Database Availability – A CIO View

Data sits at the heart of all organisations and without it everyday functions simply cannot be performed. Reliance on data availability is growing. It is vital to ensure that your organisations’ Database Availability and Recovery procedures are robust and able to meet business SLAs.

For a CIO, keeping business critical IT systems available 24/7 is a key concern.  In a recent blog, we took a look at the cost to businesses of database downtime.

There is a huge amount of research available about how much an IT outage can cost an organisation. Estimates range from £70,000 an hour to over £40 million in a year.

Of course, this cost is not only measured in monetary value. The cost of database outages includes:

  • Lost sales revenue
  • Lost customers
  • Reputational damage
  • Regulatory compliance implications
  • HR Implications

 

The three phases of the Database Availability project:

The Analysis Phase
The first step in ensuring that your availability plans are robust and ready to meet business SLAs is to take an honest look at where your organisation is now and what potential vulnerabilities you may face. It is vital that CIOs carry out a thorough analysis of current availability processes and procedures. From there a detailed impact analysis should be carried out. This can be a painful process as it can highlight areas which require swift action to bring processes inline with agreed SLAs.

The Design Phase
There are many solutions and services on the market to help maintain database availability. The next challenge is to review the costings and business benefit cases of the proposed services. Designing a solution to fit your organisation can be a complex process and a detailed implementation plan needs to be created.

The Implementation Phase
Now it’s time to test and implement the agreed solution. This in itself can present a challenge to organisation who are already struggling with resourcing. Depending on the size of your organisation and the level of work required, implementing a project of this nature can be a significant challenge.

The Triton team can guide you through this three-phase process, ensuring that the most appropriate solution is selected and implemented successfully. Find out more about the Triton Consulting Database Availability for DB2 service and download the Executive Briefing 

An Independent View

Sometimes it is necessary to get an independent, unbiased view of current processes and procedures to ensure that your systems are as stable, secure and efficient as possible. Triton Consulting is well positioned to provide this independent advice as we have many years of hard-won experience working with a range of customers. All of our consultants are true DB2 experts with deep technical knowledge and skills. This is combined with the ability to work with C-level teams to provide real, quantifiable business results from better managing IT.

The Triton Consulting Database Availability for DB2 service is designed to enable CIOs and IT Directors to ensure that their organisations’ IT infrastructure can meet growing availability demands and take away the worry of failure.  Find out more

 

 

 

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Managing the Mainframe in 2018

For many large organisations the Mainframe is the workhorse powering business critical IT systems and services. Managing that beast is an immense task and one that can seemingly take ever more time and budget.

In this blog we take a look at some of the key concerns for CIOs who are grappling with the challenge of managing the Mainframe and how these challenges can be overcome.

Mainframe Costs
Costs always have been and probably always will be one of the key concerns for CIOs. In some recent research from BMC, IBM software costs came out as the number one challenge identified by its respondents. http://blog.triton.co.uk/2018/02/the-mainframe-is-growing-and-heres-the-proof/

Respondents in the survey also said that they could foresee some significant MIPS growth on the mainframe in their organisation. This means that many organisations are facing ever growing Monthly Licence Charges (MLC) from IBM. MLC fees can take up a major chunk of the overall IT budget.

Most mainframe software charges are based on peak CPU usage, so whatever your peak workload is in a given month is what you pay for. This means that one workload spike could push your
costs up significantly for that month.

“One of the most effective ways of reducing or containing mainframe costs is through
better management of CPU consumption. By identifying and taking control of your peak workload, ongoing software costs can be reduced and you may even be able to defer mainframe upgrades.Julian Stuhler, Solutions Delivery Director and IBM Gold Consultant – Triton Consulting

Managing performance and cost has become a significantly more difficult job with capacity planners and performance analysts being asked to defer hardware and software upgrades due to restricted budgets.

The Solution – Regain control of software charges
Triton can help you to regain control of your enterprise software charges by analysing your current environment and identifying opportunities to optimise and tune your critical mainframe workloads. How it works:
Initial Analyisis – Typically customers can reduce their peak CPU charges by a minimum of 3% with no performance impacts whatsoever and many customers can reduce their peak by 5% from this initial analysis.
Workload Optimisation – The majority of Mainframe users have significant potential for further reducing resource consumption (and therefore costs) through optimisation and performance tuning of key workloads.

Find out more about Triton’s Mainframe Cost Reduction Services  or download the Executive Briefing on IT cost reduction

Staffing and skills shortage
Staffing and skills shortages are a key concern for many Mainframe sites. It is widely accepted in the industry that many of the most skilled Mainframe workers are nearing retirement age.

There are more concerns coming to the fore when it comes to the IT skills shortage for the UK. Brexit is looming and with it comes a recruitment landscape which could see organisations finding it more difficult to bring workers in from EU countries. This may further limit an already diminishing resource pool. According to research by recruitment firm HIRED 70% of the UK’s technology workers are considering a move to other EU cities.

The Solution – Flexible resourcing
We know that organisations need access to skilled Mainframe resources. With this in mind, Triton offer a range of flexible resourcing solutions; from traditional consultancy to a more flexible “consultancy on demand” service which lets you purchase blocks of hours to be used as and when needed.

DB2 Consultancy on Demand

Click image to enlarge

Training and skills transfer is a great way to manage the skills gap for the long-term. Triton’s team of DB2 for z/OS consultants have been working on the Mainframe platform for many years and have built up a vast level of experience. We can work with existing staff to bring those Mainframe skills to your organisation.

Find out more about Triton’s Flexible IT resourcing

 

DevOps for the Mainframe
The DevOps movement continues to grow at pace within the IT industry. DevOps promises shorter development cycles, increased deployment frequency, and more dependable releases, in close alignment with business objectives. There have been suggestions from some quarters that DevOps and Mainframe simply don’t sit together.  In many people’s minds Mainframe is still associated with older, more traditional IT practices. However, CIOs that are running Mainframe applications as part of their overall IT infrastructure simply can’t afford to ignore the benefits that DevOps can bring.

Although many larger organisations have been slower to embrace DevOps practices, it is steadily building momentum. IBM has fully embraced Agile/DevOps principles internally which is has given us continuous delivery of new function for DB2 for z/OS (from V12 onwards). A cautious approach has meant that only a limited amount of new function has been released so far, but that will ramp up throughout 2018 as these working practices become better established within the DB2 development teams.

Back at IBM’s customer sites, many mainframe developers are enthusiastically embracing DevOps practices, and the impact on traditional DBA and Sysprog/Sysadmin roles shouldn’t be underestimated. With the right approach and suitable processes and tooling there is huge potential to reduce the amount of routine donkey-work and free up time for higher value work such as database design and performance tuning. Once again Triton is leading the charge, and we’re working with several large customers to help automate the provisioning and administration of DB2 environments in order to improve agility and reduce time to market.

Mainframe for the future
With Mainframe workloads continuing to increase, the challenges of cost management and resourcing is only going to grow.

Triton can help you to ensure that your Mainframe is ready for the future! We have worked with many of the biggest Z series customers in the UK and Europe, and can provide skilled consultants for both long and short-term engagements. In addition to traditional DB2 and Mainframe consultancy, Triton also offer a wider spectrum of high level specialist skills including; senior project management, technical planning, technical architecture, performance tuning and systems programming.

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Single User Access – A DB2 Support Nightmare!

The set-up

When you install DB2 you obviously have an all-powerful instance owner ID and password. The best option, once you’ve got DB2 up and running, is to ensure that no-one, except essential support staff, has access to it. From past experience we have come across DB2 sites that have only the one userid for all users to use and, frighteningly, use the same password in all environments.

What this means of course is

  • If you’re a user who has ever connected to the DEV environment, you can now get straight in to Production
  • You can (if malicious) harvest sensitive data or drop critical objects
  • You can (even if entirely benign) put in place features or structures that you think might help Production run, but which will actually knacker it completely
  • You have the ability to submit ad-hoc queries that you think might be handy but that will actually stop your Production services dead :

I wonder how many rows are in that table? Maybe if I submit SELECT * FROM Largest_Table_in_the_Database it will tell me.

Well, it doesn’t look like that’s going to respond any time soon; guess I’ll go home and see if its worked in the morning”

And, consequently, about 3 a.m. the entire batch suite comes down with a series of locking and timeout errors

  • And finally, of course, no-one can tell who did any of this because everyone is using the same ID

The Moral

Build a security strategy into your database from the word go. Design a set of users, groups and roles and implement them in Dev. Use that design as a template for your other environments and don’t let anyone have any more database authority than they actually need to do their job.

 

Sign-up to receive DB2 Support Nightmare updates or download our previous series ‘Top 10 DB2 Support Nightmares and How to Avoid Themhere.

 

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I already have a DBA. Why do I need RemoteDBA?

Skilled DBAs are in high demand. A DBA’s workload generally covers a huge array of tasks including; day to day database management and monitoring, database design, capacity planning, programming and development, database availability. The list goes on! With all this (and more) on a DBA’s plate things can get really tough when you’re faced with extra busy periods. A software upgrade or a seasonal workload peak can put huge pressure on an already stretched team.

Holiday times can be another source of major stress for DBAs and management teams alike. It’s not unusual for small to medium sized businesses to have just one DB2 DBA. If that person goes on holiday or is off sick, what then? Who is in charge of that critical database? Perhaps an Oracle or SQL DBA or an IT generalist can be drafted in to help out but this is a risky strategy. Check out our Top 10 DB2 Support Nightmares to find out why!

If you’re not sure that you need a remote database support service, just consider the following questions for a moment:

• Where does your DBA go for support or advice?
• Do you have a robust contingency plan for when your DBA is not available?
• What happens during extra busy periods such as during a software upgrade or a seasonal workload peak?
• What would be the cost to your business if one of your DB2 applications was down for an hour/day/week?

When evaluating which remote support provider to work with consider:

• Skill level of the organisation providing the service. Many organisations offer remote database support services for a range of databases. Make sure the organisation you select has specific expertise in DB2.

• Evaluate the support packages on offer. Can the organisation in question provide 24/7 support for example?

• What is the process for raising a support ticket? Make sure there is a clear process for raising support issues to ensure that you are fully aware of progress.

• Will you get on? Clear and open communication with a remote services provider is vital. Make sure that the culture and ethics of the organisation you are working with match your own.

The RemoteDBA service from Triton Consulting works really well alongside your existing staff. Our team understand the challenges that DBAs face on a day to day basis. They provide that everyday management and monitoring day in and day out, through busy times and holiday seasons. Come what may our RemoteDBA service can be relied upon to support your business and it’s critical DB2 databases.

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Is your industry ready to face a growing IT skills gap?

There have long been concerns in the IT industry over the potential impact of the growing skills gap in the IT sector. This is particularly relevant in the world of Mainframe where 43% of the workforce are in the 50-64 age category.

There are many initiatives across the globe promoting Mainframe as an exciting and challenging work environment for IT students to consider. IBM in particular has put a lot of work into their Master the Mainframe initiative.

However, there are more concerns coming to the fore when it comes to the IT skills shortage for the UK. Brexit is looming and with it comes a recruitment landscape which will see organisations finding it more and more difficult to bring workers in from EU countries.  This will limit an already diminishing resource pool. According to research by recruitment firm HIRED 70% of the UK’s technology workers are considering a move to other EU cities.

Executives need to be putting plans into place to ensure that they have their critical IT systems covered for the long-term. Triton Consulting provide a range of services for DB2 on the Mainframe.

So what are the options for CIOs who are looking to plug this mainframe skills gap?

Outsourcing

The decision to outsource an organisations’ Mainframe is huge and would never be undertaken lightly. Although outsourcing providers may be highly skilled, they don’t have the intimate knowledge of the organisation which is built up over many years. This coupled with the natural doubts about handing one of your businesses’ most important assets over to a third party to manage can mean that outsourcing Mainframe services is a daunting prospect.

Training

This is certainly a good option for organisations who want to keep Mainframe services in-house. It is a great way to broaden the skills of existing staff. Those staff members who are committed to the company and have ingrained knowledge of who the business works can be a huge asset when given a broader range of skills. Triton provide a range of training for individuals or teams looking to learn more about the Mainframe.

Access to skilled Mainframe resource

Mainframe skills are in demand, according to recent BMC research 91% of respondents view the mainframe as a long-term viable platform.  With this in mind it is worth considering bringing in those expertise from a third party.

Triton Consulting provide flexible resourcing options to organisations who need to supplement their Mainframe skills. With the option to purchase a block of hours, our Consultancy on Demand solution allows organisations to access key skills as and when they are required. These consultancy hours can be used for training and skills transfer; to provide specific skills where they are lacking in the team or for specific project work. Working alongside the in-house team our highly experienced consultants can enable large Mainframe users to manage their resource requirements in a highly cost effective and flexible manner.

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Still running DB2 V10.1 or older? Don’t panic!

It is still possible to get access to specialist DB2 skills, even if you’re running an out of support version of DB2. Consultancy on Demand (CoD) from Triton Consulting is available on all versions of DB2 including those which are officially out of support with IBM. This means that even if you’re forced to say on an officially unsupported DB2 version you can still benefit from access to top DB2 skills when you need them.

There are several reasons why an organisation may need to stay on an unsupported version of DB2:

  • Cost – upgrade costs include not only software licence fees but also the cost of the skilled staff who are going to perform the upgrade.
  • Time – pulling key staff off everyday duties may simply not be an option in some organisations, particularly at busy times of the year such as seasonal peaks or holiday season.
  • Risk – sometimes organisations have applications which only support DB2 up to a certain release. In this scenario, moving to a new release can actually increase risk for that application.
  • We’re managing as we are! Given the potential cost, time and risk involved, if an organisation is managing with the version they are on it can be tough to justify the upgrade.

Do any of these sounds familiar? We understand that sometimes circumstances dictate a need to stay on an unsupported version of DB2. Although this can be a necessary course of action in some instances, it does present a considerable amount of risk.

Using Consultancy on Demand for out of support versions of DB2 is a great way to make sure that you have access to skilled DB2 resource in case any issues arise. Available in packages from 20, 50 or 100 hours of consultancy, which can be called off as and when needed it is a highly cost effective.

Find out more about Consultancy on Demand for out of support versions of DB2.

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We get by without a DB2 DBA, why would I need RemoteDBA?

There are several reasons why an organisation may feel that they can’t justify the cost of an in-house DB2 DBA.

Sometimes the only reason an organisation has a DB2 database is because their software application was shipped alongside DB2. For organisations running Oracle or SQL Server it can often be viewed as not worth investing in a permanent member of staff to support what is seen as a small element of the overall IT infrastructure.

Perhaps DB2 was inherited through an acquisition and whilst it sits under a critical software application the organisation may feel that their existing staff can cope with any potential issues and so decide not to invest in specific DB2 skills.

Many small and medium sized businesses who are dealing with squeezed budgets simply can’t afford the cost of bringing in another team member – especially a highly skilled DBA.

This is all well and good while things are running smoothly. “Getting by” can work for a while. However, there is always the question of what happens if there is a problem.

If you’re not sure that you need a remote database support service, just consider the following for a moment:

• Other DBMS systems have very different structures and commands to DB2 – this means that staff skilled in other systems may struggle to cope if issues arise in DB2.

• Where does your IT team go for DB2 support or advice?

• What would be the cost to your business if one of your DB2 applications was down for an hour/day/week?

With RemoteDBA Office, organisations can benefit from expert DBA support for a fraction of the cost of a full-time DB2 DBA. All RemoteDBA services have a fixed cost with no hidden extras, making budgeting straightforward. Find out how the cost of a RemoteDBA Office support service compares to one full-time DBA.

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Unplanned outages are costly – so tell me something I don’t know!

Downtime is no longer an option

Can you remember the last time you put Netflix on and had to wait more than 30 seconds before you were having a healthy debate about whether it was going to be The Crown or Stranger Things tonight? No, neither can we. Services need to be available 24/7, it’s expected, it’s the norm and anything less is likely to cause serious issues for any organisation. A planned outage is bad enough but an unplanned outage can have far reaching consequences.

Have you ever tried googling “calculate the cost of downtime”? Well, we have and there were 783,000 results. There’s research upon research about how much any kind of IT outage is going to cost your organisation. Estimates range from £70,000 an hour to over £40 million in a year.  We’re not just talking monetary costs of course. Let us not forget the bad press and damage to your brand, the loss of confidence from customers, data loss, regulatory compliance issues…the list is pretty extensive. We know it, you know it. The 783,000 results in Google know it, so what can we actually do about it?

Proactive Vs Reactive

Where does your organisation sit? Of course all organisations strive to sit in the “proactive” camp. However, we understand that this isn’t always easy. In the world of DB2 maintenance, especially for mid-market organisations, DBA skills are often spread too thinly. Expert DBA skills are often needed on different projects and so DBAs can find themselves spending more time on non-core functions.

Proactive monitoring takes away the concern of problems cropping up unexpectedly. With proactive monitoring potential issues get picked up and dealt with before users are even aware of an issue. However, with conflicting internal priorities, proactive monitoring for internal teams can be a tough nut to crack. Triton Consulting provides a remote database support service called RemoteDBA. Triton has developed a stable and secure process for the cost-effective management of all components of your DB2 infrastructure.

Find out more; download our Top 5 reasons for choosing Remote Database Support info sheet.

We don’t need support, what’s the worst that can happen?

Yes, of course you could carry on “getting by” and avoiding those unplanned outages but chances are it will happen at some point….and then what? We’ve seen our fair share of DB2 support nightmare scenarios.

You can take a look through them here. We wouldn’t recommend this as bedtime reading though, there are a few which really prove to be the stuff of nightmares!

One of the worst incidences we have seen involved a broken database on an unsupported version of DB2, with no backups or log files to recover the database. Those with a sensitive disposition look away now! The customer in question did not have any kind of remote support or proactive monitoring in place.

Things started with an erroneous script which had deleted a few transaction log files that had a ‘last changed’ date of more than 45 days. The same script had caused other errors and a database restart was required, but the database did not start. The database was looking for an old log file, which had just been deleted by the script. As the policy was to retain the backups and archive logs for 30 days, this log file was deleted from the archive logs too.

The database was vital to the organisation, with a number of web facing apps relying on it.

To make matters worse, the version of DB2 in use had passed its “End of Service” date. When we were called in a few hours after the incident, panic had set in.

To cut a fairly long and painful story short (you can read the full story here we are happy to report that after a few hiccups and 15 hrs of db2dart, import/load, runstats and data fixes, the database was available for the application. The database was down for more than 20 hours, but it was back in once piece with almost no data loss. Quite an achievement under the circumstances!

So it was a happy(ish) ending but the organisation still had a database that was down for 20 HOURS! That’s pretty shocking and not a situation that any database team wants to find themselves in.

Take the pressure off with RemoteDBA from Triton Consulting. We provide the highest level of stability for business critical operations. Find out more http://www.triton.co.uk/db2-support/  or give us a call on 44 (0) 870 2411 550

 

 

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The Mainframe is growing and here’s the proof!

We don’t like to say “we told you so” but…….the Mainframe is growing and here’s the proof!

It’s not unusual for us to be countering arguments that the Mainframe is dead so we were delighted to read the recent BMC report on the Mainframe. In this insightful survey BMC have busted 5 common myths about the Mainframe:

  1. Organisations have fully optimized their mainframes for maximum availability
  2. The mainframe is in maintenance mode, and no one is modernising it
  3. Executives are planning to replace their mainframes
  4. Younger IT professionals are pessimistic about careers on the mainframe
  5. Only older people work on the mainframe today

Let’s take a closer look at some of the stats:

The BMC report highlighted the following key priorities for its’ respondents:

  1. Cost reduction/optimisation
  2. Data privacy/compliance
  3. Availability
  4. Application modernization

It’s no surprise to see cost reduction and optimisation hitting the top spot. 71% of large shops (identified as more than 10,000 MIPS) experienced MIPS growth in the last year and forecast more growth in the next 12 months. With this expected rise in MIPS growth, organisations need to take control of peak mainframe workloads.

Find out how you can reduce costs with our Mainframe Cost Reduction service

Myth 1 was busted with the result which showed that 66% of respondents indicated business requirements are driving them to focus on reducing their maintenance windows. Myth 1 stated that “organisations have fully optimized their mainframes for maximum availability” but we can see from these results that this simply is not the case.

A very interesting stat was that 42% of respondents said that application modernisation is a priority in the next year and a top focus for these organisations is modernising to take advantage of updated technology. This firmly busts Myth 2 about the Mainframe being in maintenance mode.

The future of the Mainframe

Attitudes towards the Mainframe are beginning to change. The Mainframe is increasingly being viewed as a long-term strategic asset.

The survey results showed that an overwhelming 91% of respondents view the mainframe as a long-term, viable platform – up from 89% in 2016. These stats smash Myth 3, that executives are planning to replace Mainframes.

Some of the most surprising results of the survey were around the changing workforce. Myths 4 and 5 are well and truly busted here. 46% of respondents fell into the 30-49 age bracket. So rather than the majority of Mainframe workers nearing retirement as is often thought, these results show that a large proportion are actually in the lower “mid-career” group. This group is very positive about the future of the Mainframe. 45% of these respondents hold executive positions and have a positive view of the platform with 69% saying that they foresee higher capacity growth.

More positive still were the results from the Millennials. Traditional thought would have us believing that this age group see no future for the Mainframe and have no interest in building their career on working with Mainframe technologies. However, 70% of these respondents expect the mainframe as a platform to grow and attract new workloads industry-wide.

The last group of stats we have pulled out of the survey are about women and their growing influence on the Mainframe platform. Women made up 20% of the respondents and interestingly have a higher proportion of executives in their population than men, with 43% of executive roles among women versus 35% of executive roles among men. The women surveyed were positive about the future of the Mainframe with two-thirds of them anticipating growth in their Mainframe workloads.

The Mainframe is growing but what challenges do organisations face as a result?

BMC identified 3 top challenges amongst its’ survey respondents:

  1. IBM software costs – 50%
  2. Cost of hardware – 44%
  3. Staffing/skills shortage – 44%

Whilst it’s good that respondents foresee MIPS growth on the Mainframe, meaning that the platform is viable for the future but it also means that organisations are facing ever growing Monthly Licence Charges from IBM. Mainframe cost reduction is something which Triton has been working on with customers for many years. Triton can help you to regain control of your software charges by running an audit of your current environment and identifying when and where the workload peaks occur. Find out more.

Staffing and skills shortages are still a key concern for many Mainframe sites. Triton Consulting provide flexible resourcing options to organisations who need to supplement their Mainframe skills. Our Consultancy on Demand solution allows organisations to access key skills as and when they are required. Hours can be used for training and skills transfer; to provide specific skills where they are lacking in the team or for specific project work. Working alongside the in-house team our highly experienced consultants can enable large Mainframe users to manage their resource requirements in a highly cost effective and flexible manner. Find out more about our Consultancy on Demand service.

 

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DB2 LUW Consultancy Taster Day

Here at Triton Consulting we are celebrating our 21st birthday. Although it doesn’t feel like much has changed since we set up shop, looking back it’s hard to believe that in the same year the internet had only just taken hold, Google hadn’t been founded and an IBM computer Deep Blue became the first computer to win a game of chess against a reigning (human) chess champion.

Well, thankfully us humans at Triton Consulting have stood the test of time. We are all really proud of what we have achieved and would like to thank all of our clients old and new for sharing the past 21 years with us, we have learnt a lot.

As part of our 21st birthday celebrations we are delighted to announce that for 21 days* we are offering one day (8 hours) of DB2 for LUW Consultancy free of charge.

The free Consultancy day includes an initial consultation call with one of Triton’s Principal Consultants – Iqbal Goralwalla or Mark Gillis.

A DB2 LUW customer can then use their eight hours to resolve any of the following DB2 support issues or queries:

  • Answer a burning DB2 question
  • Help with a DB2 feature
  • Discover what’s involved in a DB2 upgrade
  • Learn what High Availability and Disaster recovery features are available in DB2
  • A DB2 performance review

So why not try us out with our no obligation, free Consultancy offering and see what our DB2 experts can do for you! Email triton21@triton.co.uk using ‘Consultancy Offer’ as the subject to arrange your initial consultation and be part of our 21st Birthday celebrations! Don’t forget to leave us your contact details and an overview of your requirements and we’ll get back in touch.

Need inspiration? You can listen to the podcast from our customer CPA Global on how they have used their Consultancy on Demand hours. Listen now

Terms and conditions

  1. *This offer is available for a limited period of 21 days only and expires on Wednesday 7th February, 2018
  2. This offer is open to Businesses within the UK and elsewhere in Europe, to new or previous customers only. Excludes existing customers as of 17th January 2018.
  3. Triton Consulting reserve the right to amend or alter the terms of the offer at any time.
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