How thinking within the box helped a large Welsh business improve disaster resilience

Wales leading Welsh IT specialists ITCS are used to tackling complex, bespoke projects as well as managing everyday IT support, telecoms. web design and SEO – but some projects are more challenging than others.

Bespoke projects are handled by a specialist team headed up by Projects Director Glyn Pearce.  Glyn often jokes that to work on projects, applicants need to ‘think outside the box’ – however a recent disaster recovery project saw him thinking very much within it!

A major client of ITCS approached the projects team to commission and build an a back-up data centre for their site in South Wales, currently employing over 500 people.

In order to improve business resilience, the client had analysed their existing solution, and identified that existing backup switches were not sufficiently remote to the main site.  This meant that if a disaster (such as a fire or flood) occurred, their current back-up solution would be equally vulnerable to the consequences of the same event.

ITCS were initially tasked to identify a good, secure location to house the recovery data centre within the existing building complex.  However, on inspection, the team were unable to identify a sufficiently remote location which would not be equally affected by any disaster that befell the main data centre site.

Widening the search to the exterior part of the site, Glen’s team were challenged to create a custom structure which would need to be affordable, reasonably fast to complete and sufficiently strong and secure to act as a disaster recovery suite.

Shipping containers are made from weathered steel, and therefore offer good fire resistance and security.  Having seen these sturdy containers used for all manner of purposes, Glyn wondered whether a shipping container could be used to create a disaster recovery suite, completely customized to meet the company’s exact needs.

Unlike traditional buildings, a container would require no building time, and would only need to be furnished to the company’s specification.  It could also be located anywhere, so finding the right spot sufficiently distant to the main building would not be a problem.  The chosen location could be connected to the main site via a 3000m fibre data cable, ensuring connectivity in a crisis.

Glyn presented the solution to the client, who loved the idea and instructed ITCS to go ahead with the build.

ITCS disaster recovery suite before conversion    

The build itself took 6 weeks at the ITCS site in Bridgend.  The team took an initial empty container, and the other departments at ITCS watched with interest as the projects team converted it into a complete office suite with both the hardware and comfort required to ensure business continuity in the event of a disaster.   The company also got some interested glances from passers by!

The next step would be installation of the disaster recovery suite at the clients site.

Logistics and transport were the next challenge.  Thankfully, ITCS have a good working relationship with local heavy transport experts Smiths Heavy Haulage.  The company worked closely with them, managing the logistics of transporting a heavy container to site.  ITCS then project managed installation, employing contractors and also oversaw health and safety on site during the container installation and then whilst supervising the laying of the 3000m fibre cable.

The result is a completely custom, robust disaster recovery solution that increased the client’s business resilience.  The client was over the moon with the final result, which was implemented on time and on budget.

Projects Director Glyn said:

“I always joke that working in the projects team means being able to think outside the box – I’ve now had to agree it means thinking WITHIN a box sometimes!

“This is a perfect illustration of how good planning, creative thinking and good relationships with logistics and contracting teams can deliver a complex project and make it look effortless to the untrained eye.  We’ve already had enquiries for similar projects for other large companies in the South Wales area, and it feels great to know that no matter what life throws at our clients, we are able to help them ensure business continuity.”