AS Barrus is a wood processing company in Võru County with a 30-year history. Once a small company located in a single building, with a few woodworking machines, has now become a business with a monthly turnover of 10 million euros. Barrus is one of the largest finger-jointed and edge-glued timber producers in the Europe.
Majority of the products of Barrus end up in Scandinavian window and door factories, wood chips and sawdust are also sold to the Estonian market.
Barrus strives to be flexible in its operations and meet customer demands. Although this can sometimes make life more complicated, data and technology provide the opportunity to maintain this approach.
The future foresees continuous growth and development.
BRS Networks Baltic has been Barrus' IT partner since 2016. As an IT partner to a manufacturing company, we must consider that production runs 24/7, necessitating high-availability solutions. System reliability and speed are crucial, and real-time reporting is essential. Situations where an operator has to wait several minutes due to system processing should be avoided.
When implementing the cluster solutions, speed has been of utmost importance. Both on-site and virtual clusters are highly efficient, whether for file servers or SQL database servers.
Additionally, Barrus has employed an innovative flash memory solution, the IBM FlashSystem 5200. Barrus is one of the first companies in the Baltic region to adopt this ultra-fast solution.
We discussed the progress of the collaboration between Barrus and BRS Networks Baltic with Barrus' IT manager, Vaido Otsar.
Barrus' unique characteristics
On-site IT department + BRS Networks Baltic
We are perhaps a somewhat distinctive addition to BRS' client portfolio because we actively engage in various IT tasks ourselves, and we have specific IT needs within our company. Due to the nature of my role, I have been deeply involved in Barrus' IT for a considerable time, spanning two decades. Consequently, our wood company may possess a higher level of IT complexity. Our networks and infrastructure were established quite some time ago.
At present, it appears that we have achieved a good balance with BRS – we handle certain tasks with our in-house IT team, while BRS takes care of others. We have two IT specialists who provide user support and perform on-site activities, while network management and servers are entrusted to BRS. Our collaboration with BRS is exceptional, as it fosters seamless cooperation.
Barrus is an exceptionally dynamic company, where things change rapidly. A week can feel astonishingly long. At times, our needs arise suddenly, requiring swift responses. While the broad plan is known, its finer details often materialize at the last minute. To thrive in our business, we depend on prompt solutions.
Collaboration with various partners
We highly value effective communication among our partners and aim to prevent any instances of finger-pointing. Thankfully, our partners' cooperation is excellent, and their long-standing commitment of 4-5 years fosters mutual understanding, ensuring smooth and efficient collaboration.
What projects has BRS worked on?
One of the first major projects we tackled was moving our SharePoint system from on-premises servers to the cloud. We also shifted all our users to Office 365. Initially, we had about 35 users, but now we have 80. We've also made updates to our company's network infrastructure.
We've upgraded our server infrastructure twice. It was always a time-sensitive and well-planned undertaking. Luckily, both times we successfully implemented the changes smoothly, and our employees hardly experienced any disruptions. Our server setup is now modern and up to date, as we completed the upgrade last summer. The solutions we implemented were newly released at that time and have proven to be effective, with an updated architecture.
Currently, our focus is on security matters. We've introduced multi-factor authentication, reviewed user permissions and structures, and adopted Microsoft Defender for Office 365.
BRS has conducted several cybersecurity hygiene training sessions for our employees. During these sessions, they showcase real-life examples of how vulnerable machines can be hacked and the potential dangers involved. We make it mandatory for all new employees to complete this training when they join our company.
Cybercriminals are becoming increasingly skilled and know which buttons to press. Nowadays, it can be quite alarming if your emails suddenly stop working. When you receive a message stating that your email account will stop functioning in five hours, it definitely grabs your attention. That's why cybersecurity hygiene training is incredibly important to us.
Do you feel that we are engaging with you enough?
It's crucial for us to stay up to date. You reach out to us regularly, at least once a year, and provide suggestions for future improvements. We always have more ideas than we can implement, but it's fantastic that we don't have to push for them. Not everything in the IT field can be fully accomplished, but we strive to do our best.
What kind of feedback do you receive from employees?
Here we find ourselves in a fortunate yet challenging situation where sometimes, I think we should create disruptions to ensure that the importance of IT remains in everyone's minds. We don't receive any negative feedback because everything runs smoothly. The behind-the-scenes operations are not noticeable, and that's a positive aspect.
What could be improved?
I know what could be worse.
To me, it's crucial to maintain collaboration that relies on personal communication and having a dedicated contact person to rely on.
While documentation has its merits, it often lags behind. Even with trained staff, going through written materials and bureaucratic processes inevitably takes 3-4 days. This significantly hampers efficiency compared to being able to call someone who understands your needs instantly. It may be considered normal, but once you've experienced something better, you no longer settle for less.
It would be fantastic if our collaboration could continue in this manner, where I know that my partners are individuals I can reach out to, and they can do the same. Both parties recognize the importance of communication at the right moment; otherwise, there wouldn't be a call. This understanding brings a sense of security to our interactions.
The significance of organized IT and its security
Two decades ago, when partners came to purchase timber, we would visit the production hall and inspect the wood. Nowadays, when partners come for a transaction, they watch slides on TV and inquire about the location of our servers, their quantity, our approach to data protection, and the effectiveness of our recovery plans.
The focus has shifted in this regard, and these topics have become regular considerations that must be kept on track. Our customers want assurance that we are an organized company in the IT field, and these questions arise frequently.