Virtual private cloud for a small to medium business nwtwork

While the SMB networks consist normally of workstations and just a couple of servers the reliance of the company on these resources in very high. As the budgets are normally restricted the service level can be inadequate and the outage of any of the components can drastically reduce productivity. In the BitSwarm cloud you can leverage the risk while lowering costs at the same time as we will show in the next use case example which is based on a case study of a solution implemented for one of our clients.

Initial situation

The client was a company of about 70 employees and its core business was not IT. The existing infrastructure consisted of:

  • A Windows server 2003 in Active directory domain controller role that also served as the central data server as all the company data was stored and shared there.
  • A Windows Server 2003 with Exchange 2003 hosting all e-mail infrastructure.
  • A Windows Server 2003 with IIS for hosting several Intranet and Extranet applications - some commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) software and some custom made software.
  • A Windows server 2000 with MS SQL Server 2000 which hosted all the company databases.
  • A Linux server that served as:
    • the central router for the company's network.
    • the web gateway on which access to the Intranet services was proxied as well as access to the Outlook web access.

The client did not have any internal IT staff for server management as the lead IT guy left the company. Some staff was available for workstation management but they did not have enough knowledge to manage the servers. The customer was so looking for:

  • IT professionals to supplement their own IT technicians knowledge that would be available 24/7 in case of emergencies and 10/5 for operations that the company's own IT technicians could not handle.
  • Updating some or all (if possible) of the infrastructure to Windows Server 2008 – the main issue here was the licensing cost that would incurr with the upgrade.
  • Upgrading Exchange server 2003 to Exchange server 2010 as some of the employees were approaching the Exchange 2003 limit of a mailbox of 2GB.
  • Implementing a more secure way of accessing the company's intranet applications from outside of the company as well as enabling access to the company files on the file server and MAPI access to email by using MS Outlook.
  • Review and reimplementation of security groups and access rights on the file server as the current did not reflect the company's organization and thus did not satisfy security policies. A review of the current security policies was also desirable.
  • Upgrading the MS SQL Server 2000 to MS SQL Server 2008.
  • Moving the infrastructure to only using Microsoft products by getting rid of the Linux server and so unifying and simplifying management.
  • Reviewing the current server hardware as it was quite old and not very well maintained. The idea was to get a highly available infrastructure that would be available 24/7 and more downtime resilient due to the company's core business nature.

The customer has already done some calculations but left out several important factors such as hardware upgrades and the cost of IT staff needed to achieve the desired availability. Actually, the calculation were just expenses that would incur due to software licenses.

The plan

To calculate the real cost of the upgrade and achievement of the higher service level a new infrastructure plan was needed. We agreed with the client that we would first prepare the plan and calculate the cost of remaining on the current infrastructure and the cost of an upgrade. After that the client would decide which direction to pursue.

We prepared a solution that was roughly like this:

  • All the infrastructure would be implemented in the BitSwarm cloud as a Virtual private cloud (VPC) as the company's Internet connection was of adequate speed and latency.
  • An IPSec tunnel would be setup between the company's internal network and the VPC to enable seamless access to resources from the company's premises.
  • VPN access for employees for access from outside of the company.
  • A Windows Server 2008 functioning as a router, IPSec tunnel endpoint, VPN access server and Web proxy for OWA.
  • Two networks in the VPC:
    • DMZ – the network to which all the externally accessible servers are attached (web and Extranet applications server and e-mail gateway)
    • Intranet – the network to which only the servers that host non publicly available services are attached (AD DC, e-mail server, Intranet applications server and database server)
  • Two Windows Server 2008 with Exchange 2010 - one functioning as a edge transport and the other as the other three Exchange roles
  • Two Windows Server 2008 Web/Application servers – one serving the Extranet and the other the Intranet applications
  • A Windows Server 2008 which will be the active directory domain controller and the file server.
  • A Windows Server 2008 with MS SQL Server 2008 that will host all of the company's databases.
  • Definition and implementation of the security policy for access to each of the resources.

Additionally, a customized contract that would allow the IT professionals outsourcing was defined and included:

  • 24/7 IT professionals' availability
  • Response time of 8 hours in case of non critical activity
  • Response time of 1 hour in case of emergencies

An extensive migration plan as well as its implementation was also prepared but is hereby omitted due to privacy policy and the non-disclosure agreement (NDA).

Feasibility study

The client's basis for their calculation of the upgrade of the current infrastructure was updated with the hardware, software and staff requirements, that was left out due to not taking into account all the aspects of the upgrade. An offer for the implementation and the migration of the infrastructure to the BitSwarm cloud (the capex needed) as well as the monthly cost of resources and licenses rental (opex) was made as well. The client then evaluated the two and expressed additional concerns with the cloud:

  1. As the company was highly dependent on the IT infrastructure and support an adequate service level was needed when operating and when a failure occurred.
  2. BitSwarm's IT professionals' response response time was of critical importance when some client's specific situations occurred.
  3. Vendor lock-in, in case that the customer would not be satisfied with our services, played a key role in the negotiations and in the final decision making.
  4. A price guarantee – a guarantee that the price would not increase – was desirable and the client wanted it to be part of the contract.

The final calculation as it was is presented in the below table. Please note that the actual numbers are omitted due to the NDA – just the relative percentages of the most costly solution is shown.

Upgrade cost Initial hardware and licenses cost Operational cost for a 3 year period Final score
Own infrastructure 100% 100% 55% 10,9
Competitive cloud provider 70% 40% 100% 10,9
BitSwarm cloud 70% 0% 80% 7,1

Note:

  • Lower final score is better
  • The weights in final score – actual amount ratios were approximately: 1 : 5,5 : 8
  • The operational cost includes some of the software licenses in the case of the competitive cloud provider and all software licenses in case of the BitSwarm cloud.
  • The operational cost includes cloud infrastructure for the competitive provider and for the BitSwarm cloud. For the own infrastructure the majority of the cost is represented by IT professionals' cost.

As the calculation shows migration to the BitSwarm cloud would bring a saving of 35% in the next 3 years. Additionally, the migration to the cloud would bring the following benefits compared to the client's own infrastructure:

  • Increased reliability and stability due to BitSwarm 24/7 active support team – such a service is currently not available at the client and the cost of running it would substantially increase the client's operational cost.
  • Easy and predictable upgrades (and downgrades) of the infrastructure as well as licenses due to a flexible and dynamic rental model offered by the BitSwarm cloud.
  • Minimizing capital expenditures while maintaining sustainable and predictable operational expenses facilitates the company's financial flow.


As the results of the calculation were satisfactory we then had to address the additional concerns that the customer expressed:

  1. BitSwarm cloud offers a 100% SLA by default. Additionally, we explained to the customer that all of our infrastructure Is fully hot redundant as well as all the spare parts are already available in our hosting center with staff present 24/7 to solve any problems. All this enabled us not only to offer the 100% SLA but also to maintain it.
  2. We offered the client a variety of contracts with the different terms and the customer was satisfied with what we offered.
  3. BitSwarm's vendor lock-in prevention is explained in detail here but the client wanted a proof of it so we agreed that:
    • after we would finish the initial setup we would set up a testing environment at the customer's premises and then temporary migrate some of the servers to it so that the customer would be able to test it.
    • when the migration to the BitSwarm cloud would be complete we would provide the customer with the backups of all the infrastructure on a regular basis.
  4. As we are confident about our services there was no problem to offer a contract that stated that we would not increase the prices in the next 36 months.

Project execution and conclusion

The customer was fully satisfied with what we have prepared and decided that they will sign the contract. The execution of the project went smoothly with some minor adjustments. The migration was successful as well as the opt out scenario setup and testing. Nowadays, with the ongoing day to day activities the solution meets the demands of the client.


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