A fitting solution: APSU ensures the safety of Dewhirst’s data

APSU provides a Cloud high-availability solution for the prestigious clothing supplier

Dewhirst, a leading supplier of clothing to retailers, is a company with a rich and interesting history. It was founded in 1880, when wholesaler Isaac Dewhirst created one of today’s most successful retailers after introducing the two men who were to become Marks & Spencer. Isaac Dewhirst quickly became a preferential and significant supplier for the Marks & Spencer chain, but he always retained the independence of his own business. Still apparent today, this ethos has seen Dewhirst grow rapidly since its inception. The company now has 12,000 employees in countries including Bangladesh, Indonesia, Cambodia, China and the UK. Dewhirst has a proven ability to respond to a fast-moving market via a global infrastructure, a highly responsive portfolio of services and a growing number of specialist divisions. The business very much relies on data and its manufacturing division includes information crucial to its day-to-day work. In order for Dewhirst’s business to run smoothly, it must be possible to access data such as all styles of clothing; how much fabric is available; the amount of available raw materials; and how much of the product is in cutting rooms and warehouses. Because this information is needed for the firm to fulfill orders, it is integral data is constantly available, even if something goes wrong.

A new solution

The company was looking for a managed service provider that could offer a fast, verifiable failover and failback service able to meet its high availability needs. Due to the company’s global presence, it was important that the system could work in multiple time zones. “In the UK and even in the Far East, we need high availability of those systems,” explains Richard Theakston, IT Manager at Dewhirst. “Users in the Far East start to log onto the systems at midnight UK time – and shift patterns mean they are also often using them 7pm in the evening UK time. Our manufacturing would grind to a halt if the systems stopped, so they need to be available 24/7, seven days a week.” For example, if the firm loses access to information, Theakston says: “We can’t cut fabric; we run out of garments, we can’t put the garments onto trucks and customers won’t get their orders.” With this in mind, Dewhirst chose APSU to implement a Cloud high availability back up system, tailored to meet its business needs. Theakston says: “We wanted a solution we could validate all our transactions to, that would fail over to APSU’s if our systems failed.”

Understanding the market

APSU’s understanding of the market and technical competence were factors that led it to win the tender against two other companies. Theakston says: “We were attracted to APSU’s level of technical competence and they were able to display several staff. We were seen not just by one person, but several who had knowledge and experience and were able to handle our business in a professional way.” Dewhirst was also impressed with APSU’s ability to deliver a thorough and available service. “Other firms just have someone who takes calls and they don’t necessarily understand the severity of a problem,” Theakston says. “APSU’s service is better because they have a 24/7 manned network operations centre in the West Midlands; we get through to someone who knows what they are talking about. APSU provides a very good service and it’s the people that make it what it is.” Reliability was key in choosing a managed service provider: most of Dewhirst’s customers have structures in place which can result in fines if the firm doesn’t deliver. “We have KPIs and all customers can choose between several suppliers,” Theakston says. “Delivery performance is a KPI and if that’s poor, they will replace us with someone else.” Now Dewhirst knows it can rely on APSU’s expert knowledge if an issue does arise. “APSU are the size where people handling the systems know when something is urgent – you get through to someone who has in depth knowledge and experience so you know you are in good hands,” Theakston says. He adds: “When you need to use the high availability system, something bad has happened: the situation is urgent and you can panic. You need a calm voice; people who have been there and done it and APSU has been there many times.”

Incident response

The worst can sometimes happen, even to the most stringent of companies. For a firm such as Dewhirst, system failure is therefore always going to be a major concern. The company ensures it regularly rehearses its response in case an incident does occur. Dewhirst has also put APSU’s solution through a data integrity test, which assesses whether the back up and front end system show the same information. “Each time we have tested the APSU-managed system, everything has been fine,” Theakston says. The results speak for themselves. By moving its back up system to APSU’s care, Dewhirst has increased efficiency dramatically – and that is on top of being able to access a helpful and dedicated tailored service. It is clear the project has been a huge success. With this in mind, Theakston says the company would be keen to expand its relationship with APSU in the future if the opportunity arises. “When I’m looking at ways to improve efficiency and costs, it’s good to know APSU are there. Able and knowledgeable staff are hard to come by these days.”
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