Canada’s largest supplier of propane has signed a five-year service agreement with IBM Canada to manage its IT infrastructure, including desktops, servers and disaster recovery services.

Superior Propane needed higher availability, a governance model with better accountability, and improved disaster and incident recovery.

“Being able to achieve that for the same baseline cost was a context for the business case,” said Greg Stewart, vice-president of business services with Superior Propane, a division of Superior Plus Inc. based in Calgary.

The company already had a few outsourcing agreements in place, which were coming to an end. “We wanted to seize that opportunity to look at this in a more strategic context,” he said. During that time, a new business reality had emerged where the company was realizing a need for shorter recovery timeframes.

“We weren’t immune to things like viruses and patch management,” said Stewart. “Those had become bigger issues during the last couple years.” As a result of this changing business environment, the company was looking for a more integrated end-to-end model – and a single point of accountability.

“What had also become apparent is we were both the customer and the integrator,” said Stewart. For example, virus management would manifest itself as both a desktop and a network issue. “There was the question of who was going to quarterback resolution and what tended to happen is we were both the customer and the integrator and we had to quarterback those scenarios,” he said.

With 150 operating locations across the country and 700 desktops, the company wanted one service provider to be accountable for its entire IT infrastructure. Superior Propane chose IBM after reviewing proposals from five IT companies. IBM is targeting the mid-market with service offerings for as few as 20 servers and less than 1,000 desktops.

“We have a number of remote locations so the remote management capability is key,” said Stewart. “We were able to raise the bar significantly from a service level perspective for the same cost.”

The service agreement involves four components: data centre management, desktop maintenance, disaster recovery and network monitoring.

“One of the reasons they did this was to really have us take care of the plumbing,” said Roy Hebert, client manager for SMBs specializing in travel and transportation sectors with IBM Canada Ltd.

IBM is working in conjunction with three partners to provide these services. AniSoft Group Inc. will manage the initial installation of servers and storage. NexInnovations will deliver desktop maintenance services, while Nuvo will handle ongoing network monitoring.

IBM will manage Superior Propane’s data centre, including its iSeries and Intel servers, SAN and tape storage, as well as desktops and laptops. IBM will install a software agent on all of the company’s desktops so they can be managed remotely. However, if someone is needed on-site at any of the company’s locations, NexInnovations will act as a sub-contractor for desktop maintenance services. “They’re the arms and legs for us,” said Hebert.

IBM will integrate with its partners on the back-end, so Superior Propane only has to deal with one point of contact.

“From an acquisitions perspective as we try and move into the U.S. marketplace, partnering with a vendor that positions us well for the next five years was a strategic consideration,” said Stewart.

The company was looking for more than just a hosted solution; it wanted a partner that would evolve with the company. Rather than a static outsourcing agreement, the capacity for change has been built into the new service model. “That’s a new reality,” he said. “It’s hard to quantify, but it was a key consideration.”

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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