Sword Apak is a financial software specialist, developing and supporting wholesale floorplanning finance and retail core banking systems with a strong presence in North America, the United Kingdom and mainland Europe. Sword Apak offer their software on an application service provision basis (ASP/SaaS) or via a traditional license model.
Sword Apak maintain their own data centre and utilise co-location facilities in the UK, Germany and United States. Within each data centre, Sword Apak have built a server and network infrastructure based on HPE and Cisco technologies to deliver their software services via the Internet to global financial institutions.
MCSA started working with Sword Apak some 19 years ago, until the operations manager at the time decided to switch to a vendor support contract for the business-critical servers. The decision was taken to go direct to the vendor for hardware support, and this worked well for around three years. But the company then became dissatisfied with the service provided. When they encountered a problem and logged the fault, cases would simply get lost in the system. The expectation that an engineer would call back and resolve the issue within the agreed SLA timeframes was not being met and it was left to Sword Apak to do the chasing.
Chris Shearwood, Operations Director explains:
“If issues occur and we have a server unavailable, it could impact our own SLAs with our customers, so we cannot afford to have a supplier that is under-performing.
Poor levels of service happened two or three times within a period of three months, so we soon came to the realisation that we were just a ‘small fish’ and not receiving the levels of service we ought to be.”
Sword Apak made the decision to re-visit the relationship with MCSA in 2000, seeking improved service levels and consistent support for the business-critical servers. Because of their previous relationship with MCSA they were the first choice when the vendor support contract was terminated. It was felt that MCSA was more aligned with Sword Apak in terms of company size and turnover, which simply meant they valued the business more. MCSA now supports Sword Apak’s entire estate of HPE ProLiant servers and HPE StoreVirtual SAN technology across UK and German data centre facilities. The hardware is supported on multiple hierarchical service agreements with MCSA, depending on the importance of the equipment to Sword Apak, but the entire contract centres upon a four hour response window on a 24/7 basis.
• Efficient logging of calls and subsequent resolution
• Four hour response window
• Proactive account manager support
• Local office support with parts stock holding
The 24/7, four hour response maintenance service contract, provided by MCSA, has enabled Sword Apak to slash its hardware maintenance costs by half, whilst increasing the levels of service received and avoiding costly server downtime.
Shearwood comments, “Whilst we have a four hour response window agreement, which means that once the fault is logged, MCSA will return our call and start tackling the query in this time, more often than not the fault is also physically fixed in this time. Over the 14 year relationship MCSA has set a high benchmark for service levels, and we typically receive a higher level of service than we pay for – and this is achieved at the same time as halving our previous hardware maintenance costs.”
Receiving this level of support for their servers is critical to Sword Apak’s business operations. Shearwood comments, “As a hosted service provider, the only way our customers can view their data is by connecting to our servers. If these are unavailable due to power supply failure, CPU faults, memory faults, or one of a whole host of problems, this impacts directly upon our service delivery to our customer base. Whilst we spread our customers over multiple servers and utilise the latest virtualisation technologies that offer increased resilience, if a single server goes down for any amount of time we run a risk to our business.”
Shearwood concludes, “MCSA also demonstrates consistent flexibility and a willingness to provide value-added services as and when Sword Apak requires them. We have recently sourced new hardware and software licensing, not to mention being given valuable product advice, so for us MCSA are more than just a hardware maintenance company.”