With the customer at the heart of its operations, ArrowXL prioritises delivering a seamless and secure network with minimal disruptions. Rachel Hopkins, CIO at ArrowXL, discusses how the organisation’s partnership with Node4 means it can now provide a faster, more robust and secure IT network to its customers and maintain a leading position in the logistics sector.
With over 25 years of experience, ArrowXL is the UK’s largest and longest-established two-person delivery and warehousing specialist. Headquartered in Wigan, the company focuses on delivering large, heavy and unwieldy orders such as sofas, domestic appliances and gym equipment. It also offers additional value-add services, including appliance fitting, furniture assembly and removal of old items.
Finding a replacement for unreliable, outdated network connectivity and IT security infrastructure
ArrowXL places exceptional service at the centre of all its operations, ensuring deliveries are made on time and with minimal disruption to customers. This requires fast, reliable and secure IT across the company’s distribution network. So, when ArrowXL’s multi-site network began to suffer sustained outages and the incumbent supplier breached SLAs, it was time to take action.
Secure SD-WAN and renewed structured cabling
After looking at several competing solutions, the decision was taken to rollout Node4’s fully managed Secure SD-WAN across eight sites and replace the structured cabling, comms cabinets and access points. This infrastructure would help provide improved connectivity indoors and outdoors for each location.
Rachel Hopkins, CIO at ArrowXL, said: “Right from the outset, there was a high degree of consensus about choosing Node4’s Secure SD-WAN. Node4’s bid team demonstrated the solution’s superior speed, versatility and security very clearly. They also made a compelling case for how their additional services and solutions could add further value to the business in the future.”
Security Operations Centre (SOC) Managed Service
With the initial phase of the SD-WAN rollout completed, Hopkins and her team turned their attention to sourcing and implementing a managed threat and detect service. “Node4 was our incumbent network and data centre provider by this stage, so partnering with it to deliver further security-related services enabled a much more responsive proposition. However, to ensure best value, we approached several other potential providers during the procurement process.
“Ultimately, we chose Threat Detect, Node4’s Security Operations Centre service — or SOC. We were particularly impressed by the solution’s use of the latest AI technology and third-party intelligence sources. But the real added value for us came from the fact that our network would be monitored round the clock by Node4’s team of expert security analysts — which removed the need for us to hire an Information Security team.”
An IT network that delivers on its promises
Today, Node4’s Secure SD-WAN forms the backbone of ArrowXL’s network technology. Its centralised provisioning, consistent performance, network traffic visibility and ease of deployment have played a pivotal role in ensuring that deliveries happen on time and with minimal stress for customers, warehouse personnel and drivers. No matter where and when there are spikes in usage, Node4’s SD-WAN can adapt and maintain network speeds — ensuring the system is not overloaded and does not crash. The solution also features a next-generation firewall at each location to protect users from internal and external cyberthreats.
“Node4’s Secure SD-WAN provides us with a faster, more robust IT network that, to date, hasn’t experienced any significant outages,” said Hopkins. “There’s no doubt that this leading-edge technology has delivered significant benefits to our business. We now have a resilient network that spans all our main locations, with plans to roll it out to all our outbases.
“We expect to see further longer-term benefits as ArrowXL continues to evolve and grow. Node4’s SD-WAN will enable us to manage that change, allowing us to add or remove sites as necessary. It means we can be more flexible, adaptable and agile in our approach.”
Enhanced IT security
Within two weeks of mobilisation, the SOC had already demonstrated its worth — identifying and isolating several accounts targeted by cybercriminals. It confirmed Hopkins’ belief that taking a managed service approach to security was the correct choice. To hire a suitably qualified manager plus several analysts to provide the 24-hour coverage required would cost significantly more than using the Node4 managed threat and detect service and wouldn’t deliver an equivalent service.
“Our sector has suffered an increasing number of cyberattacks in recent months, so it’s an incredible relief to know we have that skill on tap to neutralise these threats when they present themselves,” said Hopkins.
“With Node4’s SOC solution in place, it’s really brought home just how little sense it would have made for an organisation of our size to try and deliver its own 24/7 capability — particularly in the context of having to attract and retain a team with these highly sought after skills — and why it was such a sensible choice to take a managed services approach,” she continued.
A trusted, long-term IT partner
Taking stock, Hopkins explained that Node4 has made a substantial contribution to ArrowXL’s IT infrastructure and information security — and that, today, the company also plays a vital role in providing advice and consultancy on future projects. “Our partnership with Node4 is so important because we have a relatively small in-house IT team. They supplement our skills, knowledge and expertise in specialisms we’d be unable to attract and retain.”
“They’re not afraid to talk about new technology and help us drive innovation — just as they did when proposing the SD-WAN and the managed service security offering. That’s why I see Node4 as an extension of my team — and much, much more than a service provider. It’s a partnership that will only strengthen as we embark on more IT infrastructure improvements over the coming months and years,” she concluded.
Rachel Hopkins, CIO at ArrowXL, expands on the organisation’s work with Node4 and sheds light on why this collaboration has been so beneficial.
How do you ensure you maintain an exceptional service at the centre of all your operations and where does technology come into play?
As far as my team’s function is concerned, our ability to deliver great consumer and customer service is all about ensuring that our systems, applications and technologies provide the availability that’s needed for a 24/7 operation. We’re all about ensuring that our technology is as good as it can be to give that responsiveness and availability to our colleagues in the business to be sure deliveries can happen in a timely fashion and meet consumer expectations.
Customer service is really important because deliveries involve our staff coming into your home, delivering large objects and making sure there’s no damage. We therefore must make sure that interactions with customers are really positive, friendly and respectful.
Can you expand on what you set out to achieve and how far Node4’s solution delivered on expectations?
We had a really big project and Node4 was our partner on this. It involved moving to a new data centre with improved availability and resiliency. It was also about replacing our networks, both Local Area Network and Wide Area Network, with new SD-WAN technologies. We also wanted to consider how to improve our information security stance and Node4 helped us with the deployment of the Security Operations Centre. All of these things have propelled us from being a laggard in this space to something that’s much more state-of-the-art and fit for the future.
How have your customers benefitted from the overhaul of your infrastructure and how do you expect this to continue/progress?
The best way of explaining this is to discuss some of the problems we had with our previous infrastructure. Imagine a situation where there’s no resiliency – if a switch fails, all the users in that general facility are unable to do their job. This then means they can’t pick, they can’t put away, they can’t put parcels on vehicles, they can’t load or unload vehicles. Like all other businesses, we’re highly reliant on technology and if it is not functioning as designed, then we’re unable to operate our business in a timely fashion and all of this impacts customer service. Our customers need to be at home when the delivery happens so giving them reliable time slots and arriving at that time is crucial. If IT creates delays in some of the upstream processes, this negatively impacts customer experience. With our previous infrastructure, we had some quite significant outages, which created operational disruption and impacted our capabilities.
Why was taking a managed service approach to security the best option for your business?
We’re talking specifically about the information security and cyberspace, which is an area that is evolving rapidly. It’s difficult for organisations with smaller IT departments to employ and retain the expertise that is needed to keep pace with the rate of change in the space. I’m a great believer in doing the things you’ve got a core competence in and using experts and third parties where you don’t. In my department, the core competence my team has is understanding our business and the processes that we need to operate successfully.
In my experience, attracting information security professionals with the breadth of expertise needed and then retaining those people and being able to pay in line with their expectations is really difficult. This area in particular is one where using a specialist outsource provider offers huge advantage, especially if that provider is already hosting your infrastructure and has access to that infrastructure meaning they are able to respond quickly.
Can you expand on the benefits and added value that the solution has delivered to the business from a cybersecurity perspective?
We now have the services of a virtual CISO who is able to give us advice when new subjects arise and that’s really useful. He’s helping us with the education of our users and how we can protect ourselves from ransomware and other similar attacks. He’s able to assist with technology advice when considering new solutions. We’re also being given insight into the kinds of activity occurring inside our perimeter which is additional intelligence we didn’t have previously.Click below to share this article