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Node4 lifts the curtain on new IT infrastructure for The Lowry Theatre

Based in MediaCity, Greater Manchester, The Lowry Theatre and Arts Centre is a registered charity and not-for-profit organisation. It’s committed to using visual and performing arts to enhance people’s lives. Through its three theatres, gallery and community engagement initiatives, The Lowry offers a broad programme of theatre, opera, musicals, dance, comedy, exhibitions and visual arts. It also hosts major conferences, award ceremonies such as The Soap Awards, and TV programmes, including Britain’s Got Talent. In addition, the organisation acts as a third-party ticket agent for UK-wide sports events, festivals and other theatres.

The Challenge

The Lowry has been a Node4 client for over a decade. It’s a long-standing relationship built on mutual trust and a history of close cooperation. The organisation’s IT infrastructure, which included on-premises servers that housed a VMware environment, was out of warranty and no longer supported by the manufacturer or VMware. In addition, the system’s backup and disaster recovery components were no longer fit for purpose.

Darren Mullin, Head of IT at The Lowry, had been pushing for budget to upgrade the infrastructure. Employees that worked from home had to use a VPN to connect to the network. It wasn’t an elegant solution: For the connection to work, their physical office computer had to be switched on and connected to the network. If, for any reason, it was disconnected or had been shut down, then the remote worker couldn’t log on. That meant the IT team had to find the machine, turn it on, and ensure the VPN connection was up and running. Things reached a tipping point during the pandemic when 50 staff were working from home. This highlighted the system’s inefficiencies and demonstrated how time-consuming and frustrating it was to manage.

The Solution

As a result, Darren and his team ultimately got the budget signed off. Within three weeks, Node4 provided The Lowry with a new IT environment, including modern, faster servers with more storage space — and VMware Horizon virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). The new solution delivered a smoother and more reliable remote connection during the pandemic — and now supports long-term flexible working for employees across the organisation.

Node4 also provided The Lowry with a Backup as a Service (N4BaaS) solution. It automatically creates on-site backups of the VM environment and associated data — all stored on servers in another part of the complex. To add an extra protection layer, files are backed up and replicated off-site.

The Results

Today, it’s easy for Darren and his team to create and configure new virtual machines — and add them to Node4’s managed backup environment. “Before the new solution was in place, we were limited by space and server performance,” relates Darren. “It meant that creating new virtual machines was difficult and time-consuming. This was very stressful for us as we always had to be mindful of meeting the SLAs for third-party ticket sales contracts.”

He continues: “Node4 also fixed the home-working component for us with the new VMware Horizon VDI system. It saves us so much time and makes our lives far easier. If a colleague has any IT issues, we close down their VM and spin up a new one. Plus, we can manage everything through a remote portal and don’t even need to be on-site. As a result, it’s easy for staff to split their time between working in the office and from home — something we couldn’t have countenanced a few years ago.”

“Node4’s solution is perfect for an organisation like ours,” Darren notes. “We’re a small IT team with no plans to expand our headcount in the near future. But we’re far more efficient these days and can consistently deliver for our colleagues. In addition, the entire solution is PCI-compliant, which is key for us as a ticket agent that processes thousands of debit and credit card transactions each year.”

Looking to the future, Darren and his team foresee continuing The Lowry’s digital transformation project, with Node4 playing a central role as IT partner, mentor and consultant. “We can see some interesting and exciting possibilities for further IT developments, including the increased use of Microsoft Azure and data analytics functionality.” He concludes, “Our work with Node4 will continue to help our organisation develop as a centre of creative excellence that the local community and visitors to the area can enjoy for many years to come.”

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