"Our ability to quickly access our vast amount of data allows us to turn on a dime and outmaneuver the competition." - Darryl L. Flowers, Publisher and Owner
Sun Times Printing & Publishing is a century-old newspaper in Fairfield, Montana. The company also offers a wide range of printing, graphics and design services as well as website development.
Centralize current data to a single location on the network while protecting digital assets and migrating files archived on CDs and tapes to the network while maintaining real-time backup of data and allowing staff and customers to access files from remote locations.
"Newspapers are, and have always been, information driven," said publisher and owenr Darryl L. Flowers. "Speed, reliability and access to data are key to success in any information-driven enterprise."
The challenge was to find a network storage solution that met the needs of the Sun Times without breaking the bank.
After a progression of in-house built servers, and considerable research, the Sun Times came to rely on Synology for their network storage solutions.
"Over the years, as Operations Manager for other newspapers, responsibility for network servers often fell to me," said Flowers, "and one thing became clear in that time: servers are a headache."
After purchasing the Sun Times in 2008, Flowers put the newspaper's iMacs on a network and built a file server out of an old G5 with mirrored 1TB drives
"The G5 was a quantum leap over the old system, but as I moved files located on computers throughout the building to the single server, I realized that the G5 was only a band-aid fix," said Flowers.
The next step was the installation of a USB connected server, but that slowed down the network, since graphics files can be large, and the device did not offer remote access.
"When I realized we were losing production time with the slow machine, I went back to the drawing board... or in this case, the internet, to see what my options were."
According to Flowers, there were multiple options, but something about Synology, both the company and its products, kept putting them at the top of the list: "As I researched NAS devices, I could not help but notice that I saw very few issues with Synology. They really seemed to be on top of their game and everywhere I looked their support won rave reviews."
The Sun Times installed a DS1010+ with 5 2TB hard drives. "The startup was a cinch," said Flowers, who was raised in the pressroom of a large daily newspaper in Tennessee. “As someone who has worked with MAC and PC based servers, I can honestly say the Synology system is about as foolproof as it can get."
Now the newspaper, located between the plains and the Rockies in Northcentral Montana, has real time backup of data and staffers can access files from anywhere they can use a computer with an internet connection.
"When we go out and shoot photos at a rodeo all day, the last thing we want to do is sit in the office and wait for a couple of thousand JPEGs to upload to the server. Now we just plug the camera’s memory card into our computer, log into the server and go about our business as the files load via the Synology file server," said Flowers.
As the newspaper expands its print presence by adding more color and pages, it is also expanding its commercial printing offerings.
Just recently the Sun Times secured a deal to handle production of a Canadian weekly magazine, as well as phone books and calendars that are part of the Alberta-based publication’s marketing strategy.
According to Flowers, the Synology device is a key part of what sealed the deal. "When we showed the customer that we could set up a private, secure, and reliable "virtual" server for them, they were ready to sign on with us." Now the customer logs into the server each Friday and without the need for any special software, such as FTP, they upload that week’s advertising, editorial and photo files. As the magazine is in production, the Sun Times uploads proofs for the customer to access and check.
"Once the low resolution proofs are approved, we upload the final files to the server. From there, the customer grabs the files and sends them along to their IT office."
According to Flowers, newspapers in the digital age are not threatened by technology, only their refusal to master the technology.
"Our ability to quickly access our vast amount of data allows us to turn on a dime and outmaneuver the competition. That’s why we are growing when other newspapers are finding themselves writing their own epitaphs." Flowers adds that while life is tough for any newspaper, especially the independent ones that do not have the backing of a large group, having a grasp of technology while being a small, nimble operation does have some advantages.
As the Sun Times looks into the near future, they hope to expand their website development offerings as well as offer something unique for a small community such as Fairfield. "We are doing research now on installation of a webcam on our building so the world wide web can see our town in real time. We have a great community and the Sun Times is always eager to show Fairfield to the world." The Synology DS1010+ offers the Sun Times the ability to do just that.
The Sun Times and Synology Relationship
Recently Flowers was asked to give a lecture in Bozeman, Montana to a group of Montana newspaper executives about the Sun Times’ work on expanding their digital offerings.
"At the lecture, our Synology DS1010+ was featured and that generated several questions about the hardware and the company," said Flowers.
"I think of it this way – any product is only as good as the company behind it. And when I made my first inquiry to tech support at Synology I received a fast, understandable and friendly response."
Just how satisfied is Flowers with Synology's service and support?
"This past Christmas I sent my Synology contact a personal Christmas Card. When was the last time you sent a “computer” support person a Christmas Card?"