual growth plans, one of the key changes has been the decision to exploit the flexible, per user pricing model to enhance the application portfolio.
CPiO has upgraded Eltherington from Sage Line 500 to Sage ERP 1000 with integrated Sage CRM, and implemented QlikView business intelligence, with real time sales, stock and procurement dashboards set to play an important role in supporting the business achieve growth targets. He adds, “Another key benefit of the move to CPiO Cloud Services has been flexible working. We have the same user experience from any location which enables senior management to gain access to any applications and information from home or abroad, which is very valuable.”
In addition, over the past year the company has extended its working hours and added new shifts, leveraging the flexibility of the CPiO Cloud Services service to change backup windows and access support services.
Keith confirms Eltherington would have moved to the CPiO Cloud Services managed service even if it had been cost neutral. In fact, the move saved money on up front capital costs and enables the company to fund IT from revenue. It is the additional benefits over and above costs that have made a tangible difference: “One of the main benefits was the chance to reduce reliance on internal IT staff – and the problems caused when they leave. CPiO’s depth and breadth of IT expertise ensures there is always someone who knows how to address an issue – which completely reduces the risk.”
As he concludes, given the company’s planned expansion, having a robust, resilient and trusted IT infrastructure in place is vital. “The decision to use the CPiO Cloud Services managed service from CPiO means Eltherington can rapidly scale up to support business growth without any concerns. It makes economic and business sense.”
The transition to Sage ERP 1000 v4 has been very smooth, with very little or no disruption to the users.