Propertymark, the association for sales and letting agents, were having challenges with their IT infrastructure that had been unchanged for too long. We got them back on their feet with a full refresh of their servers, network, machines and software.
Propertymark is a professional body for sales and letting agents. They offer consumers the reassurance of high standards and a trusted brand in a largely unregulated industry.
Propertymark have a team of around 60 people at their headquarters in Warwick, plus a satellite office in London and several roles who work out on the road.
Time for a change
When Propertymark first approached us in 2017, their IT setup was a vivid illustration of what happens when you add equipment piece by piece without an overall plan. They had a mix of machines, all running different software. Four different servers were in place, many running virtual machines. Backups were being run, but data was only copied to one of the onsite servers, this increased the risk of data loss and there was also limited virus protection.
‘When I arrived to head up operations in 2017, we had a small IT department supporting an old, bespoke system,’ recalls Sue Roberts-Smith, Head of Operations. ‘We had servers that were going out of warranty, and the board was starting to feel nervous. We really needed a stable, secure system that would give us a solid platform, plus support going forward. Computer Service Centre were recommended by one of our directors and were successful in securing the tender.’
Managing the IT refresh
Having agreed what was required, our engineers spent two weeks on site in 2018 carrying out the refresh. First, we replaced the firm’s ageing servers with a cluster of three new ones, so that if one server fails, the other two step in to prevent any interruption to work. All servers are under warranty, properly configured and monitored remotely from our site. We also installed antivirus software and set up a reliable offsite backup regime.
For Sue, remote monitoring means the reassurance that someone is watching. ‘I know it’s working because I get calls at six or seven in the morning to say there’s a problem,’ says Sue. ‘Knowing that someone is monitoring us from afar means I can get on with my day job, which is making sure our business can focus on strategic objectives.’
The next step was to upgrade users’ own machines. ‘I asked Computer Service Centre to do a survey and tell us what we needed,’ says Sue. ‘They came in, looked around and gave us a report outlining our options. That helped me get the budgetary approval to take the next step.’
In place of the patchwork quilt of machines, we provided standardised PCs or laptops, and rolled out Office 365 and Exchange Online throughout the team. To support offsite working, we gave all laptops direct server access, replacing the less reliable VPNs that the firm had previously used.
‘Computer Service Centre recognised that the work couldn’t disrupt our day-to-day operations,’ comments Sue. ‘So they were flexible, working into the evenings so we could carry on with business as usual. That was a definite plus point for us.’
Propertymark decided to outsource it’s IT function to us and we took over all IT support for the business, working remotely for the most part.
‘It’s been a bit of a culture shock for people to pick up the phone with computer problems, instead of just walking through to IT,’ admits Sue. ‘Now, twelve months down the line, it’s absolutely fine. At first, I was concerned that we were relying on a business some distance away. But they have proved that they don’t always have to be in our office. If they need to visit us, they do – otherwise, they just jump on our system remotely.’
Overall, Sue is pleased to have an arrangement where someone else takes responsibility for the IT technical challenges. ‘I arrived at the business with no IT background whatsoever,’ she says. ‘If something goes wrong, I want to be able to pick up the phone and have it resolved quickly, without knowing all the mechanics. Computer Service Centre are responsive to all our issues and concerns, and they take responsibility. It’s working really well.’
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Comprehensive IT refresh with ongoing support
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