Proteo cooks up the perfect recipe for River Cottage IT

Norwich-based technology solutions provider Proteo has just completed a project with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage to improve their computer and communications systems.

River Cottage, the company founded by broadcaster, writer and food campaigner Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, comprises restaurants and delicatessens and offers cookery courses, dining events and even a select number of weddings. River Cottage encourages customers to live more sustainably by growing their own fruit and vegetables and using seasonal, local produce.

River Cottage head office is based at Park Farm near Axminster, Devon and although the beautiful surroundings suit them down to the ground the slow broadband speed at the rural working farm created problems for their communications and computer systems.

As well as River Cottage HQ at Park Farm they also have a two canteen and delicatessens in Axminster and Plymouth with more outlets planned for the future. With the team frequently on the move, maintaining good communications between everyone was becoming increasingly difficult.

The issue was that the systems which managed the emails and databases for the company were at Park Farm and because every email, document or data request had to pass through Park Farm’s limited broadband connection everything was restricted to travelling at the speed of the slowest point, which was often very slow indeed.

Proteo’s solution was to create what’s known as a rich co-existence environment where some of the key files, back-ups and services remained on servers at Park Farm whilst email, calendars and diaries were moved to the ‘cloud’ using Google Apps.
This allows mobile users and those at the two canteens in Axminster and Plymouth to bypass the slow Park Farm connection for email, calendars and diaries and has revolutionised the way the River Cottage team works when out and about around the country. They can now connect to email and manage meeting dates using mobile devices at their local Wi-Fi speed rather than being forced through Park Farm’s broadband connection. Because there’s less electronic traffic squeezing through the Park Farm ‘pipe’ their line speed seems quicker too.

The new set-up is extremely flexible so if and when River Cottage opens new outlets or takes on new staff members they will simply have to increase the number of Google Apps licenses to accommodate the new users and provide them with laptops or desk top PCs at their location.

A recent fire which destroyed one of the buildings at Park Farm saw the new cloud system for emails really come into its own. Although Park Farm’s communications were temporarily knocked out by the fire, mobile users and workers at the canteens in Axminster and Plymouth were still able use their email, calendars and diaries because being cloud based they bypassed Park Farm.

A further option of the Google Apps system is its ability to automatically back-up data and files and store them in the cloud, providing a robust business continuity system in the event of a disaster. Although fortunately the fire did not reach the building where River Cottage’s servers are kept, having this feature would have enabled them to restore their systems and rescue data much more quickly than with their old technology.

Sally Gale, Finance Director of River Cottage commented: “Park Farm is a lovely place to have a headquarters but sitting in a broadband black hole was causing big problems for our communications. When we opened the Axminster and Plymouth canteens our frustration grew as our email system was very slow. We knew that if we wanted to open further River Cottage outlets we needed to make some improvements and I’m pleased with the solution Proteo installed for us. Although we were fortunate that the recent fire didn’t reach our on-site servers it underlined how important it was that we’d improved our systems and moved vital services to the cloud.”

Dan Simpson, Head of Client Services at Proteo said: “River Cottage had the same problems faced by many growing businesses but they were compounded by the poor broadband service at their headquarters. As well as speeding up their communications the combination of a cloud solution coupled with some new on-site hardware means that River Cottage now has a system which meets the demands of its users whether they’re in Axminster or Aberdeen. And because cloud solutions are entirely flexible the system will expand along with the company.”

Proteo is Norfolk’s only Amazon Web Services Solution Provider and Google Applications Authorised Reseller. Proteo is also a Microsoft Cloud Power Partner and member of the Apple iOS Developer Programme.

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