Provide a brief description of the Solution, Service Provided, or Initiative?

IRC Building Sciences Group (IRC) is headquartered in Mississauga, Ontario. They provide extensive building envelope engineering, roof consulting, and structural engineering services; including design, assessment and complete project management. In early 2009 IT Weapons developed and rolled out a centralized, high-availability, cloud-based computing, storage, and messaging system for over 100 highly skilled engineering, consulting, and support staff working in 6 locations across Canada. The fully virtualized system delivered from the IT Weapons Cloud has ensured that IRC has an end-to-end system with plenty of high-performance, is scalable, and has on-demand resources to accommodate their heavy computing demands (with AutoCAD and other design software) and their future growth. Their staff can focus on optimizing their business rather than troubleshooting and maintaining their IT environment. The ITIL certified Technical Support Team at IT Weapons is responsible for all the management and monitoring of IRC’s systems. At the server level, their system includes VMware virtualization technology which is one of the cornerstones of the IT Weapons Cloud. Storage is accommodated by the over 125 Terabyte redundant SAN system which we developed for our Cloud customers. IRC’s applications are delivered via Citrix XenApp 5, their file structures, organizational topology, and user groups were developed in Active Directory and their shared calendar and email systems are running in Microsoft Exchange 2007. Since the computing and storage environment of the IT Weapons Cloud is all housed in our secure Data Centre, nearly all of IRC’s employees access their work on simple thin clients and notebooks; keeping desk-side hardware and maintenance costs down, and ensuring sensitive corporate information is safe from theft or hardware failure. While server-based “thin computing” is not new technology, what is especially impressive is the innovation and performance capacity that was required for IRC’s engineers and consultants to be able to run resource intensive graphics programs like AutoCAD remotely, in Citrix, on simple thin clients. IT Weapons made that happen. From a business continuity perspective, IRC also enjoyed an important benefit from the system developed with IT Weapons. What is notable is that the new centralized system afforded IRC’s staff the ability to work securely from the field or from home-and they made good use of this remote access technology when 2 Ottawa employees were quarantined at home for 2 weeks after being diagnosed with H1N1 last year. Not only were these employees able to access all their applications and data from home, the technology ensured that no IRC employee would be encouraged to come into the office sick and risk spreading the illness. One of the employees actually joked to Fowler that he wouldn’t speak to him anymore because now he had to work from home because of the new system!

Describe what makes this Solution, Service Provided, or Initiative original or innovative.How is this over and above the accepted norm?

The IT Weapons Cloud, designed and backed by our award winning consulting team is at the heart of this end-to-end solution. There is no question that very few (if any) VARs in Canada have the expertise and resources to execute this kind of project, in 6 months, for a company like IRC. IRC operates with over 100 highly skilled engineering and consulting employees in the field and in six offices across Canada. From an IT systems management perspective, IRC’s operations presented a unique set of challenges. First, they are geographically dispersed across Canada with under 150 employees. So having dedicated IT resources (including staffing and equipment) at every location would be cumbersome and terribly expensive to administer. The problem was that while they recognized the growing need for a centralized system, their consultants and engineers across Canada rely heavily on sophisticated, resource-intensive, and expensive software and technology for dealing with engineering schematics, architectural drawings, etc. Before IRC redeveloped their IT system with IT Weapons, they would have to spend over $3,000 for a single high-end, maintenance heavy, computer to run software like AutoCAD. And the staff could rarely (if ever) access those AutoCAD files from anywhere but that workstation. Since many IRC consultants spend a great deal of time onsite with their customers, this process was inefficient and expensive. Now, with a centralized, remotely accessible Citrix environment delivering their apps, there are IRC employees that are able to run AutoCAD on a $250 thin client with a Linux Operating System. That’s unheard of! And they are free to access centralized files remotely too with nearly any web-enabled device. On the hardware side alone this amounts to a near 10-fold (1000%) savings in workstation costs, let alone the money saved in reduced support and maintenance time with thin clients. From a costing and budget perspective, moving to the IT Weapons Cloud meant that IRC would be free from the typical capital spending cycles associated with purchasing back-end IT equipment like servers, storage devices, etc. No longer do the IRC executives have to set aside cash reserves for unexpected equipment replacements in the Data Centre. A good deal of their capital expenses when it comes to IT have been eliminated and replaced with a simple, fixed, monthly fee that is proportional only to the resources used by IRC. The IT Weapons Cloud, designed and backed by our award winning consulting team is at the heart of this end-to-end solution. There is no question that very few (if any) VARs in Canada have the expertise and resources to execute this kind of project, in 6 months, for a company like IRC.

Describe the improvement this Solution, Service Provided, or Initiative made to the customer’s sales or revenues. What changed?

Suppose IRC wanted to open a new location or branch. The centralized system from IT Weapons makes this process smooth and budget-friendly. IT Manager Fowler reflected that, “I just have to buy some additional licensing, get IT Weapons to deploy another virtual server in their Data Centre, ensure internet connectivity at the new site, and in a matter of hours, the IT infrastructure can be user-ready.” He continues, “gone are the days where I have to procure hardware, upload a bunch of software, and build a server room. I don’t have to do that anymore. At my old employer, in their recently built Edmonton branch, their entire IT room is the size of our boardroom; they have a $15,000 air conditioning unit, and over $100,000 spent on racks, batteries, physical servers, etc…” With the fully outsourced virtual resources at the IT Weapons Data Centre, expansion is quick and cost-effective. Newly provisioned virtual servers are a mere fraction of the potential cost. Or consider the costs associated with engineering computer workstations. Before IRC redeveloped their IT system with IT Weapons, they would have to spend over $3,000 for a single high-end, maintenance heavy, computer to run software like AutoCAD. And the staff could rarely (if ever) access those AutoCAD files from anywhere but that workstation. Since many IRC consultants spend a great deal of time onsite with their customers, this process was inefficient and expensive. Now, with the centralized, remotely accessible Citrix environment delivering their apps, there are some instances where IRC employees are using AutoCAD in a $250 thin-client with a Linux Operating System. And they are free to access files remotely too with nearly any web-enabled device. On the hardware side alone this amounts to a near 10-fold (1000%) savings in workstation costs, let alone the money saved in reduced support and maintenance time with thin clients.

Describe the improvement this Solution, Service Provided, or Initiative made to the customer’s efficiency. What changed?

Within 6 months, all of IRC’s staff across Canada was migrated onto a centralized Microsoft Exchange environment; everyone is connected with email and calendar sharing. Collaboration, information sharing, and scheduling are orders of magnitude easier now. During the system redesign phase, IRC also implemented an ERP and job costing solution for the entire company. They had nothing standardized prior to that. Fowler reflects, “We had a windows 95 version of our accounting system. While doing all the back-end environment stuff with IT Weapons we took the opportunity to roll out a fully functioning, centralized ERP.” With the ERP system now in place, IRC now has all their project and job costing, reporting, accounts receivable, payable, time card entry logs, operating for everyone across Canada for all 6 locations. From Fowler, “since we had no real centralized ERP before, the new package and a centralized desktop delivery system gave us the opportunity to standardize our procedures and data entry methods for project and job costing, invoicing and archiving business processes. With all the company data centralized now in the Data Centre, we also had the opportunity to standardize our directory structures, file naming, access permissions with Microsoft’s Active Directory. It has not just made system administration much easier but made finding information on the central store much easier for our users, making the entire company more efficient.” Fowler remarks, “Now that the infrastructure is set up, this has freed up my time from day–to-day system troubleshooting, to allowing me to focus on a role with real value; to make IRC’s systems better, long-term, and to save the company money and ensure a good Return on Investment.”

How did this Solution, Service Provided, or Initiative improve the customer’s ability to serve its internal and/or external clients?

From a business continuity and operational agility perspective, IRC enjoys some important benefits from the system developed with IT Weapons. Part of the desire to establish a centralized system with secure remote access was accommodating workforce displacement in case of a disaster. Although it was just ancillary concern at the time, planning for workforce disruption because of illness was on IRC’s list of reasons to adopt the new system. What is notable is that the new centralized system afforded IRC’s staff the ability to work securely from the field or from home-and they made good use of that remote access technology when 2 Ottawa employees were quarantined at home for 2 weeks after being diagnosed with H1N1 last year. Not only were these employees able to access all their applications and data from home, the technology ensured that no IRC employee would be encouraged to come into the office sick and risk spreading the illness. What is more, since their people can access system resources, architectural plans, invoices etc. remotely from the field, IRC’s customers get real-time benefits from a technology-enabled company. Since many IRC consultants spend a great deal of time onsite with their customers, they no longer need to go back to the office to access data, invoices, or files. They get their customers the information they need in real-time; even if they are working in Halifax and need information from the Ottawa office. With a centralized, remotely accessible Citrix environment delivering their apps, there are IRC employees that are able to run AutoCAD on a $250 thin-client with a Linux Operating System. That’s unheard of! And it is doubtless that the operational cost savings and increased business agility enjoyed by IRC gets passed on to their customers daily.

In what ways does this Solution, Service Provided, or Initiative go above and beyond industry norms and expectations?

The end-to-end infrastructure-as-a-service provided by the IT Weapons Cloud is what makes all the difference. When one considers the fact that only a handful of engineering firms have ever been able to run AutoCAD remotely through Citrix, this mid-market solution really shines; not only has IT Weapons radically improved the operational efficiency of IRC by moving them into our Cloud and eliminating most of their capital expense for IT, but that very same virtualized, high-availability system has the performance capacity to allow IRC’s engineers to access to AutoCAD from nearly any web-enabled device. The reality is that their industry is very competitive and the ability to work remotely in this way gives them that edge to outperform competitors. Their IT infrastructure gives them the ability to work remotely at client sites and provide higher customer satisfaction. IRC’s IT Manager George Fowler remarked, “Its not like IT Weapons invented Citrix or virtualization technology, but they consistently have the resources I need to make things happen. They had the expertise to guide IRC’s decisions and develop a system that is virtualized, centralized, and provides high availability. That is the future … that is where the IT industry should be going. The reality is that IT Weapons might have made more money if IRC bought a whole bunch of racks and physical servers up front. But they acted in our best interests rather than just looking for a short term gain; getting us to dish out a bunch of money. IT Weapons helped us make the best business-minded choice.” IT Weapons has always been focused on business first. This is a great illustration of the core values that sets IT Weapons apart from our competitors: integrity and expertise.

How does this solution further your customer’s green or environmentally friendly plans?

By adopting a fully virtualized cloud-based server environment and operating on thin client workstations, IRC is saving over $6K in yearly energy costs and their IT carbon footprint is tremendously low.

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