For many of us that have grown up in Britain, the mention of a childhood family holiday conjures up an image and memories that will live with us for the rest of our life. And today that experience lives on - with Park Resorts creating amazing memories by providing Caravan, Lodge or Chalet Holidays and Holiday Home Ownership at their 49 Parks in some of the most stunning coastal and lakeside locations in the UK.
Founded in 2001, Park Resorts have grown the business by delivering the best British holiday experience for their customers. This is underpinned by an IT infrastructure that allows this distributed and dynamic organisation to stay ahead of the competition. Richard Pugh is the Director of IT at Park Resorts, having joined the company in 2013 with a background of working for Managed Service Providers as well as Service Delivery. Richard is accountable to the business for ensuring that this IT infrastructure allows the company to meet their daily and long term strategic objectives.
What exactly does the infrastructure of a business of this nature consist of?
“Customer service is a very important part of our business” explains Richard “and the CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system is used not only for customer enquires but also for lead management, sales, service, quality and support. The sale of Caravans, Lodges and Chalets is a key growth area for us as a business and, as with the holiday bookings, the CRM system underpins our ability to maintain and grow this revenue stream.”
Richard adds “Without question our website is paramount to what we do, our shop window if you will, and its availability is fundamental to our business. This is coupled with our back-end IT infrastructure, providing the gateway into the email, databases and our core booking system, but if the shop window isn’t visible the architecture behind it cannot work to its full potential. Traditionally a printed brochure was our shop window, but the digital age has seen the website take on this role.”
“In addition to this we have the environment of an everyday business, with remote offices and users (the parks), a centralised IT function at our Support Office in Hemel Hempstead, with in excess of 600 full-time and around 1100 seasonal staff, and documents, spread sheets, images and emails generated by each and every one of these people with associated data retention policies and expectations of availability.”
This highlights that there’s a lot more to the largest operator of caravan parks in the UK than perhaps you realised.
Working alongside Richard at Park Resorts is Michael Kennedy, the IT Infrastructure Manager. A key part of Michael’s role is providing a reliable and scalable storage & virtualisation platform for the business. Michael turned to trusted partner NCE for the solution to meet this challenge.
“Our initial requirement was to introduce a truly resilient (active-active) storage platform that could provide both capacity and performance” explains Michael. “NCE introduced us to the DataCore SANsymphony-V Software Defined Storage technology which offered the flexibility to use an underlying storage architecture that wouldn’t have a proprietary software layer and the cost premiums that are typically associated with that technology. Working closely we NCE, we opted for the Dot Hill AssuredSAN 3004 Series Storage Arrays which proved to be far more realistic commercially than the alternatives that had features we would never use and costs that we weren’t in a position to entertain.”
“Having implemented the solution to meet this initial requirement and gained confidence and trust in the technology, we looked to address the Disaster Recovery (DR) needs of the business, something that initially was catered for by redeploying the legacy storage to our DR facility and using a third DataCore SANsymphony-V Node with Asynchronous Replication from the primary site. The legacy storage was ageing and although NCE, with their ability to support this out of warranty hardware, provided us with the option to maintain this equipment, we recognised that introducing an additional Dot Hill AssuredSAN 3004 Series Storage Array at the DR site represented a good investment and therefore we added this to our DR estate.”
“Our Storage Area Network (SAN) topology now leverages all of the key features that the DataCore SANsymphony-V Software Defined Storage technology has to offer. We use Automated Storage Tiering, a feature that dynamically decides what data block goes where and ensuring that the mixed disk types (we have both 15k rpm and 7.2k rpm drives in the Dot Hill Arrays) are used to their full potential. The replication features, providing real-time (Synchronous) replication in the Headquarters and point in time (Asynchronous) replication to the DR site, ensure we meet our Service Level Agreements (SLA’s) to the business.”
Having ensured that the SAN was fully resilient Michael turned his attention to Data Protection, more specifically at the application layer and protection of his Physical and Virtual Machines (what would traditionally have been known as Backup). Again, Michael turned to NCE for guidance.
“Speaking to John (the Account Manager for Park Resorts at NCE) it appears that what we were asking for wasn’t a unique request; we wanted a software solution that could protect both our Physical and Virtual Server environment – and using two separate, independent, products to achieve the same goal simply didn’t make sense. Deduplication was also an important aspect of what we wanted as this would mean we would get more out of our storage target, as we (as with every business) have a significant amount of duplicated files in our environment. We also needed the Bare Metal Recovery (BMR) functionality to help with migrations, upgrades and instant restores.”
Again, vendor independent storage specialist NCE had a solution that met the objectives that Michael had outlined. Unified Data Protection (UDP) from Arcserve offered the flexibility and feature set that Park Resorts required. Since investing in the solution from NCE, a Premium Partner of Arcserve, Michael has nothing but positives to say about the solution “The implementation went exceptionally well, I managed to move all of our virtual and physical servers over to the Arcserve UDP environment much quicker than expected and without issue. I have never put a product in so quickly, and when it worked it just worked. Ironically, I was the slowest bit! It has impressed me and it has been a game changer for our business. We have gone from a very manual incomplete data protection strategy with extreme vulnerability, to an automated, complete data protection strategy by investing in Arcserve UDP.”
“We are backing up 10x as much data with Arcserve UDP in a quarter of the time it used to take. We couldn’t do a full backup with the previous solution; we had to stagger the backups across numerous windows to even achieve a full backup. The deduplication ratios we are getting are between 70-80% and these have, without doubt, played a major part in the backup efficiency. I know it’s running, I know it’s doing its stuff and I can rely on it. The previous software we used meant that I used to ask the service desk team to log the results of all the backups every day, we don’t need to do that anymore. It has freed up resource as a result, saving hidden costs to the business. Historically we only had a small window of recovery, whereas now we have the ability to roll back and deliver a point in time recovery to meet the users requests, it’s fantastic!”
The Arcserve UDP licensing model was also a positive when Michael investigated Arcserve UDP “The capacity license provides us with the flexibility that we require as we’re no longer restricted or tied to a specific license that relates to a specific feature or application. The predecessor that we used were notorious for making it incredibly difficult to understand what you had and what you needed, trying to wade through their licensing was ridiculous, it was time consuming and difficult to manage. I’m a big fan of the a la carte approach that this new licensing model has, and I hope that other vendors will adopt it – it will certainly make my life a lot easier if they do!”
These words are very positive, but how about NCE – what do Richard & Michael from Park Resorts have to say about them? Let’s start with Richard: “Something I say to all our suppliers is that what I need is not just an immediate relationship to meet a specific requirement but for them to provide thought leadership and help us with strategic guidance based on their knowledge and experience to match where we are going. NCE have proven they can meet that requirement and continue to do so. They are a valuable and trusted partner to Park Resorts.”
Michael adds “The true test of a partnership for me is when things go wrong, and an unexpected power outage in the winter months in our old server room put this to the test. It was at that point NCE, the SAN and DataCore proved their worth. I was very impressed with how quickly we were able to restore the storage and virtualisation infrastructure that NCE provided from an unscheduled dead stop, aided by the NCE support team. This unfortunate event gave us the trust in the NCE solution to utilise the DataCore technologies and move our server room into a Data Centre, confident that our data was secure and consistent. The service we get from NCE is exceptional - we are always able to talk to the right people with the required skills, experience and knowledge, and know that matters will be escalated and communicated to the vendor support team if and when deemed necessary. This has underpinned our relationship with NCE and the quality of the support we get is a key differentiator that sets NCE apart from others in the industry”.
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May 22 2017
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