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Christchurch Three Years On: Quake made flexi-work the norm for Gen-i

As at most Christchurch businesses, the staff at Gen-i’s office had to learn to do things a bit differently following the February 2011 earthquake. 

Gen-i’s regional head of corporate clients, Paul Deavoll, says this led to some significant and positive changes in the way the company operates. 

Gen-i’s head office, based near Cathedral Square, was out of action immediately following the quake and, with more than 1400 Telecom Group staff needing to deal with their own lives as well as respond to the urgent needs of customers, Gen-i’s workforce was forced to become more flexible. 

“The immediate aftereffect of the quake was that it instantly turned us all into teleworkers. As soon as we had ensured the safety of all our employees, there was no choice. We all had to work differently,” he says. 

Mr Deavoll says in the months following the quake he worked everywhere from his damaged home or his car, to the back room of a local pub, and even sometimes in a public park. “We were lucky because we had no technical dependence on the Christchurch infrastructure. All the core things we needed to access were hosted in the private cloud, so it wasn’t long before our staff was able to be productive again.” 

He says that this flexibility of working out of office has now become the norm for Gen-i’s people. 

Many staff now work from one of Gen-i’s multiple office sites, or work from home or spend time on clients’ sites, utilising tools such as audio-conferencing, Office Communicator, and Smart Meeting technology rather than travelling to meetings through the city’s necessary road works challenges.

“We learned quickly how to use these systems to greatest effect in the months immediately following the quake, and communicate using the tools to hand. The flow-on effect from this ultra-hot-desking working style is that staff are even more productive and are continually working at making work simpler.”

Collaboration technology solutions, such as Microsoft Lync and Ready Cloud Video, have also had very strong client uptake.

The importance of communication during crucial times has been top of mind for Gen-i in the three years since the quake. Mr Deavoll says it demonstrated just how robust the Telecom mobile network is, with the fixed wire network holding up very well. 

“Most importantly we have systems to check on the safety of our people. It’s something we encourage our clients to think about as well. How will they communicate at these crucial times?”

During the earthquake, Gen-i’s data centres were fully operational.

Mr Deavoll says like Gen-i, quite a few of their clients were also forced to move temporarily. Three years on, many of these clients are moving again, this time to permanent new sites. They are now asking questions about how much infrastructure is needed on site. 

“The focus is becoming on connecting with the cloud, rather than focusing on their own infrastructure. They are looking more at how we maintain devices, and maintaining data security as part of that,” Mr Deavoll says.

“Gen-i has adopted a connected data centre strategy and, as its resilience grows, people are asking how much time and money they really need to do on their own backups.”

“Gen-i’s 15 data centres are architected, built and operated to deliver the highest levels of availability. With the addition of Revera’s network of five Homeland data centres and Infrastructure as a service capability, Gen-i’s Data Centre network is the largest, most comprehensive network in New Zealand.”

Gen-i’s focus on the region was demonstrated by the opening of a new Christchurch data centre in August last year. It hosts a range of co-location and cloud services to meet demand from public and private sector clients. 

The new facility was built to the latest building code and seismic standards on a perimeter road site within the Christchurch International Airport campus, and chosen for its geological stability relative to the wider Christchurch area. 

The 1000sq m facility has capacity to house up to 180 racks across two data halls. It incorporates the key data centre design principles of resilience, energy efficiency, physical security and future flexibility and is supported by Gen-i’s 24x7x365 management processes.

“It’s fitting that Gen-i’s first new greenfield data centre was here in Canterbury at the heart of what’s become a great economic and social renewal, with a thriving ICT industry,” Mr Deavoll says.

“Christchurch is very much open for business, and gearing up for rapid growth. Gen-i is proud to be part of that, and we were thrilled to add this wonderful new facility to our network, to support our clients both here and across New Zealand.”