Q&A: STW Communications Group CIO, Tom Ceglarek

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While some CIOs are rushing to put data into an external cloud, STW Communications Group CIO Tom Ceglarek has taken a different approach.

In early 2012, the advertising and marketing agency which manages digital images and video content for clients such as American Express, began using a FlexPod platform which comprises of two NetApp storage systems, Cisco switches and unified computing servers. The company also used Commvault's Simpana software to manage hundreds of terabytes of data more efficiently.

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According to Ceglarek, this has allowed the company to build a private cloud and store over 350 terabytes internally.

"I'm hearing from colleagues that more and more people are coming out of the cloud because they've had bad experiences with it," he told CIO Australia.

"We have found that we can be more responsive when we're running the infrastructure. FlexPod means we have the good parts of the cloud without having to rely on external service providers."

Since the implementation in 2012, what business benefits have you seen?

In spite of the amount of data that has grown over that time, we've had continued de-duplication benefits.

No other agency group offers this level of computing power and level of data protection, which is something that our people can reinforce to their clients and prospective customers. For example, many tender documents ask suppliers to include details of their business continuity plan. We're one of the few companies who can honestly say we have one that is truly reliable.

Did you have some concerns about data security in the cloud?

Some of our clients in their contracts will require data to be located in a particular area so we have to be conscious of that. Using an internal cloud gives us the ultimate flexibility when it comes to meeting those requirements.

Are trends like big data, business intelligence [BI] and analytics changing the advertising industry?

I don't think our data is of the scale to require big data solutions. We tend to create a lot of static data such as artwork which we work on for a particular job and then keep for the future.

Having said that, we are seeing the BI side of things start to pick up. Being a holding company with such a diverse range of companies underneath us, we need quicker and more accurate reporting on client and job profitability.

We're working with our finance software provider SAP on their BI solutions to integrate with iPads and any means with which we can get our business leaders interested in viewing that data.

We need to understand where our costs and profitability are and speed up the manual processes from before into automated BI processes.

A number of our digital agencies are building a business analytics capability in order to take the customer data, analyse it and get some insights.

A review was conducted of the Group's internal communications in 2012. What's happened since then?

We are about to start rolling out the latest version of the Cisco unified communications [UC] suite which includes Jabber. There will be a video phone on everyone's desk as well. The video phones were a 'nice to have' and I'm interested to see how people take to it. Our business is so personality based and all about relationships so anything that can help build that can be an advantage for us. When we did a pilot video phone rollout, the first thing some people did was turn on the camera because it added 10 pounds. We're hoping attitudes will change.

Does the Group supply devices to staff? If so, what kinds?

We supply desktop computers and laptops to staff. In terms of mobile, people can bring their own phones because they tend to carry a personal and work device. We're happy to let them have Exchange active sync access.

In terms of iPads, we only supply a few to the managing directors.

How important is it for you to have a good working relationship with the other C-level staff?

In terms of DR, what happens if something goes wrong?

We have a Flexpod in our main data centres in Saint Leonards and Melbourne. If one facility burns down, the other one would take over. The buildings our companies reside in already had elaborate data centres so we made use of them.

Are there any other technology projects underway for 2013?

We are continuing a desktop refresh and have rolled out 30 Windows 8 touch screen all-in-one PCs. We don't have plans for a major replacement, it's just as computers get replaced. The staff seem to like Windows 8 which is great. We have a 60/40 ratio of Windows to Macintosh computers.

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