Working with BDS may seem like a matter of switching on your computer and visiting a BDSDigital website, accessing the data, images, soundclips and trailers but there is a complex and cutting-edge world of hardware, software and human ingenuity ensuring you get the information you need quickly...
Paul Campbell, Group IT Manager at BDS, is passionate about hardware. Ever since he started out working with a PDP-11, an early 16-bit minicomputer that stood as tall as a human being, he has been hooked.
Today he is as passionate and energetic as ever working with 24 core servers utilizing terabytes of RAM and creating virtual computers within computers to safeguard the data and its supply to BDS customers around the world.
“The scope and vision of BDS is phenomenal,” he says. “There are so many exciting things going on here, and the speed at which technology is changing means the IT department has to meet challenges on three fronts: legacy, security and reliability, and the future.”
By legacy he means enabling the past – the recent past – to keep up with the present, to ensure that what we did yesterday we can still do today without noticing that hardware and software is continually developing around the services BDS supplies. By security and reliability he means that what is in use today won’t fail. By the future he means creating ever more bandwidth, speed and openness to options ensuring BDS customers are the first to benefit from developments in technology as they happen.
“I have known Paul for many years,” says Eric Green, “and was keen to attract him to BDS where I was sure he would prove an asset to the IT Department which receives ever growing demands as BDS expands across data, web services and design provision.”
“It’s a great job,” says Paul, “As I say to Matthew George who provides IT Support, ‘We build the bus but let others drive it.’ Once the creatives and visionaries at BDS have a vehicle they know will get them where they want to go reliably and with huge capacity, then they can go wherever their imaginations allow.”
Since arriving at BDS Paul has installed group-wide VOIP technology, enabling easier, cost-effective and more flexible communications. He has also introduced a state of the art server farm on the site of the BDS offices, which benefits not only the BDS group but also its clients. Many companies use BDS servers to host their websites, especially those who have their sites built by BDSDigital.
Servers are run in parallel with identical setups and stored data. As Paul says, “I can switch one off and the end user won’t notice anything.” Further servers are situated in London to ensure continuity of supply.
One of Paul’s biggest tasks since joining BDS has been to secure the image library BDS holds that serves libraries up and down the country.
“This is a huge resource,” says Paul, “and when I arrived I was happy to see how everything was backed up but it occurred to me that with so much data, restoring from a backup would be a time-consuming affair that could possibly interrupt service so we had to take the big step and invest in duplicating servers.”
Paul’s hands-on approach dates from his early days in IT. Then, he explains, “IT didn’t even exist as a subject. It was called ‘microelectronics’”. He describes those years as trailblazing, when he would build, repair, rebuild and adapt all sorts of systems to get new and more powerful or more reliable results. He also spent several years working in recycling, setting up plants in the UK, Holland and the Far East.
Today, Paul is still looking to the future. One area he finds particularly fascinating is virtualisation, the creation of virtual computers within computers.
“This offers incredible flexibility and means that we can run dedicated virtual computers to do tasks in order to ensure reliability and improve services. We can also backup services this way. We can run trials by taking live ‘snap-shots’ of computer set-ups, run code, see the results and instantly restore to where we were and make adjustments and start all over again. Virtualisation saves time, improves productivity and the ultimate winner is the end-user who gets the best products and services.”
This has meant a big investment from BDS. The company has also, at the same time, expanded its bandwidth and enhanced its firewalls, supporting securer and faster services.
“If you aren’t fast, you’re last,” jokes Paul. “Today, speed is everything. That has to be matched with ‘High Availability’ services."
And so what is going to be happening to BDS and its data in the future?
Recently, BDS expanded its premises in Dumfries to extend the range and quality of services and support offered by its IT Department. The new premises, situated on the Crichton Business Park, work on the same high-speed fibre optic link enjoyed by Annandale House where BDS undertakes the cataloguing of books and DVDs and the IT Department was originally situated.
“BDS is growing and we need to ensure that our IT Department can meet future demand,” says Paul. “We have doubled our workspace, upgraded all our systems and enlarged and secured our server room, employing the latest technology.”
The expansion into design and web building and hosting, especially in relation to the publishing and cultural sectors, has added a requirement for storage and back up. The move secures this strategy and allows for further growth.
“The current expansion opens up new possibilities across a spectrum of web services that links the data we create to its storage delivery and presentation,” comments Paul.
The move also introduced enhanced systems related to IT support which has seen considerable investment over the past three years and the addition of three new members to the IT staff.
“The new systems we have introduced and the significant investment we have made ensure a premier IT service to our clients. Exciting times lie ahead, especially at BDS,” continues Paul and he goes onto to note a final irony that the people who guarantee a smooth-running service, up to the minute enhancements and seamless development have to remain unnoticed.
“I only get noticed when things don’t work. Fortunately, at BDS, our clients haven’t heard of me. That’s the way I like it.”