Belfast Telegraph

Managed WAN driving Agnew Group forward

By Richard Wallace, Head of Technical Design and Implementation with BT based in Northern Ireland

As companies in Northern Ireland become more reliant on the cloud for access to business applications and data storage, the performance of their network is more critical than ever, particularly if they operate across diverse locations.

The pressure is on the IT team to keep the business connected - to make sure employees can communicate, access the applications they need with speed, ease, and reliability; and do all of it securely.

Most major business in Northern Ireland use a WAN (Wide Area Network) of some sort. But, according to Richard Wallace, Head of Technical Design and Implementation with BT based in Northern Ireland, the shift towards more and more cloud services, the need for full resilience and the desire to give a better customer experience - especially in retail - is driving people towards a Managed WAN that has proactive support.

Networks don't just run business applications - they also handle voice, video, collaboration and resilience systems. They need to be flexible and highly scalable, capable of handling new applications which are not yet launched to the market.

BT's Managed WAN is a private, secure, and fully interconnected network that links all an organisation's sites together.

BT has invested in its Belfast-based Network Operations Centre (NOC), enabling it to use state-of-the-art tools to manage networks for customers.

Richard Wallace explains: "Our aim is to provide peace of mind for our clients. If anything does go wrong, our NOC will catch the problem and resolve it. Customers rarely call our service desk because the pro-active alerts we get about the network mean we can actively sort any issue and usually we are only notifying the customer after it's resolved - and without them actually being affected or noticing."

BT operates first, second and third line support. BT's service desk is the first line and manages the vast majority of alerts from the active monitoring. If an issue needs to be escalated, a more experienced team focused on Managed WAN provides the second line and, on extremely rare occasions, a highly-experienced engineer acting as the third line can resolve it.

As the cloud becomes ever-more pervasive, BT Business has invested heavily in cloud services, offering 'on network' connectivity to providers such as Microsoft.

"Companies using cloud services like Microsoft Office 365 can face issues if they access them over the public internet," Richard says. "It's not as secure as a private network, nor can it offer guaranteed quality. We offer direct links to Microsoft data centres, so cloud services appear to the customer like services in their own data centre with the same levels of security and quality you would have with something that resides in your own premises."

One company using a BT Managed WAN is The Agnew Group which operates 19 retail motor outlets in Northern Ireland. Andrew Ogram, IT Director, says: "As well as the resilience which the Managed WAN gives us, the key driver for our investment was our desire to improve the experience for our customers, using wireless and internet access.

"For example, a sales person using an iPad might want to connect to a manufacturer's site to give the customer a virtual tour or virtual test drive of a model they are interested in. Our new WAN gives us the reliability and quality we need to enable that."

As well as that, the Agnew Group - like all users of BT's Managed WAN - has real-time access through a user portal to BT's own monitoring tools as well as to network performance and usage information.

"Hybrid WAN is the next generation of networks which BT architects are designing for both local and global customers," says Richard. "By combining traditional network transport, such as MPLS, with dedicated and broadband internet access, traffic can be managed by type. This allows organisations to build a flexible and resilient service which can grow quickly as businesses needs change."

Richard Wallace is Head of Technical Design and Implementation with BT based in Northern Ireland. For further information and to contact BT Business in Northern Ireland please email

Belfast Telegraph