Express Newspapers


Express Newspapers is one of the publishing arms of Northern and Shell Media. The UKbased group’s stable of publications includes the Daily and Sunday Express as well as the Daily Star and Daily Star Sunday.


In 2003, Express Newspapers made the decision to relocate offices. With the move scheduled for 2004, the IT department had to decide which parts of the organisation’s IT infrastructure would be transferred to the new location, and which parts would need to be replaced.

“The biggest decision that we had to make was related to the Pre-Press Control System,” says Simon Cohen, Development Manager, Express Newspapers. “The Pre-Press Control system is a critical application that must be available 24x7x365. It looks after all our production needs, controlling the way in which the newspaper is produced and involves nightly critical deadlines. As a publisher, if the system isn’t working, we can’t get the news to the printers and therefore out to our 3.4 million readers. Clearly timing is everything. With no newspapers to sell, we would quickly be in a critical situation.”

While the Pre-Press Control System resided on a mainframe, many of the databases that were also previously located on the mainframe system (e.g., pensions, payroll, advertising, circulation systems) had either already been outsourced or previously migrated to other platforms such as Sun Solaris or Microsoft Windows.

“This left us with a relatively small but extremely vital system on a large mainframe,” added Cohen. “The mainframe was being leased at the time and was coming toward the end of the term of contract. We had to make the decision to continue with the lease, purchase a smaller Unisys mainframe or migrate to the Windows platform.”

Private Sector
Business Problem:

When Express Newspapers decided to move offices in 2003, the company decided that moving and/or upgrading their existing mainframe was not a viable option. The company needed to find a business solution to support its Pre-Press Control system, a critical application that must be available 24x7x365. Without it, Express Newspapers would be unable to get the news to its 3.4 million customers, and its printing presses would grind to a halt.

Business Solution:

Express Newspapers selected migration specialist MSS International using Micro Focus’ Lift and Shift™ solution to mainframe migration to port the existing applications to a commodity server using Micro Focus Studio and Server. The final result is that Express Newspapers has eliminated mainframe costs of £830,000, improved system performance and freed up IT staff to focus on other projects.


The migration was completed in 14 months, ensuring that the new system was up and running in time for the office move. “We have gone from a mainframe costing hundreds of thousands of pounds and taking up a huge slice of space in a dedicated computer room, to potentially running the same system on a laptop from the comfort of your home. Even though the “it works so don’t fix it” mentality is appropriate in a lot of cases, there does come a time when you need to move on. In Express Newspapers’ case the cost savings were overwhelming and meant that the decision to migrate with MSS and Micro Focus really was a no-brainer,” notes Cohen. The migration has also helped to speed up the Pre-Press Control System. “The number of transactions the new system is processing has tripled in the last 18 months as editorial staff are now able to save page layouts much more frequently,” says Cohen. In addition, staff can identify earlier versions of page layouts much more quickly, should they need to revisit them.” In addition, the new platform has ensured a greater availability of IT skills. “There are now only two skill sets in the office – UNIX and Windows,” explains Cohen. “As we went for Windows, the whole process now runs on the Windows Server, ensuring that fewer staff are required to monitor and maintain the system. Previously, we had three staff members that were constantly working on the mainframe as they had a thorough understanding of the system. Now, all staff in the IT department are able to maintain the new system as they all have a good understanding of Windows. This means that any issues arising can be tackled by someone that has time available rather than having to pull a mainframe expert away from other tasks they are doing.”

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