Case Study: The Community of St Mary the Virgin
Complete I.T. delivers a major systems upgrade for the Community of St Mary
Complete I.T. were asked to complete a full systems and network upgrade in a very challenging environment. The user community were technically inexperienced but had a number of ambitious IT plans to broadcast audio and video on a global scale.
The Community of St Mary the Virgin was established as a convent in 1848. From its main site in Oxfordshire, CSMV has grown over the years and has offered many active works including support for schools, mission houses, homes for the elderly, mothers and babies, those with learning difficulties, young offenders, and for the rehabilitation of those suffering from addiction to alcohol or drugs. Additional houses were also started in India and South Africa, plus others in the UK.
Specific Challenges and Issues
With a building that dates from the mid-19th century and a collection of aged computers and equipment, the Sisters of CSMV faced a unique set of challenges when they looked to update their IT and communications infrastructure. They realised the tremendous potential of IT and how it could be used to spread their support and message to a much wider audience.
The IT had grown over time with no real plan or consistent approach. Cabling and connectivity were massive issues due to the thick walls within the main buildings and the whole system was somehow being held together by sticking plasters and a great deal of hard work and good luck.
IT was used to manage the day-to-day running of the Community across some 30+ servers and PCs. Looking ahead, the goal was to extend the reach of IT and to use it as a platform for the development of a new website with a number of dynamic online services including video and the live streaming of daily prayers and music. Once available, the broadcasts would be picked up globally so stability and reliability were critical in the planning of the new systems’ infrastructure.
The Sisters simply did not have the IT and networking skills needed to achieve their goals so in 2008 they looked for an IT support company that could help them through this daunting challenge. The existing equipment was old and unreliable so a bottoms-up approach was needed to revisit the Community’s needs and to plan a programme of IT upgrades and expansion that was capable of supporting them for the next 3-5 years.
Complete I.T. was selected to provide the onsite technical consultancy and helpdesk backup that was needed. A plan was agreed to phase out the old equipment and to deliver compatibility across all PCs. The CIT team then worked closely with the Sisters to implement the project and to systematically upgrade the core systems.
The Community had engaged a specialist sound company to provide the critical audio equipment for daily recording and transmission so this also had to be integrated within the wider IT framework and made available online.
For Complete I.T. this project presented a very different set of challenges to those faced in most commercial operations. Technically there were some new and difficult physical issues to overcome but it was equally important to be able to support a number of Sisters who were inexperienced in the advanced use of IT. The pressure to develop and then maintain a system that would be available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year was also paramount as the message from the Community had to be accessible for their global online community.
A team of Sisters were charged with managing the project for the Community and they have worked closely with the CIT team throughout the project.
They realised that the Community’s needs are clearly different from many other users but were insistent upon the need for high systems availability.
“We have people from the USA, South America and Africa who are reliant upon our prayers and singing as part of their daily spiritual life. Once people come to rely upon us, we have to rely upon our IT to deliver.”
Over the last 3 years, the team of Sisters have come to rely upon the CIT team and have been greatly impressed by their willingness to help in all circumstances and their patience and understanding when working with those who are new to computing.
In their words,
“The ‘boys’ at CIT are fantastic and are always very sensitive and respectful when dealing with the Sisters. They understand our daily schedules and will always work with us to keep everything up and running. Not only are they very good technically, they also have to deal with a wide range of support issues from the Sisters and they always respond in a very patient and understanding manner. We’ve got to know all of them and like to think of them as our little brothers.”