The Lowry

The Lowry’s vision is to be ‘the most successful arts venue in the world’ and they rely on their IT infrastructure to enable them to succeed.

With only two IT staff who are responsible for everything from conferences and exhibitions to onsite Wi-Fi, websites and everything in between, it is of the utmost importance to The Lowry that their IT systems ‘just work’, and that specialist support for the more complex aspects of their infrastructure is totally dependable.

K3 Starcom has been providing IT support and technical guidance to The Lowry for eight years for various elements of their IT systems. However, one area that K3 Starcom did not provide support for was the organisation’s Storage Area Network (SAN) solution.

The Lowry had bought a NetApp SAN system and support package in 2010 and used it to run a virtualised environment managing email, storage, domain controllers and a variety of databases. These included the HR and booking systems and perhaps most importantly the archive of L.S. Lowry’s works.

In 2015, on receipt of quotations for another twelve months support of the existing NetApp solution by the solution provider, the possibility of moving to a brand new Dell EqualLogic based solution became viable again, as a more cost effective but also more ‘suitable’ solution for The Lowry, providing them with the functionality and storage capacity they actually need. Darren Mullin, IT Manager at The Lowry, recalls: “Right from the off there had been issues with the NetApp solution; storage capacity was less than expected causing operational problems.” “Overall, I felt that it hadn’t been configured quite to our requirements and it was also overcomplicated to use day to day.”

Having used the NetApp solution for three years, when their support contract came to an end, it subsequently proved difficult to get a quote for continued support from the original supplier. When they finally did get costs, they were a lot higher than had been anticipated.

Darren continues, “the company that sold us the system only seemed to care about making the sale and they clearly expected us to simply buy a new one at the end of three years.”

As an arts organisation with limited budgets, the life span for IT equipment needs to be longer than three years. Budgets aside, Darren didn’t feel the new support contract covered their requirements so he turned to K3 Starcom.

“We’ve worked with K3 Starcom for many years and when we contacted them and asked if there was anything they could do, they offered us a more comprehensive support package via a partner. Understandably we opted to choose K3 Starcom for NetApp support.”

As part of K3 Starcom’s proactive approach to account management, the company carried out a cost benefit analysis of the NetApp support and found that a switch to a Dell EqualLogic Storage offered potential savings. It also included an upgrade of storage capacity, more straightforward management and direct support from K3 Starcom’s EqualLogic accredited technicians.

For Darren, the benefits were readily apparent: “Not only did switching to Dell EqualLogic make sense in terms of the kit being fit for purpose and easier for us to manage, but it offered substantially more storage than we had previously.”

“We also get direct support from K3 Starcom engineers who know EqualLogic inside out and the added confidence that provides.”

However for Darren, the deciding factor to move away from NetApp was cost. “In terms of Total Cost of Ownership over the anticipated six year lifespan of this system, a brand new Dell EqualLogic works out to be less than just supporting the existing NetApp. Choosing K3 Starcom and Dell means we get new equipment and a host of other benefits which is obviously a huge plus.”

With the new system in place including a second SAN to accommodate redundancy, much more storage and a migration that was managed brilliantly, Darren is keen to praise K3 Starcom, particularly the engineer who handled the project.

“The switch over went really smoothly with no downtime beyond that planned. Marcus, the Senior Engineer, was fantastic throughout and everything we require is now available on the new Dell EqualLogic SAN system.”

For Darren, whilst the switch from NetApp was not anticipated, the end result for The Lowry is ideal.

“From the outset, K3 Starcom were open and honest, they wanted what is best for us, not what is best for them.”

“They make sure that the systems we use suit us and work for us; both technically and financially, and their support services really are second to none.”