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Complete IT renewal as award-winning law firm Higgs & Sons invests in the future

When leading West Midlands law firm Higgs & Sons decided to renew its IT, working in partnership with Phoenix enabled the company to implement and benefit from the latest technology. "We were faced with end-of-life Microsoft technology, while servers and front-of-line applications were also ageing," says Stephen Brown, IT Director. "So we needed a change. We want to use the latest tools
and technologies to work as productively as we can and deliver the best client service possible." The decision followed a complete office move to its new Waterfront facility that saw the firm install a new telephony system, LAN and WAN. "It was a natural progression, we knew we'd have a more up- to-date physical infrastructure to build on." This was also an opportunity to consolidate and reduce the number of vendors.

Phoenix was already a technology supplier to the business. "We did look at other providers," Brown says. "The decision eventually came down to the relationship we'd forged with Phoenix and the mutual trust we'd built up. Phoenix knew our old infrastructure well, and provided support and maintenance, so it was known and trusted. Phoenix also has that important relationship with Microsoft, and we knew we could make use of that."

Complete software refresh
Brown says the project involved "completely ripping out the existing network", implementing a brand new network and terminals across the business, centralising the infrastructure and upgrading all server technologies. As a result, centralised desktop management became a key benefit. Following a detailed planning phase, rollout across the firm's 200-staff was completed in one week.

Phoenix deliverables included implementing Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2, Exchange 2012, Office 2010, Systems Centre essentials and Data Protection Manager. The firm's Active Directory was upgraded, while Microsoft's Hyper-V virtualisation and management solution, Remote Desktop Services with RemoteFX were also installed.

All physical servers and storage are HP: 20 physical servers were replaced with three hosts running 40 virtual servers. R-class terminals were installed across the board, along with an RDS Gateway remote access solution and web technology.

"It went very smoothly," Brown continues. "We are always conscious of continuity of service and the user experience. Although the firm understood the IT department was extremely busy they did not notice any difference immediately. The project team saw this as a positive as we completely changed all of the server architecture with zero disruption to the firm's operations. As with any major project there are always some technical issues that need to be resolved and, because of Phoenix, we had the right access into Microsoft to resolve them. We were able to use a Microsoft stack all the way through, and we clearly saw the benefits - not least in licensing agreements."

He says this activity formed part of a wider renewal programme that extended from the new back-end infrastructure, which had to be completed first, followed by all-new front-office applications, upgrading the phone system and providing mobility, then implementing a new Digital Dictation system to replace tapes and analogue devices. Brown continues, "This can be quite a conservative sector, and you can meet resistance in terms of new technologies. But the reality is that our clients are more and more demanding, and want access to a lawyer 24/7.

"So your people need the right tools to work as effectively and deliver as good a client service as possible - which puts the requirement back onto IT."

Benefits delivered
Brown says the firm saw productivity gains in various areas: for example, moving from Office 2003 to 2010: "We started to see really interesting and innovative usage of the Microsoft toolkit.

Our new phone software also improved the user experience, especially when people are working away from the office, and we've been able to push full mobility onto the iPads. From an IT perspective, we're looking at savings of around £20,000 a year through reduced power and cooling requirements, and lower maintenance costs. And we've reduced tape costs by around £10k per annum. Our experience of the Hyper-V virtual platform technology has been very positive, so we're seeing a number of gains."

A critical measure of success is how these changes will further improve how Higgs & Sons interact with clients to deliver an even better service. "That's what it's all about, everything we do must be focused on our clients' requirements and the client experience - and we're definitely seeing improvements in how we work. Our fee earners have the ability to more confidently administer their workload. They have the right tools at their disposal. We're already discussing our next project with Phoenix, looking at areas such as enhancing our business continuity and further opportunities in virtualization - online backup, hot standbys, replication. Looking further ahead, I think Cloud will also become far more commonplace in the legal sector in a few years' time."

Brown adds, "Phoenix does have a 'can do' attitude and is flexible.
A key attitude from the Phoenix people was 'we need to get this to work, and we're going to work closely with Microsoft to properly implement and fine-tune the technology.' There was trust on both sides, which is so important. Phoenix is big enough to deliver the services we want, and to have the right connections with vendors like Microsoft and all the technical ability behind the scenes, but it's not so big that it's lost the ability to treat you like a valued customer."

Overview

Client
Ranking highly in the Legal 500 and employing 200 staff at its purpose-designed offices near Birmingham, leading regional law firm Higgs & Sons provides an extensive range of legal services to individuals and businesses.

Challenge
Update and enhance IT hardware and software infrastructure to deliver new toolsets and capabilities, improving service levels to users and for demanding clients who want 24/7 access to focused, efficient and highly responsive lawyers.

Solution
Consultancy, design, planning and implementation: Phoenix was a key element in a complete IT refresh, ranging from new servers (including hosting and virtual platforms) and SAN to a complete Microsoft stack with powerful new features and functionality.

Benefits
Improved flexibility, enhanced IT service delivery; new functionality enabling higher productivity; significant cost reductions relating to IT operations: £20k per annum a year savings in reduced power/cooling and lower maintenance, tape costs reduced by £10k p.a.

About Phoenix
We are UK leaders in providing IT infrastructure services to help businesses innovate and grow while cutting costs and risk. We can host your services in the cloud or in the data centre, simplify desktop management, and build secure, reliable networks. Our business availability services can keep you working at all times. Whatever your needs, our professional experts can advise, plan and deploy, while our nationwide network of engineers are easily available for your support. For more information, please see: http://www.phoenix.co.uk/

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