The IT Nightmare Before Christmas

Concise | Date: December 16, 2020 | 3 minute read


In our latest case study, Concise Technologies comes to the rescue of Christmas Santa Grotto Services when a cyber attack from the Bah Humbug gang strikes its delivery-critical systems on the night before Christmas and all in the midst of a global COVID-19 pandemic!


With this year having challenges like no other and with Santa and his helpers having to contend with new social distancing rules and multiple extra household deliveries, Santa Grotto Services finds itself more and more reliant on IT systems to keep its operations running.

“When it comes to system uptime, 99.9% is simply not enough with the number of extra households we’re servicing this year due to Covid.  In past years families often congregate together on Christmas Eve, meaning the big man has fewer overall drop offs, but this year won't be possible in many cases - we really have a work cut out. What we need is an efficient and failsafe technology infrastructure to get us through what is, let’s face it, the world’s biggest logistical undertaking,” says Operations Director Ms Sanita Claus, daughter of MD Santa Claus, in what is very much a family firm.

The Problem

Having invested in an enterprise-scale CRM system to handle its growing database of customer contacts, the Board of Management at Santa Grotto Services had every reason to believe that the Christmas 2020 delivery was “in the bag”, as Santa Claus described it.

Since the first lockdowns began across the globe in March, the company’s crack team of highly-trained elves scanned millions of extra letters into the system, updating household address changes as people stayed home or changed their usual location due to family bubbles in the fight against Covid and by mid-December the annual operation was progressing well within schedule.

But on the morning of 23rd December, Sanita Claus logged into the CRM system to check last-minute address changes only to find an empty contact database. Santa Grotto Services had been hit by a ransomware attack and the company's high-quality huge customer data was no long accessible. 

A cyber-criminal unit calling itself the Bah Humbug Gang was demanding over 5 billion pounds to restore access to the precious data of children’s wish lists and addresses.

There was worse to come. After such a strange year and with all the new Working from Home (WFH) protocols, the company’s elves who normally dealt with the IT, had finished for the festive break earlier than usual and couldn’t be reached.

“I didn’t have a clue what, if any, backup or disaster recovery arrangements the elves had put in place”, Sanita admits. “There was no documentation and that’s typical of the way elves work - they just carry everything around in their little green heads.”

Claus can still recall the feeling of utter helplessness. “It was like walking off the edge of a cliff,” she says. “I just ran out of IT skills as abruptly as that. Like many execs I try to keep up with the whole area of cyber security, but I don’t really know what it entails in practical terms.”

A desperate Sanita picked up her phone and started calling the elves one by one. That was when she discovered that the elf responsible for backups was recovering after a socially distanced Arctic vodka promotion night and was 'elf isolating. She privately wondered whether it was “game over” for Christmas 2020. “But then the next elf I rang told me about the Concise Managed IT Service agreement he had arranged on the advice of the CRM system provider,” she says.

The Solution

Sanita phoned the Concise 24/7 IT Support Helpline number while sipping an Icelandic herb infusion to steady her nerves.

It was lunchtime on the 23rd December. At this point Christmas was very much appearing to be cancelled and 2020 was about to get even worse for millions of children across the globe.

After just "two rings" she got through to Concise Service Desk and explained her predicament.  Her adviser didn't panic, empathised with the situation and put her mind at rest by checking over the systems and explained the terms of her Service Level Agreement. It turned out that Santa Grotto Services had the CMS+ Support Agreement, entitling them to 24/7 IT support even over the Christmas period. And crucially, the company had also subscribed to Concise’s Backup and Disaster Recovery services that contained a 1 hour SLA.

With the elves still recovering from their excesses (in their various support bubbles!), what a relief it was to find out that Concise’s technicians were able to retrieve the last backup from their own private cloud.

Concise Services had been unaffected by the Covid-19 pandemic all year and they didn't clock off for holidays or let their standards slip due to having to work from home - WFH.

Within only one hour of phoning, Sanita received an email to say that the CRM was fully restored and running in the cloud.

The Bah Humbug gang and Covid-19 would have to try harder than that to defeat Concise and Christmas!

Sanita Claus concludes: “2020 has been an exceptional year with Concise on board. The global pandemic has really disrupted the traditional Christmas gift distribution model and it was more important than ever that we got our goods out to the kids who have had such a horrible year. What Concise gives Santa Grotto Services is peace of mind by taking care of our IT needs every minute of every day so we can focus on our core operations. But not only that. We have quarterly strategy meetings conducted on Microsoft Teams where we share our goals and Concise give us valuable pointers on how best to support our plans with IT infrastructure for a business that brings joy to all mankind even in the new normal.”

Merry Christmas from everyone at Concise Technologies

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