Cranford Group Data Centre Infrastructure and Management

A service where each school enjoys an equal and appropriate quality of service

The Challenge

The Cranford Group (CG) is a soft federation of schools that came together in frustration at being left behind by the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme.  They aimed to procure a largely revenue based alternative to BSF.

Gaia have worked with this group, since 2010, to build on their BSF aspirations and create a new vision for a federated ICT service.  This vision would create a service where each school enjoys an equal and appropriate quality of service at the right and affordable price. The requirements were for a transfer of risk and operational management to Gaia.

What We Did

In an effort to reduce the overall cost and increase the efficiency, Gaia has designed, implemented and currently maintains a Data Centre from which many of the Schools within the group share services and resources. Currently there are nine separate large schools that connect to the Data Center using one or more dedicated leased line circuits with speeds ranging from 100Mbps to 1Gbps.

The design lends itself to a distributed multi-core model where each school has its own infrastructure (Servers, Storage, Network, etc. also under Gaia’s management) and relies on the Data Centre for redundancy and shared services.  These include:

  • A shared Active Directory Domain.
  • A shared wireless control.
  • A shared Internet supply and firewall service.
  • A shared Internet filtering.
  • A shared telephony environment.

The Outcome

Gaia now provides a complete service that includes the day-to-day system management, responsibility for all technology infrastructure, systems operation, integration, support, administration, and performance monitoring.  The service also includes strategic consultancy, cost efficiency/value engineering, technical diagnostics/troubleshooting, configuration management, system repair and disposal management and the production of weekly, termly and annual management reports.

All elements within the data centre itself and the distributed infrastructure are connected to a monitoring system that receives regular status updates.  This is accomplished using a monitoring system called Enterprise OPs Manager from ManageEngine. This is an integrated network management software that continuously measure network performance and availability.

The Network Operations Centre (NOC) at Gaia HQ is responsible for:

  • Security management including the control, monitoring and management of security devices, systems, web sites, applications, databases, servers and data centres, and other technologies and services. This extends to managed firewall, identity and access management, intrusion detection, virtual private networks, vulnerability scanning and anti-viral/anti-phishing services.
  • Network Performance Monitoring that enables the team to troubleshoot and fix a problem even before it starts affecting the end user. This is done through proactive monitoring of all devices for availability, performance, traffic, and other parameters.
  • As voice is part of our shared services, the NOC also monitors using NetFlow tools the Quality of Service to determine which applications are causing increased demand on the available traffic capacity and the potential to disrupt other more important communications.

Gaia is also responsible for supply chain and contract lifecycle management. This includes third party contract management and/or service integration (SIAM) with regard to outsourcing, procurement, licensing and any other technology related agreements containing contractual obligations to the customer.  This includes close working relationship and oversight over large companies such as BT, Virgin, Gamma, Toshiba, Capita to name a few who provide the schools with key systems and services that must be available.

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