This article was first published in the Spring 2015 issue of OnWindows
Founded in 1992, Toronto-based Distributech/InvestorCom initially handled the direct mail marketing needs for some of Canada’s major brands. As the number of companies outsourcing their marketing communications, financial publishing and e-commerce functions has grown, Distributech/InvestorCom has developed from a traditional marketing and print fulfilment company to a multi-platform software-as-a-services (SaaS) provider.
Today, Distributech provides three SaaS platforms, including a marketing automation web portal called DOXTM and an InvestorPOSTM reporting solution for the financial services and insurance industries. It also offers Pivotal ContactTM, a data mining, analytics and business intelligence service for marketers.
According to Randy McIver, vice president of IT, the company’s SaaS operations are fast overtaking its more traditional functions. “We’re quickly building out a set of strong SaaS offerings from our legacy brick warehouse and print operations,” he says. “Half our growth is due to these new channels we’ve opened up.”
Each day, Distributech/InvestorCom’s IT infrastructure handles millions of varied online data transactions, such as e-commerce orders, client files and data transferred via web service calls. To boost its capacity to manage such high levels of traffic and improve disaster recovery and security, the company needed to replace its existing multi-vendor IT patchwork.
“We were starting to have availability issues and clearly needed to upgrade to newer technology platforms,” says McIver. “At the same time, we needed to simplify and make our IT systems much more efficient to operate and grow.”
Assisted by Dell Deployment Services, Distributech/InvestorCom implemented an end-to-end infrastructure solution comprised of components from Dell’s hardware and software portfolios.
According to McIver, Distributech/InvestorCom chose Dell because it was willing to share its architectural expertise before the sale to help design the solution, while Dell Financial Services provided a lease-to-own arrangement to enable the company to acquire the solution while conserving capital.
The main reason for choosing Dell was that it could provide one source for the company’s much-needed refresh of its end-to-end infrastructure, both at the Toronto co-location data centre near its headquarters and at another co-located disaster recovery site in a nearby suburb.
“Dell could provide everything from switching to servers to storage, firewalls, and backup, which greatly simplifies overall IT management and scaling for growth,” explains McIver. “We saved months and a lot of risk in getting our solution designed, deployed and running by using Dell Deployment Services.”
Distributech/InvestorCom installed three Dell PowerEdge R620 servers, two Dell Networking N4024 10GbE Layer 3 switches and one Dell EqualLogic PS6210 storage area network with 18TB of usable capacity in its main data centre. In addition, Microsoft Hyper-V was used to virtualise 50 physical servers, which are managed by Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager. The company also deployed a similar setup at its disaster recovery site for replication and failover.
“Overall we reduced our server footprint by 75% and halved our energy use by virtualising our systems on Dell PowerEdge servers,” McIver says. “At the same time, we boosted our systems availability significantly and we’re now seeing huge performance gains with our new Dell end-to-end infrastructure.”
Meanwhile, the company implemented Dell PowerVault tape backup systems and Dell SonicWall firewalls to provide Canada’s major banks and other financial institutions with improved data security and to help them achieve regulatory compliance.
In addition, Distributech/InvestorCom’s acquired a large quantity of Dell Latitude laptops for executive and sales teams, enabling them to remotely connect to the company’s enterprise resource planning and customer relationship management systems. Dell Latitude 6 Series laptops and Dell OptiPlex PCs are now standard for all employees.
One of the biggest benefits of the new Dell infrastructure is that Distibutech/Investorcom’s team can now manage all systems more easily. The team uses Microsoft System Center to manage the virtual servers and Dell OpenManage Essentials to control all the Dell hardware including servers, storage, networking and SonicWall firewall appliances. In addition, the OpenManage Mobile application also gives staff remote access to health status information via any smart device.
“We estimate that it will save hundreds of hours of IT time-savings per year,” says McIver. “Morale is so much higher since the team is now doing a lot less ‘fire fighting’ and is able to work with some of the latest technologies.”
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