Month: March 2016

Claranet becomes Gruner + Jahr’s new cloud hosting partner

Claranet, one of Europe’s leading managed services providers, is to become Hamburg-based Gruner + Jahr’s new cloud hosting partner. Gruner + Jahr is one of Europe’s largest printing and publishing houses, managing over 500 online and print media outlets. The company counts well-known German brands publications such as Stern, Brigitte, Geo and 11 Freunde among its portfolio and reaches a global audience of millions of people in more than 20 countries.

Gruner + Jahr is currently undergoing a digital transformation. When it comes to successfully steering the company through the increasingly digital world of tomorrow, the publisher sees agility, the ability to innovate, and improved efficiency as the most important metrics of success. To achieve this, Gruner + Jahr, with support from Claranet, will implement a hybrid IT model consisting of both private and public cloud elements, which will allow them to forego the need to manage their own data centre and add new agility and efficiency to its IT estate. Claranet is an experienced cloud services provider with a European footprint, making the company the perfect partner for Gruner + Jahr and for the distribution of its publications across all platforms and channels.

Such an all-encompassing and thorough transition of an entire IT estate to the cloud is near-unprecedented in Europe. For us, Gruner + Jahr’s strategic digital transformation programme, ‘NEO’, is a clarion call for the whole European market,” comments Charles Nasser, CEO of the Claranet Group. “We are proud that Gruner + Jahr is using Claranet’s cloud services as the foundation for ‘NEO’ and look forward to carrying this challenging project through to successful completion with them. Our expertise, innovative cloud infrastructure and European footprint will all play a role in helping Gruner + Jahr achieve their objectives.

Gruner + Jahr decided to partner with Claranet due to its track record in successfully completing similar large-scale cloud transformation projects and its expertise in Managed Hosting. Another critical factor was Claranet’s ISO-accredited facilities and services, which are fully compliant with German federal regulations and the country’s strict technical and organisational security legislative framework.

We look forward to working with a cloud hosting partner as experienced as Claranet,” explains Pietro Tomasino, IT Director at Gruner + Jahr. “IT is an important factor in the digital transformation of our industry, and the fast-paced technological developments of recent years demand a deep-rooted change in IT across all businesses. Through the implementation of Claranet’s cloud-based infrastructure and platform services we want to take advantage of cloud’s economic benefits, whilst gaining the increased flexibility to develop our core business, as well as new digital opportunities.

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Legacy PBX technology is killing opportunities for collaboration, says Claranet

With reliable fibre broadband now widely accessible across the UK, cloud-based unified communications (UC) tools are finally able to deliver their promised benefits of mobility and enhanced collaboration for modern businesses. However holding onto legacy telephone systems mean that many businesses are missing out on the opportunity to innovate, according to Claranet.

James Mitchell, Senior Product Manager for Claranet, explained:

Nearly every part of the UK can now access fibre broadband, dramatically improving businesses’ ability to take advantage of higher bandwidth internet connections. The applications involved in the delivery of UC have also dramatically improved and bring significant business benefits because they are hosted in the cloud. Hosted UC as it is now is a very different proposition to early incarnations, which left a sour taste in the mouth of some early adopters.

“Studies suggest 94 per cent of UK businesses are still using a PBX system, rendering the vast majority unable to take advantage of true unified communications and the benefits it entails. Attempting to connect a legacy PBX with a wider modern communications suite just doesn’t work, it results in more limited functionality, a fragmented and complex suite of applications, and requires more licenses, hardware and engineering time.

Moving to a hosted UC solution utilising industry leading applications from Broadsoft and Microsoft enables businesses to benefit from a seamlessly integrated application experience that improves communications inside and outside of the business. It can also support business continuity, integration into CRMs like Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics, as well as providing all the necessary functionality to support mobile working.

“We see many customers which have their workforces spread across several sites; their employees report playing voicemail ‘tag’ for hours just to get basic information exchanged, and slow decision making. Integrated presence, instant messaging and desktop share features can unblock channels of communication and cut down on wasted time and effort. A business that uses UC well can be faster and more responsive than its competitors”.

Our latest research into the challenges for modern IT departments found that 40 per cent find workforce mobility to be a major stumbling block,” James continued. “The agility demanded by remote working, across multiple devices at all times significantly increases the complexity that IT leaders need to manage. However, Claranet’s UC services go a long way to alleviate these headaches. The best providers are able to build UC ‘into the network’, giving the company bandwidth prioritisation and smooth integration.

“There hasn’t been a better time than now for UC tools,” James concluded. “After many years of speculation, the time has come for modern IT departments to move away from outdated PBX infrastructure that is shackling their business and onto a cloud-based UC service. It is viable, sensible, cost-effective and innovative to move your communication platforms out of your buildings and onto the cloud, so businesses can unlock the power of modern collaboration tools” he concluded.

4 killer apps that were built using DevOps

It used to take up to about 9 months to deploy or longer. With months’ worth of lead time in the run-up.

It’s marginally quicker to walk from Istanbul to Edinburgh than it was to make any significant updates to your application.

So some smart people sat down to figure out how to reduce deployment time. Reducing deployment time is incredibly powerful because it shortens the feedback loop, which means that the features that customers want (or don’t want) are built (or removed) as quickly as possible.

Action for Children partners with Claranet to support its outreach efforts

Executive summary

Challenge: Action for Children’s old network – which served around 500 sites across the UK – was becoming increasingly slow, inefficient and costly.

Solution: Claranet migrated Action for Children to its own private MPLS network and designed a bespoke, automated solution to fast-track changes on the network.

Result: With improved network connectivity, as well as cost savings, Claranet has freed up Action for Children’s staff and volunteers so that they can focus on their primary roles – helping to care for and support children and young adults.

About Action for Children

For more than 140 years, Action for Children has been helping disadvantaged children and young adults through a number of innovative services and initiatives. In total, the charity works with around 300,000 children, young people and carers to tackle serious issues like child neglect and abuse.

The charity is run out of six core offices that co-ordinate and support approximately 600 services, offering support and care across the UK. These services include adoption and fostering, family support, helping children with disabilities and specialist schools. The ability to access information securely online is essential in the provision of these services.

The challenge

At any one time, approximately 500 sites up and down the UK sit on Action for Children’s central network, through which the charity coordinates its various initiatives from head office and centrally provides access to children’s databases, files, office and corporate systems.

Their old network, which had developed and grown organically over time, was becoming slow, inefficient, costly to maintain, while lacking the flexibility that the charity needed to function effectively.

Alan Crawford, CIO at Action for Children, explained:

As a charity, we owe it to our supporters to ensure that we are maximising our time, expenditure and resources. So when we assessed our network costs, in relation to the service we were receiving, it became clear that the issue needed to be addressed. Downtime was becoming a real issue, and as we don’t have the financial capacity to employ IT technicians to each remote site, we needed centralised management and support from our provider.

Our network is something of a movable beast. Although the base number of sites connected to the network sits at around 500, we tend to experience a churn rate of approximately 20 per cent per annum; many of our initiatives are conducted on a project basis and when one project finishes, another will start in a different part of the country. This had severe implications for our network, which wasn’t flexible enough to cope with near-constant change.”

Security was another key consideration for the charity. With children accessing the internet via their network, Action for Children needed an efficient way to control which pages were accessible, and which ones were not, to guarantee the children’s safety. Rather than managing this on each device, the charity wanted to control these settings with a network-wide firewall.

The solution

After a thorough evaluation of the market, and a competitive tender, Action for Children chose Claranet to implement and manage its new network. As part of the solution, Claranet worked with Action for Children to migrate their 500 sites to its own core MPLS network and, with project management support, the process was quick with minimal disruption.

One of the key requirements of the solution was to find a fast and efficient way to commission and decommission sites on the network, as this had proved a real headache with the incumbent supplier. With this in mind, Claranet developed a bespoke, automated process, designed to fast-track these changes to network and remove the burden of management from Action for Children.

“By any measure, our network requirements are incredibly complicated,” Alan said. “Moving so many sites to a new network had huge scope for disruption, which was something we were acutely aware of when selecting a new provider. Claranet’s infrastructure fitted the bill, but they also demonstrated a willingness to go the extra mile to help us meet our requirements.”

By using Claranet’s private WAN, Claranet manages the firewall settings from the servers to ensure safety and security is maintained. This means Action for Children doesn’t have to change any settings per device as the settings are installed at the network level. As Claranet manages all firewalls centrally, it removes the burden from site staff, and provides the charity peace of mind that all devices are protected.

The results

By outsourcing their network requirements to Claranet, Action for Children has seen significant time and cost savings, as well as improvements to network efficiency and IT support. With improved network connectivity, it has freed up its staff and volunteers so that they can focus on their primary roles – helping to care for and support children and young adults.

Alan explains:

We have been in constant contact with Claranet through the design, build, support and evolve phases, and we couldn’t be happier with their proactive approach. From day one, Claranet has delivered outstanding customer service. The network had to overcome a number of challenges, for example providing connectivity to all of our off-site locations, and these were understood from the start. We needed a Wide-Area Network that felt like we were using a Local-Area Network in terms of speed, efficiency and connectivity. Claranet listened to our requirements and provided us with a tailored solution to suit our needs.

Migrating 500 sites on to a new network was a big undertaking, with a great deal of potential for things to go wrong, but the transition has been incredibly smooth. This no doubt owes much to Claranet’s strong project management skills and intricate planning. Claranet often advise us on how to get the most out of our network, and, as a result, we have been able to increase our productivity.”

As Claranet is big enough to drive supplier cost down, and small enough to build personal relationships, they understand each client’s individual requirements to offer bespoke solutions. The partnership between Action for Children and Claranet is strong.

Alan concluded:

The relationship we have with Claranet owes much to their service. Whenever we’ve got a problem, or need to speak to someone, we are able to jump on the phone and speak to a solution expert who knows us, and knows what we are talking about immediately. As a result, any issues are resolved much more quickly. We’re really looking forward to the future with Claranet.”

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