“We didn’t want to compromise quality of service. Egnyte works brilliantly…and allows our people to get on with their daily work.”Melwyn Serrao – Head of IT
The Groundwork for Construction Success
Across the State of Qatar – in football stadia and landmark buildings, on highways and critical infrastructure sites, and in Plant Machinery and Vehicle (PMV) facilities – hundreds of employees are sharing thousands of documents. All to ensure that AlJaber Engineering’s (JEC) multi-million dollar construction projects remain on track. Following a referral from Microsoft, and having trialed other file sharing options, JEC selected Egnyte as its platform to drive collaboration and enhance day-to-day operations throughout its office and construction job site environment.
Numbered among Qatar’s leading construction contractors, JEC works on many of the country’s most pioneering construction projects – including the Doha Metro’s Gold Line, Al Thumama Stadium for the 2022 FIFA World Cup™ and a major project to design and construct food security facilities and warehouses at Hamad Port at a cost of QAR 1.6 billion.
With an annual turnover in excess of $700 million, everything about the company is big: its ambition, its projects, and the 250mb files it needs to share between internal and external users. Not always an easy task when the majority of personnel work on job sites without reliable internet connectivity, sync capabilities or access to on-premises shared file storage.
Employees have found workarounds, of course. But these are far from ideal. For example, JEC’s IT department issues hundreds of USB flash drives every year to allow remote working employees to share their AutoCAD files, photos and contracts with design team members, clients, external consultants, and other stakeholders. Inevitably, drives are lost, rarely returned, and users don’t always encrypt the data as they are required to do.
Not only that, construction is, by nature, a dynamic environment. Plans and drawings evolve through the lifetime of projects. Maintaining version control and ensuring the latest files are backed-up to the correct servers is challenging. Particularly when employees began the practice of copying files to local C:\ drives to avoid losing time in the event of internet or hardware downtime on job sites.
Ultimately, to reduce information silos, create a single version of the truth for all documents, and to address the need to access large files over low bandwidth wireless connectivity, AlJaber had to rethink its approach.
All information as promised is always accessible online and offline. I can always access the following server from any location I am at that has internet accessibility.Mohamed Al Kalla - Construction Manager
JEC was already a heavy user of Microsoft solutions and services – utilising SharePoint in engineering and procurement, Office 365 in corporate environments, and Azure Active Directory (AD) and cloud-storage services. It was natural for JEC to look to leverage these investments while adding new capabilities. This is where Egnyte came in: providing JEC with a hybrid file server to support cross-group collaboration and integration with existing Microsoft investments. Additionally, seamless and secure data upload and sharing were critical to eliminate operational downtime caused by lack of access to the latest plans and files.
Dropbox and Box were both trialed and rejected – as a consequence of their centralised file storage approach that made it difficult for individual JEC users to synchronise to their devices. Moreover, while Dropbox and Box allow files to be accessed on desktops and mobile devices, users are required to download them first. Aside from the considerable costs incurred as hundreds of employees download huge AutoCAD files over 4G, JEC on-site teams are equipped with relatively low storage capacity machines. These would be quickly overwhelmed by such a flood of data. Following a recommendation from Microsoft, JEC evaluated, and subsequently selected, Egnyte Connect.
This true enterprise-grade solution addresses IT needs for coherent and secure management of data, recoverable back-up (with storage in Azure and replicated on-premise) and unified access across job sites and office locations. For users, the intuitive Egnyte interface, and speed of access in both hardwired and wireless environments ensures personnel can access the latest versions of the files and documents they need without interruption – even in the event of power failures or poor connectivity.
During the proof of concept (PoC) another key Egnyte value point emerged. Having been initially apprehensive about the effectiveness of Egnyte’s Delta Sync engine, JEC live-tested a number of 400mb files, with delta changes of between 2-3mb. Even files of this size could be accessed in seconds over a standard 4G connection.
While still in the early stages of deployment, some 350,000 folders have already been moved to Egnyte holding over of 1.7 million files. These are being regularly accessed and securely shared within the organisation and with third-party suppliers, subcontractors, clients, and consultants. In all, JEC plans to deploy 500 Power User licenses (for internal staff) and 500 Standard User licenses (for external partners) with a total of 40 TB of data available.
Having set out to address the challenges of reliable remote access to operational documentation, and to enable access to large files on low bandwidth 4G connections, JEC has achieved its goals.
At an operational level, staff on job sites now share files and collaborate with colleagues back at the office with ease. Using an Egnyte hybrid deployment ensures large design files and blueprints are always up-to-date and fully accessible – addressing past problems of version control and eliminating work days lost due to internet/data access outages. JEC personnel can also ditch their USB drives, and halt the practice of saving separate copies to their devices. Plus, because it’s now easier to share files with third parties, communication and collaboration between multiple contractors, clients, and other stakeholders are getting a boost too.
JEC’s job site health and safety (HSE) personnel were quick to see the potential of near real-time file transfer. Should incidents occur on-site, they could be recorded soon after they occurred, and shared these with colleagues back in the office. Not only would this enable non-compliance and incident reports to be prepared faster and more accurately, but it would also allow a much faster return to normal operations and reduce any downtime on-site. This proved to be the case – by uploading the images directly to the cloud via the Egnyte mobile app for synchronisation to an on-premise file server using Storage Sync. Images are now rapidly accessed and analysed, and reports completed. This improved oversight has also resulted in a very real improvement in safety culture on-site.
From an IT perspective, the team no longer manages multiple silos of data. This ease of management is already driving down IT costs and resource burdens – with savings expected to increase over time. Added to this, real-time back-ups to both cloud and on-premises environments deliver the highest levels of data redundancy and supports information governance and compliance.
Looking more widely across the business, as Egnyte adoption grows, improved team collaboration and lower downtime on job sites will begin to improve project efficiency and profitability.
“Data is available to management, engineering teams and the on-site workforce as and when they want it.”Melwyn Serrao - Head of IT