Great Rail Journeys is One of the First Group Tour Operators to Offer a Real Time Booking Service Online.
Great Rail Journeys outsource the management of their IT systems, making substantial cost savings on salaries, training and recruitment and increasing availability of their vital booking systems.
Great Rail Journeys is the UK’s leading rail based holiday company, offering rail tours to more than 40 countries. Their booking and customer management systems integrated with their websites are key to their success, providing customers with an easy to use and accessible facility.
The departure of a key member of the IT support team left Great Rail Journeys with a challenge to maintain the high performance level of their IT infrastructure, needed to support the call centre and the important web site booking facility.
IT Director for Great Rail Journeys, Mark Taylor said: “Great Rail Journeys is one of the first group tour operators to offer a real time booking service online, our head office systems now have to be operational to take transactions, around the clock.”
“We only have a small IT support team that have developed the skills needed to support our infrastructure, the departure one of these key team members left us with a large skills gap. These skills were going to be difficult for us to fill and potentially required us to employ two or more new members of staff to cover the skills needed, and provide the necessary 24/7 support.”
As well as salaries for the additional members of staff, Great Rail Journeys recognised that they would have to invest a substantial amount of time and money into recruitment and on-going training, whilst at the same time having no guarantee over the long term tenure of the new employees and the potential risks any subsequent departure would bring to the business.
Great Rail Journeys used this challenge as an opportunity to re-evaluate their IT strategy, and consider how they could improve on their business objectives, rather than just maintaining their day to day systems.
Fully outsourcing to a managed service provider was not something that Great Rail Journeys had previously considered, however, IT managed services provider, Esteem Systems, proposed a 24x7 solution that met all of the challenges, without any of the associated recruitment pains. Esteem also calculated that this approach would save Great Rail Journeys more than £100,000 over a three year period.
Great Rail Journeys took Esteem’s advice and signed a three year contract for them to provide 24X7 management, maintenance and support of their IT infrastructure.
Mark said: “Esteem, unlike other service providers we talked to, had an uncomplicated visible charging model. They made the whole process very easy.”
The service includes remote monitoring of all Great Rail Journeys’ servers, SANs, backup and network devices. Great Rail Journeys also outsourced to Esteem the management of their SQL databases and clusters, the critical elements to support trading across all communication channels and times of day.
The complete management of their IT systems ensures high availability at all times for Great Rail Journeys’ customers to enjoy an excellent online experience, being able to book their trips quickly and easily.
Mark commented: “Esteem fits the bill perfectly when it comes to ensuring availability and giving us confidence. Knowing we have the specialists readily available to us for when we need them, without having to contract for them on a permanent basis is extremely cost effective.”
Remotely monitoring the infrastructure from their Managed Service Operation centre in Woking, means that Esteem can identify and correct any issues within the infrastructure, before they become apparent to Great Rail Journeys, and more importantly, before they affect the customer’s online experience.
The day to day system management provided by Esteem enables Great Rail Journeys’ internal IT team to work on new projects and service improvements, aligned with the business’ strategic objectives.
Mark confirmed: “Outsourcing the day to day system management not only frees up time for our in house IT team to get on with service improvements, but also removes any stress by giving us the confidence that our systems are always covered.”
The service provided by Esteem includes carrying out regular health checks of all of the IT equipment, making sure it is optimised for high availability and performance.
As well as ensuring the uptime and availability of their servers, Esteem also monitors Great Rail Journeys’ backup systems, guaranteeing successful completion and providing restoration management.
As a trusted partner, Esteem plans and co-ordinates all of the system’s patch updates at a suitable time which limits downtime and disruption.
Mark said: “Working with Esteem we have put in place a much more controlled and structured patching strategy which works well for our business.”
Additionally, Esteem provides hardware maintenance for Great Rail Journeys’ IT infrastructure, utilizing their UK wide engineering force to reduce response and fix times of equipment. Esteem takes ownership of the support call from notification to diagnosis and resolution, proactively addressing issues within a tight Service Level Agreement (SLA).
It was important to Great Rail that there were no grey areas over support, if an application fault occurs, Esteem also acts as the intermediary for Great Rail Journeys, working with software providers to diagnose and resolve problems quickly and efficiently.
Great Rail Journeys had to have absolute faith and trust in Esteem’s capability to completely hand over the management of their business critical systems.
Mark said “What I’ve found with Esteem is that although they entirely manage our systems, I have never felt a loss of control. Esteem have adapted to suit our needs, they haven’t pushed a one size fits all solution onto us. They have recognised our desire to be involved and have supported our requirements in a manner that gives us the upmost confidence.”
“Esteem fits the bill perfectly when it comes to ensuring availability and giving us confidence. Knowing we have the specialists readily available to us for when we need them, without having to contract for them on a permanent basis is extremely cost effective.” Mark Taylor, IT Director for Great Rail Journeys