Andrew Page drives down network costs with SAS Global Communications

Posted on Friday March 30, 2012

London - SAS Global Communications, an international provider of managed network and professional services, has announced the completion of a project to upgrade the WAN infrastructure of Andrew Page, a leading independent distributor of quality vehicle components, workshop equipment, tools and diagnostics. The new network is supported by a three year managed services agreement with SAS and includes 24/7 WAN, Internet and firewall infrastructure monitoring.

The Andrew Page network has grown progressively and the company now has 63 strategically located branches throughout the UK. Recently the company announced a major investment with news of the creation of a new national distribution centre to be established in Derbyshire, which will come on stream later this year.

Like most twenty-first century companies, the network plays a critical role in the delivery and management of client services for Andrew Page. IT director Stephen Coleman explains: “We’re running Citrix out at all our branches so without the link, the branch doesn’t operate. Couple this with the fact we produce and deliver 18,000 invoices a day, mostly within the hour, you can see the importance of the network”

A long term user of BT’s data services, Andrew Page Ltd was generally satisfied with the network BT had provided but was starting to struggle with managing the technology in-house.

“Andrew Page has an aggressive growth plan; we’ve added 20 depots onto the network in the last two years,” said Stephen. “Previously, we only stretched from Newcastle to Sheffield so having a wires-only network that we managed ourselves was okay, but as we’ve grown we recognised we needed more support. It’s about the scalability of the business.”

For Andrew Page, ‘getting more support’ meant moving to a managed infrastructure.

“Because we’re on such rapid delivery times with customers – we think it’s important to respond within minutes to any issues – our IT department gets involved in a lot of detail. We’ve got our own developers, network admin guys and infrastructure guys but with just a small team supporting the entire workforce, that’s not enough resource to manage a complex network as well,” said Stephen.

Having made the decision to switch to a managed infrastructure, Stephen decided to put the new network out for tender and spoke to four different organisations before finally settling on a solution from BT and SAS.

“One thing we were concerned about was getting lost in the BT machine but meeting with SAS and seeing a demonstration of their capabilities gave us the comfort we needed,” said Stephen. “We felt like we mattered to SAS and would be looked after well. We didn’t get the same level of comfort with the other service providers.”
Apart from providing an enhanced data network, which would give Andrew Page a lot more bandwidth and resilience on its network, Stephen realised that the BT and SAS solution also made good financial sense.

“Even with the managed services on top, I could see that it would work out cheaper than our old network on a per depot basis,” said Stephen.
However before making a final commitment, Stephen was keen to see SAS in action.

“We went down to the SAS NOC and had a close look at the operation from a customer care perspective. We wanted to know how faults were dealt with and experience the general level of comfort given to customers,” said Stephen.

Impressed by what he saw, Stephen signed Andrew Page Ltd up for the new network.

SAS began the project by providing technical design authority (TDA) for a new WAN, Internet and firewall infrastructure. With TDA complete, work commenced on circuit provisioning for the first phase of the project; this included engaging with Kingston Communications to provision Internet circuits for sites in the Hull area.

To implement the new network and migrate Andrew Page across from its existing infrastructure, SAS Global Communications put together a team of SAS project managers and engineering staff. Over the months that followed, the team worked through the deployment of each branch office, installing and configuring BT’s 21CN Ethernet MPLS circuits as the primary network along with DSL circuits for resilience.

At the company’s two data centres, one of which serves as Andrew Page’s headquarters, SAS installed large BT MPLS and Internet circuits to act as the primary and secondary networks. It also installed an Etherflow SHDS (short haul data service) circuit between the two data centres to provide additional resilience by triangulating the architecture.
Through SAS’s network operations centre (NOC), Andrew Page now receives the company’s platinum managed services which provide 24/7 monitoring and support of the firewall infrastructure, Internet circuits, WAN infrastructure and SHDS.

“It might be anecdotal but since we’ve had a managed network, we feel that we’ve got better performance and increased levels of resilience and we think that’s mainly because of the monitoring we get from the SAS NOC,” said Stephen. “Having a managed network doesn’t mean you’re blind to everything. In fact with SAS we’re still able to monitor the network ourselves and we get to discuss any issues and see the stats whenever we want.”

“It’s difficult for a small team like ours to get all the technical skills you need to run a complex network so it’s a comfort to work with such a wide variety of specialists at SAS and I generally feel far less exposed if issues do arise,” said Stephen.

“A lot of companies ask me ‘where’s the benefit in outsourcing your network; surely people in-house are better qualified to manage your network than a third party’,” said Charles Davis CEO for SAS Global Communications. “In absolute terms, that will only ever be true if those companies can afford to retain the vast breadth and depth of expertise they will need throughout the in-life service of their network. That’s what SAS provides for clients like Andrew Page; we give our customers access to our 60-strong team of network specialists and share the cost between them – there can’t be too many end-users out there who can compete with that level of expertise in-house.”