Catreus: IT Infrastructure & Security

Starting Point

Cy Williams – Managing Director, Catreus: Catreus is a luxury private aircraft service with headquarters near Gatwick and UK operating bases at Biggin Hill, London Luton, and Oxford. To be honest, we’d been muddling through for a while, IT-wise. I have a little bit of IT experience so I was doing  a lot of it myself, which was fine when we were a smaller company, but we’d grown to sixty pilots and twenty non-flying staff so it was long overdue to get a professional company involved.We met with a few but it was Intalex who really stood out. You could see straight away that they were excited at the idea of working with us, and even in that first meeting I could hear the cogs whizzing round as they were already running through potential solutions in their heads!

James Hunter-Paterson – Managing Director, Intalex: I’ve been working in commercial IT for over two decades, so I’d struggle to name a type of business that I hadn’t worked with. When I heard that a VIP private aircraft company wanted to meet, well, it’s not the sort of opportunity that comes along every day and I knew that this would be a really fascinating project to work on. We met, got along very well and I think, as Cy said, maybe our techy enthusiasm for an unusual challenge was a factor in us getting the contract.

Brief

Cy: Business was great – we were constantly growing and our order book was outstanding. Eventually I had to stop kidding myself that I could do it all on my own as it was becoming very apparent that I couldn’t. We are in the VIP business, which means we were trusted to provide a no excuses premium service so we simply can’t have pilots not being able to access flight plans, schedules and that sort of thing. It’s not an option, so we needed a professional 24/7 support function in place for our UK operations team as well as our network of pilots all over the globe.

Also we needed to implement a proper, robust IT security policy. That was absolutely critical. The fact that Intalex are so security-focused was a big plus. James put me in touch with a couple of their clients that they had put similar solutions in place for and that gave us a lot of confidence. The desktop estate to that point had been put together in a kind of piecemeal way. We hired another person, we bought another PC – no integration and no standardisation. That needed to change, and it made sense to ask Intalex to put a policy in place for this as well as devising an overall IT strategy for the business.

James: Every customer has different priorities depending on the type work they do, and if you are working for high net worth individuals then security is naturally going to be at the top of the list. On top that, the desktops and laptops were all different, running different operating systems and even different application stacks. This didn’t only mean that operating and management costs were higher than necessary but also that delivering support and security services would be possible but not without caveats and inefficient workarounds.

There were of course other issues such as poor Wi-Fi, no DR and a weak back-up regime, but the support function, security, network and desktop alignment were the clear and immediate priorities for Catreus.

Approach

Cy: I’m pretty hands-on so I was keen to understand what was happening and why at each stage and these guys were really first class in that regard. Project timetables, staged deliverables and key milestones were clear, comprehensive and the process was completely transparent. Also, everyone at Intalex is very approachable so if you take an interest in a certain aspect of the work they are happy to talk through what they are doing and that’s something I liked a lot. They spoke to the pilots and the ground staff and really got under the skin of our business, which I know helped them to deliver exactly what we needed.

James: That’s great to hear – we certainly always try to do exactly that. Sometimes a director or decision-maker at a business may tell us they need X and Y but then you speak to someone at the coal-face who may tell you that X and Y would be great but actually Z would make a huge difference to how they work. A large part of our work is doing what customers ask us to, but I believe we also have a duty to look at the whole business and speak up if we think there’s a better solution or something has been overlooked.

In this case, speaking to stakeholders from across the business helped us design the optimal standard desktop build that not only met the needs of everyone at Catreus but could also be easily deployed whenever a new member of staff came on board. The same method was applied to understanding what sort of remote support the pilots needed, which is obviously not going to be identical to the support the admin team might need.

Nuts & Bolts

Cy: The first thing they did was get some basic support in for the pilots, which was absolutely the most immediate priority so they didn’t have to wait for the new network, desktops and so on before having a resource available. At the same time, James had another team working on designing the new infrastructure, which he can probably describe better than I can.

James: Thanks Cy, It’s going to be embarrassing if I can’t! We had one team rationalising and upgrading the network, including a new Wi-Fi solution and enhanced connectivity and another team putting the standard desktop build together.  That involved creating an automated OS build for UWI, which is Unattended Windows Installation. We then reconfigured all desktops and laptops and hooked them up to the new network with almost zero downtime. Office 365 was launched and we then migrated all company data across to that – once we’d made a back-up of course!

After that, we deployed a disaster recovery solution for the servers then got to work on integrating the security layers, including vulnerability scanning, AV and managed DNS all protected by a managed firewall at the network perimeter. Once everything was as it should be, we mapped and monitored the new architecture and services and moved from the basic interim user support to the new and improved model.

Result

Cy: It’s a completely different ballgame, to be honest. It’s transformed my role so much in that I have so many more hours each week to focus on the strategic side of the business because I’m no longer firefighting all day. Our network, our data and our clients’ data are all now more structured and secure than ever and if a pilot is in Belize and can’t access his schedule at 3am there’s a number he can call and someone will sort it out in minutes.

Our billing system is on-site rather than in the cloud, so having a professional DR system in place gives us a lot more peace of mind and the whole platform is scalable so we can now seriously look at starting branch offices throughout the EMEA countries in a fully eyes-open scenario where costs, timeframes and logistics are very predictable.

James: So far, the feedback has been that everything has been absolutely spot on. Everyone did a really great job, it’s been really satisfying and it was a real team effort including lots of people at Catreus. We’ve just started looking at options for unified communications as that will not only slash international call costs but will also make it so much easier for everyone at the company to be ‘always-on’ across multiple devices. It’s a key component of expanding the EMEA branch offices so we’re really focused on that next phase of working with Cy and his team. We’re really looking forward to it.

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