frathouse

For Frathouse, the aim of the game was to turn around an acquired company and immediately deliver an increase in revenue. Metronet (UK)’s smooth implementation of a stable and resilient network with very little disruption meant that Frathouse were able to sell their student accommodation much faster than in previous years.

Metronet (UK)’s proactive support ethos and 24/7 management means that Frathouse simply don’t need to worry about their network.

Background

Frathouse Limited is a new turnaround company who were appointed by IBRC and KPMG to operate and manage several of the properties of the former Opal Property Group.

OPG went into administration in March 2013 and several major banks took control of various properties across the UK. Frathouse took over eleven of the former OPG sites including seven student accommodation properties across Manchester, Leicester, London and Sheffield; two hotels in Manchester; and two private rental properties in early May 2013. They now manage and maintain these buildings as well as marketing the accommodation to new students, handling all the bookings and providing a full range of services to tenants.

Metronet (UK) had previously provided IT support, WAN connectivity and a selection of cloud based services to OPG. Frathouse went through a best value exercise and sought quotes from threew alternative suppliers. It became clear that it was feasible for Metronet (UK) to quickly create a similar infrastructure for Frathouse.

The Challenge

Following Opal’s administration, the company’s central IT systems for Finance, HR, Windows Desktop, and student bookings and payments were all unavailable. While the administrators did keep some services running, the long-term availability of these services was unclear. Vincent Bradbury, Operations Director at Frathouse assessed the business and understood the environment. He worked with Colin Henderson, IT Director at Frathouse, to re-engineer the Information & Communications Infrastructure:

“At Frathouse we understand that a great business needs a great IT Infrastructure. After addressing the structure of the former company, we realised we needed to get back to basics with the whole infrastructure sto deliver our customers a great service.”

Frathouse’s challenge was to rebuild the whole ICT platform to support the on-going delivery of services for the properties they managed. This was a very challenging situation but Metronet (UK) have always geared their engineering and support teams to be responsive to short-term or immediate needs. Student lettings organisations have a constant service demand and due to the high-volume nature of the business and the timing in which the administration took place, Frathouse only had a five week window to get the new systems up and running.

“It was vital to us that the new system was the best. It is not easy to deal with problems with multiple sites and if the network failed we wouldn’t be dealing with one problem from one person, we would be dealing with thousands of problems from thousands of students across the UK.”

The Solution

Metronet (UK)’s rapid response team were despatched with three strands to their project:

  1. Deliver a new wide area network that would be capable of supporting voice and multiple latency dependent applications.
  2. Build a new cloud based central infrastructure with available applications for normal office working including emails, finance and a full office suite.
  3. Convert all the existing PCs to sit on the new Frathouse network so they could communicate with the new network.

The WAN incorporated 12 sites into one seamless network and as the sites had to be resilient, a triple-technology approach was put in place. All sites have fibre or wireless leased line services and this is complemented by dual backup of both ADSL and 3G. This was built in an MPLS configuration so that all sites can talk to each other seamlessly.

In the background, specialist Metronet (UK) engineers were building a cloud-based infrastructure platform for Frathouse. This was designed to host email services, file storage, office packages, the finance and payroll systems and other critical applications.

Once this was created, it was time to switch the users onto the new infrastructure. Office by office, Metronet (UK)’s hit teams took each PC, stripped it back, applied new software and applications and hooked it into the new Frathouse cloud. They could then migrate over 107 individual PCs within a period of 12 days.

From a support perspective, Metronet (UK) engineers can log onto each PC, network device and termination remotely so Frathouse end users can contact Metronet (UK) 24/7 for application and desktop support. From a WAN perspective, the network is managed and monitored 24/7 so Frathouse can rest easy knowing that there is always someone watching out for them.

As Colin Henderson states:

“This is as good as I have come across. If there are any issues Metronet (UK) can fix them immediately. There is constant communication and we are never left in the dark. The knowledge of the staff at Metronet (UK) is commendable, they came in when it was chaos but then built up our infrastructure and returned the services and organisation that we need to operate. All of this was carried out in a calm and professional manner.”

The Benefits

Frathouse outsource many of their operations, so the management team rely heavily on their partners and they realise that price is not the sole driver in choosing a provider. Quality of service delivery, consistency, and reliability are equally important. Frathouse needed to ensure that the chosen suppliers could meet tight deadlines with a commitment to the best solution for the customer.

Colin Henderson summed it up:

“Working with Metronet (UK) has been absolutely perfect. We all knew we were working to a very tight deadline but they had no problems. They saw our requests and they got straight to them. It is clear that Metronet (UK) really value their customers just as we do.”

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