Case Study: A growing mining company’s struggle to find scalable server support

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  • July 30, 2015

 

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Lloyd Ainey, Senior Partner

Interface Technologies is always ready for a challenge and the opportunity to leverage its many years of experience to turn any technology issue around to a positive outcome.

As I look back on the previous years it occurs to me that many of our clients have settled into a comfortable routine of faultless, reliable transit and storage of data, which is the lifeblood of any business. The past year has been a proud time for our team.  As we celebrate our growth and continued success as a trusted ally to our clients, we reflect on one that almost lost it all.

This reflection starts in 2003 when a small mining company strikes gold in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  The Toronto head office comprises 15 people who require IT services for their exploding business. Interface starts out setting up a network, email services, an accounting system and enhanced ISP services. Into 2003 and 2004, the firm’s growth exceeds 150 new staff email addresses.  The next two years see staff emails expand to 600 mailboxes. Communications are stressed to new heights.

The African office which handles all in-field activities is strained to get information out over a poor satellite internet connection. New managerial hires are blaming our services for lags getting mail and accessing accounting records destined for the head office in Toronto.  Interface proposes a larger installation of the systems in its data center, increases in satellite transmission speeds and special equipment to talk straight through to the Toronto data centre.  The African managers oppose this, appointing a South African IT Manager who promises to alleviate all obstacles and bottlenecks in the wide area network by hosting everything on Amazon.  The Toronto head office accepts the African managers’ suggestion and asks Interface to stay on as head office technical support.

In the years that ensue, various issues with the network come and go, causing temporary disruptions. Interface advises that these issues are consistent with Amazon’s known outages. In late 2013, the entire system crashes, crippling the entire operation for one week. Interface advises once again, proposing a final and comprehensive solution.

Once Interface Technologies is given approval, the work begins. Interface’s Senior Systems Engineers take over the Amazon-based network and triage it to perform basic functions. The team built 15 servers in its data centre from scratch, slowly and carefully moving the client network into Interface’s infrastructure. Next, the team ships out specially programmed routers to DRC that are designed to communicate directly with the local Toronto routers, adding virtual tunnels between the five mining sites using encrypted VPN on inexpensive routers that are matched to Toronto’s data center. Interface recreates the domain and set up the 900 users the company had grown to since its 15-user beginnings, in 2003. Within weeks, all is back to normal. The client’s growth has continued, with a current tally of 1300 users and no outages for 18 months.

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