Node4 helps performing arts charity revamp staff home working setup with IT infrastructure overhaul

Managed cloud services provider Node4 has revealed details of how it helped one of its charity clients overcome its remote working technology woes in the wake of the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic through the deployment of a VMware-based virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) setup.

Its client – the Manchester-based performing arts charity, The Lowry Theatre and Arts Centre – had exhausted the warranty on its IT infrastructure, which comprised on-premise servers running a VMware environment. The backup and disaster recovery components of this setup were also no longer fit for purpose.

The aged infrastructure also made working from home a cumbersome and complex process for its staff, as doing so required them to use a virtual private network (VPN) to connect to the charity’s systems, and for the PC they used in the office to be switched on at the same time.

If their work PC was switched off or unable to connect to the network for any reason, the remote worker would be unable to log on and work from home until someone on-site had located their computer and fixed the issue.

The shortcomings of this setup were laid bare during the Covid-19 pandemic, when 50 of the charity’s staff had to suddenly pivot to working from home.

Darren Mullin, head of IT at The Lowry, had been seeking budget from the powers that be at the organisation for some time to fund a system upgrade, and within three weeks of getting the requested money had a new IT environment set up, courtesy of its long-standing technology partnership with Node4.  

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“Before the new solution was in place, we were limited by space and server performance,” said Mullin. “It meant that creating new virtual machines was difficult and time-consuming. This was very stressful for us as we always had to be mindful of meeting the service-level agreements (SLAs) for third-party ticket sales contracts.” 

The setup consisted of newer, faster servers that also sported more storage space, and a VMware Horizon VDI deployment that has contributed towards making the remote working experience better than before.

“It saves us so much time and makes our lives far easier. If a colleague has any IT issues, we close down their virtual machine and spin up a new one,” he added. “Plus, we can manage everything through a remote portal and don’t even need to be on-site. As a result, it’s easy for staff to split their time between working in the office and from home – something we couldn’t have countenanced a few years ago.” 

Node4 also rolled out a cloud-based backup service that creates on-site backups of the VMware environment and associated data – all stored on servers in another part of the complex. To add an extra protection layer, files are backed up and replicated off-site.  

On the back of this project, Mullin is now looking at other ways that Node4 can support the Lowry in its ongoing efforts to digitally transform its operations. 

“We can see some interesting and exciting possibilities for further IT developments, including the increased use of Microsoft Azure and data analytics functionality,” he said.

“Our work with Node4 will continue to help our organisation develop as a centre of creative excellence that the local community and visitors to the area can enjoy for many years to come.” 

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