Case Study: Northline

DRIVING CHANGE AND INNOVATION

"It’s been a great experience both working for Subnet as a Senior Systems Engineer and subsequently as a valued tier one customer, the team are prompt, efficient and integrate well with our business.” 

Chris Cheshire, National Manager Business Systems, Northline 

Established in 1983, Northline is a privately owned and managed Australian business specialising in four major areas of service provision: road and rail freight management services; warehousing and distribution; global freight forwarding and mining; construction, oil and gas logistics. Northline is recognised as one of the leading logistics companies in Australia. The company has 13 branches across Australia, with their service centre located in Adelaide, South Australia home to 100 employees.    

Northline has made it their company’s mission to become the market leader and provider of choice for logistics services in Australia through delivering uncompromising support and services to their customers. It is this dedication and commitment to excellence that first brought Subnet and Northline together. With a small in-house team managing all their technological requirements, Northline decided to outsource their ICT needs to a reliable and experienced provider in the hopes that it would reduce the total cost of ownership and increase the value and efficiency of their environment.   

Subnet’s understanding of the commercial industry gained through decades of working with large multi-site companies, and for staff who expect reliable, fast and certified technological resources make us the most suitable ICT provider for Northline. Our continuing relationships with large tier-1 vendors who could provide Northline with unrivalled innovation and reliability was a pivotal point that influenced their decision to work with Subnet. Together with Northline’s National Commercial Manager, Angelo Carbone, Subnet’s Managing Director, Brett Lodge identified short and long-term critical pain points that needed rectifying.   

Concerns:

In 2016, to take Northline into the future, Subnet was tasked with designing and implementing a complete end-to-end solution that included: 

  • Server, wired and wireless networking  
  • Telephony infrastructure 
  • Consulting
  • Managed Services
  • National site to site connectivity

Most importantly Northline was looking to work with a partner who was willing to take accountability and ownership of their ICT environment, something they felt their previous provider was not providing. The company wanted a stable provider that understood their business and its working culture and could grow side by side with them while maintaining financial stability. 

Post-implementation, Northline’s Commercial Manager and in-house IT team would require Subnet to manage their ICT environment and offer dynamic and scalable solutions to support their long-term business requirements. For a fast-growing multi-site business like Northline, scalability and effectiveness are essential as they guarantee that they are well prepared to efficiently handle the increasing number of customers and users within their company.  

Amongst the list projects Northline had for Subnet, was a Microsoft Office 365 migration. Northline wanted to keep their business agile, increase accessibility and adequately support their employees spread out across regional areas of Australia. The Office 365 migration would enable them to enhance communication in their organisation, allowing them to efficiently run their diverse business and continue to serve their customers well. 

Northline also needed a complete rebuild and redesign of their Citrix environment to:

  • Boost productivity
  • Leverage the new features in the latest version 
  • Provide seamless access from any location 
  • Reduce and simplify management 

As one of the leading providers of Citrix, Subnet was already on the shortlist of companies capable of undertaking such a large and vital operation. 

With end-user customer experience being a key metric of the entire Northline operation, the telephony environment was highlighted as the most crucial.

 

It was completely unacceptable to have a telephony outage, even if it was only for a few minutes, and both the installation of the new environment and the ongoing management would be critical to the provider selection process. 

Lastly due to Northline not wanting to host and manage a local infrastructure environment physically, Subnet recommended Telstra’s private and dedicated cloud platform.  This type of environment, based on VMWare vSphere technology, would provide the flexibility of migrating and maintaining some key legacy systems, without any unexpected or constantly fluctuating costs that many of the public cloud providers would accrue, thus growing and evolving with the business. 

Post implementation, Northline requested that Subnet help in the creation and implementation of the return to operation and disaster recovery targets they needed to achieve.

The Subnet Solution:

Subnet initially performed ICT systems and infrastructure audits to assess the limitations and capabilities of the current environment. While evaluating what would be required to maintain the environment over the next five years, we worked closely with Northline’s National Manager Business Systems, Chris Cheshire to facilitate an onboarding of service from the previous provider to Subnet.  

 

Chris said the following of our involvement, “The change to Subnet was big for us. Moving from one managed services provider to another is always challenging; it involved a national hardware and software rollout as well as redoing Citrix images. Subnet was there every step of the way.”

 

The previous managed services provider had moved Northline’s environment to a hosted data centre with strict rules that limited the company’s access. Those strict rules meant that lower tier and unreliable antivirus and filtering software was not able to detect and prevent crypto locker events, which could not be updated or changed by the Northline team. 

 

To allow for more control and access to the environment, Subnet designed and implemented a private cloud solution. This solution was better supported, and Northline was able to implement best-of-breed products instead of being forced down the path with limited options. Additionally, the private cloud offering was more aligned to Northline’s business model as it provided better agility, security, resiliency, availability and allowed the systems to grow with the business. 

 

Subnet also designed Northline a private, redundant and secure wide area network (WAN). Chris noted, “It’s good because everything is on one network and is managed centrally, which makes it easier for support.” Subnet continues to monitor all necessary hardware and software to support the managed private WAN. This WAN service was also leveraged to provide Northline’s Tier 1 IP telephony and video conferencing environment.  Based on a highly resilient Cisco Call Manager solution, Subnet designed and implemented a host of Cisco handsets, video conferencing units and cube routers to mesh into a solution that has no single point of failure. In a recent disaster event where a significant network outage impacted many national customers, Northline’s telephony systems maintained no downtime providing a strategic competitive advantage for the business. 

 

For ongoing efficiencies and software support, Subnet also migrated Northline into a Microsoft Office 365 environment. Due to Northline being a multi-site national company, having their data and applications in the cloud makes it highly available and more accessible for their staff. Microsoft’s Office 365 was the best scalable option for the company.  

 

As a result of the work Subnet’s engineers have done, the previous stability issues have now been resolved. Chris commented, “It helps to have experts who are leaders in their field to make sure that we can stay up and running.”  

Subnet has significantly improved on Northline’s data recovery issues and helped to develop a plan to keep the business going in case of outages. We implemented a Veeam Backup and Recovery solution that runs continuous backups with 30-minute backup snapshots for critical systems, primarily for SQL. 

Before Subnet, there were no volume shadow copies which resulted in long restoration times and loss of files. Veeam is part of Subnet’s standard tech stack; we have an established relationship with them as partners and their tech support team. 

 

Additionally, many of Subnet’s technical staff hold Veeam qualifications; as our preferred technology and recovery software we can resolve issues with their solutions at a much faster rate.  

Result:

Subnet manages Northline’s national business through our extensive network of partners and engineers located all over Australia. Like all of Subnet’s Managed Services Customers, Northline receives strategic and planning consulting sessions every quarter as part of their agreement. These sessions are used as opportunities to identify where the business could gain technological efficiencies and reduce their total cost of ownership.

The Veeam solution, which runs continuously throughout the day protects against accidental deletion of essential spreadsheets and other business-critical files. Chris Cheshire noted that Subnet played a vital role in the overall creation and implementation of Northline’s business continuity solution. 

"Subnet, a critical technology supplier, has furnished the company [Northline] with an internal help-desk feature for staff, and has assisted in the management of Northline’s Telstra infrastructure.” 

Northline Feature, The CEO Magazine January 2019

With redundancy and business continuity in mind, Subnet designed the solution to include a second site data centre. Spreading the environment to other locations safeguards the business and helps with business continuity if one data centre goes offline. Northline also has a local offsite backup hosted at the Norwood service centre, in the event the entire environment is destroyed. 

Northline and Subnet have worked well together to ensure that the former’s return to operation targets are met. Subnet adequately manages the IT needs of Northline’s multi-location business with offices all over Australia, despite being operated out of Adelaide, Chris highlighted, “location doesn’t play a part in anything as long as you have access to the other location – which Subnet does. We’ve never had an issue that Subnet hasn’t been able to fix, even in remote locations.” 

BL 2019 ProfilePic

Brett Lodge

Managing Director

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