When GTNT (Group Training Northern Territory) recognised that ageing computer hardware and unreliable Internet services caused regular outages that made it difficult to share information between offices and sometimes even pay apprentices, largest employer of apprentices in the NT turned to Calvert Technologies which solved these problems by refreshing hardware and migrating the company to a fully private network utilising Telstra’s infrastructure.
Business Problem: Overthrowing the tyranny of distance
In the Northern Territory, the “tyranny of distance” is more than a cliché. With a population of just 233,300, the Territory covers a vast land area of 1,349,129 square kilometres. It can take 18 hours to drive the nearly 1500 km from Alice Springs in the red centre to Darwin in the Top End.
So the largest employer of apprentices in the NT, Group Training Northern Territory (GTNT) faces unique problems to manage about 350 apprentices and trainees placed with more than 150 host employers throughout the Territory.
GTNT (www.gtnt.com.au) helps people find an apprenticeship and helps businesses build their workforces by taking responsibility for all logistics required for apprenticeships including payroll, superannuation, mentoring and workplace visits. As well as wages, host businesses pay a flat weekly fee per apprentice for this service.
The success of GTNT’s apprenticeship model is demonstrated by its 81 per cent completion rate – nearly double the industry average. To manage apprentices through this dispersed and sparsely populated area, GTNT employs a staff of about 80 at offices in Darwin, Katherine, Tennant Creek and Alice Springs.
However, GTNT suffered a Catch-22 problem: It relies on technology to improve its efficiency but its widely distributed operations made it difficult to obtain cost-effective IT services, especially during the wet season which can bring flooding rains, cyclones and power failure to some areas.
As servers were located at various offices, if one office dropped off the network during the wet season, that could impact the entire organisation. Adding to this problem, GTNT had ageing computer hardware and unreliable Internet services that made it difficult to reliably share information across the various offices and also for staff moving from one location to another.
GTNT’s Marketing and Communications Manager Daman Foy, who is in charge of IT, said there were ongoing IT issues with regular dropouts. “At one stage, our offices had no email for four days,” he said. “Staff morale and productivity were a major issue. We run a weekly payroll, so if IT is out, we can’t pay our apprentices.”
Technology Solution: Hardware overhaul and moving to the Cloud
GTNT decided to seek a fresh perspective. Based on professional recommendations, the company commissioned Adelaide-based Calvert Technologies to perform an audit of its network in July 2012.
Calvert’s managing director Dean Calvert travelled to Darwin to meet with senior GTNT executives and examine first-hand the company’s technology and network. After one week, Dean handed a report to GTNT recommending that it completely overhaul its technology infrastructure, which was accepted and implemented as a critical part of the company’s business continuity and risk management planning.
Calvert Technologies migrated GTNT’s offices from consumer Internet access accounts to a fully private network utilising Telstra’s Private Network infrastructure.
Calvert also began replacing a dozen old servers located at various offices with new virtual servers based on Telstra’s Cloud Server service. In less than 18 months, nine new servers are managing GTNT services including DNS, File and Print, database, remote desktop, firewall and telephony.
Calvert also replaced much of the ageing fleet of IBM and Lenovo desktop and notebook computers with new desktops, notebooks, tablets and thin clients from HP, yielding immediate improvements in performance, security and consistency across the network.
After this successful implementation, GTNT selected Calvert Technologies to provide ongoing management and support of its network.
Calvert’s advanced help desk tools enable it to solve problems on the GTNT network quicker and more efficiently than if they were in the same town.
Business Benefits: Greater efficiency, improved reliability and better staff morale
GTNT achieved immediate productivity benefits from the new technology infrastructure delivered by Calvert Technologies, with the entire project expected to deliver payback within 18 months.
As well as providing faster performance, greater reliability and more security, the hardware refresh has improved staff efficiency as they no longer need to wait for their computers to catch up with them.
The network provides easier and more secure remote access to company resources for host employers and tablet-equipped workers visiting apprentices out in the field. More reliable Internet access also provides improved communication capabilities with the businesses with whom they work.
The new network gives GTNT greater control through a single access point to the “Cloud”, allowing better management of outgoing traffic, greater control of incoming content and improved scalability as the organisation grows.
Migrating servers from remote offices to a centralised Cloud service creates greater network resilience and redundancy, as one office going offline due to a power failure or a flood does not impact other offices. This ensures business continuity for vital functions such as running the weekly payroll.
As well as Calvert’s management of the GTNT network, Telstra actively monitors network links so that problems can be addressed before they impact the organisation. Also, as GTNT moves more servers into Telstra’s Cloud, it benefits from reduced power costs through less need to keep heavy equipment powered and air conditioned.
Daman Foy said the new infrastructure delivered by Calvert was much better. “Dropouts are no longer a problem and any issues we experience now are usually quite minor and quickly fixed,” he said.
“With our new desktops and notebooks and the Cloud services, the speed of our network has obviously improved. One of the biggest benefits is staff morale: Now our people just come in, turn on their machine and it boots up immediately.
“Calvert’s remote support has been terrific. We can phone in or email Calvert to log a job, we get an email confirming its receipt, a second email saying the job is allocated and then a third email saying it is resolved. We are getting issues resolved quicker now than when we had a provider in the same city.
“Thanks to Calvert, our new IT infrastructure takes GTNT from simply being the NT’s biggest group training organisation with the best corporate culture to being the most technically advanced and resilient as well.”
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Calvert GTNT case study details
Telstra Private Network; Telstra Cloud Servers; Office 365; HP desktops, notebooks, tablets and thin clients; Calvert Technologies maintenance and remote support.
About Calvert Technologies http://www.calvert.net.au
Calvert Technologies, a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner, provides high quality information technology support and consultancy services to businesses throughout Australia. The privately-owned company focuses on providing quality solutions that don’t “break the bank”, so that its clients enjoy real value and productivity with a low total cost of ownership.
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