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How a construction company put a server at the hub of their business

From quills to Microsoft Small Business Server 2003 in just 146 years

Founded in 1860, T Manners and Sons Ltd is a family-owned construction company in Bishop Auckland. When it moved offices in 2005, it didn't let tradition stand in the way of upgrading to Windows Small Business Server 2003.

The seventy-plus employee, 10m turnover company worked in Victorian premises in the town centre. The location was "stifling" the business, according to Alan Crawford, one of the firm's directors. So they decided to move to purpose-built offices just outside town. Just as they were outgrowing the physical infrastructure, they were also outgrowing their IT facilities. An old server, running an even older operating system, and their desktop PCs were reaching the end of their useful life. So, as part of the move, they decided to put in a completely new system.

"Everything we do is on the server"

To support around twenty users in the new office (the rest of the staff work on building sites), Crawford wanted a fully-integrated system that would give everyone access to email and the internet, as well as keeping files and data securely on a central server. Above all "we wanted a sound reliable system," he says, "because all our systems and records are actually stored on the server."

Quote�The server is the hub of the business �End Quote

In fact, the server is the hub of the business. Their Sage accounts are stored on it. Insurance company work comes into the small works department by email. Costings, specifications, quotations and technical documentation are stored centrally. Even architectural drawings, done using AutoCAD, are stored on the server and printed out using wide format printers attached to it. T. Manners also uses an advanced document scanner to file documents such as employee time sheets, reducing the amount of paperwork they have to manage. If the server stopped working, even for a few minutes, the office would grind to a halt.

Hassle-free maintenance

Jade Integration, a Microsoft Certified Partner, won a three-way competition to set up the new system. For maximum reliability, they installed an HP Proliant server with Smart array RAID controller. This means that even if a single disk fails, the server can keep on running while the broken disk is swapped for a new one. They also installed an uninterruptible power supply - in 2004 they had been badly hit by an electrical storm which knocked out their electricity supply and they didn't want a repeat performance. They use ISA Server 2004 as a firewall to keep out electronic attacks.

Jade Integration manages the whole installation remotely for T. Manners. They can add and delete users, perform routine administration and keep the system running smoothly without ever having to visit the premises. The only time they need to visit is when hardware problems occur, as when a tape got chewed up in the backup system.

Reliability is everything

It's an arrangement that suits Crawford, as it reduces the amount of time he has to spend managing the system. "I can do my work and still see my wife and kids occasionally," he jokes. "I've been really impressed with the way that the system has worked and operated." The reliability and security offered by Microsoft Small Business Server 2003, backed up by Jade Integration and robust hardware, means he can concentrate on his real job: growing the business.

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