This Northern manufacturing business used IT and our Managed Services to help them grow and perform.
Cormar Carpets are a Lancashire-based Manufacturing business with a rich heritage having been established since 1956. With over 30 awards to their name in the flooring and carpet industry, Cormar Carpets have experienced success and growth in their sixty years of operating.
LIMA and Cormar Carpets have worked together over the last four years to assist the business’ IT growth and help it to perform efficiently under the stresses of increased workload. In the last three years, Cormar Carpets have increased revenue from £86 to £116 million. This huge increase in growth reflects the challenges and aspirations of the stakeholders – and ultimately the Cormar 2020 Vision – to continue to grow turnover and profitability.
Cormar’s IT Manager, Steve Haworth, told us that they had always had ‘an ethos of building the business through IT’, however Cormar Carpets faced a number of different challenges with significant growth over the last few years, and with plans for future expansion, it was the right time to optimise their IT for this purpose.
Consolidation to a service provider with the pre-requisite accreditations enabled a major redesign of the corporate networks to be enacted whilst maintaining uptime throughout the transition. Legacy structured cabling and switching were retired and could be replaced without impacting operations.
Security concerns around Cormar’s firewall and external connectivity were that their current environment was not considered enterprise grade and could’ve been the cause behind the issues they were experiencing. The firewall itself was obsolete and their remote access policy was using overly-complex and resource-intensive processes.
With outdated structured cabling and the business using Windows XP (with a then-nearing support expiry date), a re-think of Cormar’s IT infrastructure was the solution.
With the year-on-year demands on external traffic doubling, coupled with ever-increasing sophistication of security threats, it was essential to provision an enterprise-grade solution to address network latency and provision the business (and their e-Trading partners) with the best possible experience.
After our initial gap analysis brought the above challenges to our attention, we took the sensible first step of deploying a multi-tiered security solution to protect their existing infrastructure at all levels. We implemented a high-availability firewall, the WatchGuard xtm515, which replaced Cormar’s legacy firewall and served to reinforce the security of the infrastructure, making it an intelligent system with the objective of maximising uptime and performance.
The WatchGuard system was able to do this by consolidating all of Cormar’s security to a centralised cluster, whereas disparate, legacy equipment required a greater overhead in management time.
The enterprise grade firewall cluster supports the needs of the ever growing number of transactions taken over the business’ Trade Portal solution.
We also developed and implemented a storage platform based on the NetApp® FAS2552, which is designed for high-performance and increased capacity needs. Unlike the previous storage platform, which brought about a series of outages for the business, the FAS2552 was an ideal platform for the company’s annual surge in activity, as well as for their future growth plans. The FAS2552 could scale up to 518TB of storage and offer up to 144 disk drives. The new storage solution is able to scale quickly due to its flash-acceleration. Optimally, the FAS2552 can accelerate workloads by almost 50% and supports a broad set of SAN and NAS workloads. Add to this it is easily manageable, reducing IT costs for the business overall. The storage system uses NetApp Data ONTAP® operating system, meaning Cormar can use cloud-based services in the future should they choose to, without being locked into any particular cloud vendors.
The elements of Cormar’s switching, networking and wireless infrastructure could now be addressed by LIMA, and to fix the issue of a non-specialist team at Cormar, training took place so Cormar’s in-house IT team could approve any future change requests.
To alleviate the added pressure on the IT Team of extra maintenance tasks that undoubtedly comes with increased growth, Cormar upgraded to a LIMA Managed Service. Cormar wanted to better utilise their IT team by focusing them on business-specific applications and tasks, leaving the management and maintenance of their infrastructure to LIMA’s team of specialists.
LIMA manage Cormar’s NetApp, VMware and Firewall workload, allowing Cormar staff to invest their time on more beneficial tasks such as internal business-critical applications – this allows Cormar’s IT team to help use their time to drive the business forward. Cormar outsource their critical IT infrastructure to LIMA with a 24/7 contract, giving peace of mind that their systems are always ready, always available.
LIMA’s Managed Service, alongside bespoke infrastructure training, resulted in improved workflow and communication surrounding change processes and maintenance by introducing a collaborative effort between LIMA and Cormar, where both parties are able to make informed decisions on changes.
Room for growth with modern, up-to-date infrastructure.Technology-wise, Cormar now have a platform for future growth, which is able to accommodate scalability thanks to their Private Cloud environment featuring NetApp and VMware vSphere technologies, whilst also providing leverage and flexibility. Steve Haworth, IT Manager, says: “We know there is going to be significant growth in services to the business, which includes the deployment of new database technologies. NetApp gives us the room we need to grow with scalability that is second to none.”
Tiered back-up system for secure, organised back-ups.Cormar now also have a tiered backup system that keeps the business on track. Using platinum, gold, silver and bronze based on the value of data that requires backing up, data replication is automatically carried out at 15 minute intervals on the platinum tier to an off-site location for a more robust disaster recovery solution. Haworth adds, “NetApp has Snapshot built into the box. This allowed us to create a robust and extremely efficient backup regime, which was important for us. It was a big differentiator when compared to our previous storage platform.”
Consolidated, managed security for greater protection.The implementation of the WatchGuard xtm515 firewall meant that Cormar experienced far less downtime, and peace of mind knowing that their security solution was up-to-date and trusted. The WatchGuard system meant that all security was now consolidated and could be managed effectively by LIMA as part of their custom Managed Service.
Internal staff now freed up to work on business-specific goals.And finally, a significant business benefit for Cormar Carpets was freeing up internal staff to focus on business goals, increasing uptime and as a result of this: satisfying customers. Gradual integration of Managed Service meant existing staff were very comfortable with the working relationship, and LIMA also adopted Cormar’s key performance indicators and carrying out monthly and quarterly performance reviews. Cormar have since had their most successful year for internal CSAT based on uptime.
All this was carried out using a process that was swift and non-disruptive.