“I first approached Nostra around April 2020. I was concerned that, as we continued to grow the business, we were relying more and more on our IT infrastructure and so were increasingly vulnerable to outages, system failures and cyber-security issues. I’d get reassurances from our IT department but it had started to keep me awake at night. I’d met Kevin O’Loughlin, the Nostra CEO, a few months before so I asked if his company could come in and take a look.
It’s fair to say at that stage we hadn’t really invested much in IT — I think like a lot of companies we just spent what we had to spend to keep everything moving. Most of our IT systems and processes were pretty poor, and our IT people were spending more time just firefighting than working to enhance the business.
The Nostra team identified where we needed help with our security systems, and applied those measures quickly and effectively.
Then they looked at our whole system, from the efficiency of our servers to cable management. They made recommendations on different tools we could use to increase efficiency and did a complete review of our backups, which we thought were being done correctly but weren’t. And they recommended a robust disaster-recovery plan. It wasn’t a hard decision to contract with them and let them get on with it.
I don’t have to worry about IT anymore or security.
There were teething issues, it took a while to get into the rhythm of things, but I’d certainly recommend this path to any company. I don’t have to worry about IT anymore or security — I can concentrate on growing the business. Now, when I speak to other CEOs, I urge them to get an IT appraisal, especially in the security area, because that can be a serious weakness many businesses don’t even know they have.
As well as sorting out the security issues, the big advantage in going with an company like Nostra gives us is access to a team of specialists in different areas of IT. That was huge for Robus. For example, utilising SharePoint, getting up and running on Teams and all the other various applications — having Nostra meant we had experts who could guide us in exactly what we should and shouldn’t be doing, and even how we could be using IT where we probably wouldn’t have used it before.
It’s a good feeling to have a partnership with Nostra, to trust it as a service provider but also to trust the Nostra people, and to know they’ll be there as we continue to grow.”
Robus had minimal security in place. The firewalls were old, its network was overcomplicated, and there was no effective protection against external threats. Worryingly, none of these vulnerabilities had been clearly identified.
As a rapidly growing business, Robus was keen to take advantage of new software tools and system processes but had become entrenched in old ways of working, dictated by its legacy systems and lack of IT vision.
Continuity, disaster recovery and back up
The company’s array of servers meant that if a single server failed, the business would be down. Its existing network was unsuitable for what is essentially a manufacturing company, which requires network stability and reliability above all else. There was also no adequate server maintenance or back-up control and no appropriate disaster-recovery strategy.
Robus’s success had masked the business’s increasing IT vulnerability. Contracting with an MSP such as Nostra has provided senior management with peace of mind and the freedom to concentrate on its core business. An on-site Nostra engineer now deals with most user-support issues while a dedicated team runs the Robus network, keeping servers up-to-date, checking back-ups daily, following the patch-management programme and maintaining a stringent security regime.
Robus continues to have its own head of IT, who liaises with Nostra over upcoming projects to ensure Nostra service teams are prepared to address new challenges. Nostra provides a yearly IT roadmap for Robus and monthly meetings include a review to pinpoint where they are on that roadmap. It also helps with business and process planning and acquisition support from an ICT perspective, and is constantly analysing how the latest developing technologies might be utilised by Robus in the future.
Peace of mind
New Advanced Threat Protection Firewalls were installed on the network as soon as possible and Nostra deployed Advanced Endpoint Protection Antivirus to scan all devices for malicious software, as well as multi-factor authentication on email profiles. A patch management policy to regularly update security settings on PCs and Servers was introduced, as well as several other network-protection systems.
The reassurance of state-of-the art back-up
The ageing servers were replaced by a two-node SAN (storage array network) — two servers that share the same storage, so if it host one’ fails, host two’ runs everything while host one’ is repaired — vital for a company such as Robus, which commercially can’t tolerate more than two hours of downtime.
The team also deployed an all-in-one business continuity solution that brings together state of the art hardware for local backup with a secure cloud storage capability to protect the business in any scenario.
Working smart, working together
Nostra introduced Sharepoint to allow staff to collaborate on documents, enhancing team working and providing further security, and Microsoft Power apps to automate regular tasks such as quality-control reporting or purchase-order requests. Further developments are being constantly evaluated.