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New Azure infrastructure provides flexible, scalable and secure environment that’s fit for the future for Southway Housing.

Read how their migration to Azure has saved over 8,000 hours and £200,000.

  • Azure
  • Azure Virtual Desktop
  • Disaster Recovery

Customer Profile: Southway Housing Trust

With their outdated infrastructure fast approaching the end of vendor support, Southway Housing Trust needed to find a modern solution and a provider who could deliver it quickly. The not-for-profit organisation, which provides quality affordable housing in south Manchester, didn’t simply want to upgrade their systems, they wanted to build a new modern, cloud-first IT environment. BCN was able to quickly and successfully migrate the trust and its more than 300 users to a bespoke Azure infrastructure that provides a flexible, scalable and secure environment that’s fit for the future.

  • Client and Sector

    Sector: Charitable / Social Housing

    Southway Housing manages more than 6,000 homes and has more than 300 IT users, from volunteers to board and committee members.

  • Key technologies

    • Microsoft Azure PaaS/IaaS
    • Azure Virtual Desktop
    • Azure Site Recovery
  • BCN services provided

    • Analysis of existing on-premises environment and applications
    • Design and management of Azure environment
    • Migration of entire business systems from on-premises servers to Azure
    • Replication and migration of vital core business application, Capita Open Housing
    • Ongoing management of Azure, infrastructure and AVD
  • Key outcomes

    • £200,000 costs saved over the first five years when compared to On Premise or Hybrid solutions.
    • 8,000 hours saved from enhanced productivity.
    • <1 hour RTO with Azure Site Recovery (ASR) replication reducing the RTO and RPO from a previous time of 24 hours to a matter of just minutes.
    • 68% fewer servers with infrastructure now sitting across 32 servers rather than 100.

Customer Profile

Southway Housing Trust is a not-for-profit organisation that provides affordable homes for rent and sale in south Manchester. The trust manages more than 6,000 properties and provides a range of support services for tenants and the local community, including repairs, adaptations, advice and regeneration projects. The trust has more than 300 people using its IT systems, from tenant volunteers to board and committee members, all working to create sustainable neighbourhoods where people are proud to live and work.

Project Overview

Southway Housing Trust had previously commissioned BCN to facilitate the rollout of Microsoft 365 across its on-premises environment, so when it came time to modernise the trust’s infrastructure, Azure was the logical best choice. BCN’s Microsoft technicians were able to focus immediately on tailoring the environment to Southway’s specific needs and invested time and testing on the vital migration of its core housing management systems from on-premises to the fully modernised infrastructure of Azure.

With Azure up and running, we were able to seamlessly deploy AVD to the trust’s 300+ users through a phased rollout.

Challenges

  • Ageing infrastructure: Southway Housing had been operating on an ageing on-premises infrastructure and running a virtualised Citrix environment for 12 years. When their existing infrastructure started nearing the end of vendor support, they knew they were facing a major business risk. But Southway Housing also saw it as a golden opportunity to modernise their IT environment and optimise costs by moving to the cloud.

 

  • Existing Housing Management System: Crucial to the efficacy of any migration was support for the trust’s housing management system, Open Housing,  a vital business application that had previously only ever run on-premises. If this couldn’t be moved to the cloud, the whole digital transformation project would need to be re-thought. The system was incompatible with Azure, and when their then-vendor said they could only migrate it to their own cloud option, at a hefty cost of £100k and with significant business disruption, Southway Housing began to look for an alternative provider.

 

  • Timeframes: Working with a tight timeframe, Southway Housing spent four months investigating their options through G-Cloud and weighing up the returns, knowing it followed a standard scoring process across price, product and more. Happily, BCN was one of the higher scoring providers against the requirements for the project, Southway Housing chose us as their migration partner.

Solution

Our technicians began by reviewing Southway Housing Trust’s entire environment, taking time to understand where and how critical systems and core applications had developed over time and how these fitted in with the trust’s current and future needs. With a full picture of the trust’s business goals over both the short and longer terms – including optimised costs, more flexibility, increased agility, and access to the latest security tools and features to prevent cyberattacks – BCN recommended a full migration to Microsoft Azure.

Our technical teams knew how integral the Open Housing core application was to the success of this project and were committed to getting it right. They collaborated closely with the trust to design and test a brand-new POC for the housing management system, and delivered what remains the only example of Open Housing  working within Azure.

Following a significant amount of internal development by the trust, and with input from third-party consultants as well as a rigorous and thorough migration testing process, UAT and a phased rollout, BCN successfully migrated the trust’s infrastructure to Azure with minimal business disruption, no costly vendor upgrades, on time and to budget.

BCN is pleased to continue supporting Southway Housing Trust with a fully managed Azure service, ensuring the environment remains secure, up to date and optimised going forwards.

Ian Hardingham, Head of ICT at Southway Housing commented “Southway Housing Trust completed a vigorous process to review the options that were available to us to deliver a modern and scalable infrastructure replacement. This included a review of on-premise, hybrid and cloud based options for infrastructure needs of a Housing Association.

The review led us towards Microsoft Azure which provides Southway with an integrated solution giving us the full capabilities of the Microsoft platform.

The implemented solution has provided Southway with extensive options for our Infrastructure team, giving us granular control of what we spend and when we spend it. Following benchmarking exercises completed after implementation, we have worked with BCN consultants and reduced the outlay spending less than budgeted figures with more control and capabilities than we have ever had before.

BCN have played a huge part in the project providing Southway with valuable expertise that has helped deliver a project on time and under budget.”

Testimonial

The implemented solution has provided Southway with extensive options for our Infrastructure team, giving us granular control of what we spend and when we spend it.

Ian Hardingham, Head of ICT at Southway Housing

Outcome

Migrating to Azure has been a solid first step on Southway Housing Trust’s journey to becoming a cloud-native organisation. With a fully modernised and well-architected infrastructure in place, and a new cloud-based environment supporting users across the service, the trust is already seeing countless benefits to digital transformation.

  • Cost savings: Chief among the immediate benefits has been measurable cost savings. With Azure Virtual Desktop included free of charge within the trust’s existing Microsoft 365 subscription, there have been huge upfront savings on hardware, equipment, power and maintenance. The trust projects these infrastructure savings will amount to as much as £200,000 over the first five years when compared to On Premise or Hybrid solutions.

 

  • Increase efficiency: As well as proving cost-effective, the new environment has led to huge productivity gains, with an estimated 8,250 hours per year saved. With a higher availability time, employees are getting a much faster response from the system and are able to complete their tasks more effectively and more efficiently.

 

  • Security: From a technical point of view, the trust has never been better positioned for resilience and security. Not only has the move to Azure reduced the attack surface and made the trust’s infrastructure harder to hit, there are also 60% fewer vulnerabilities to patch. Southway Housing are now much more in control of their own cyber security, with access to the latest tools and features they need to strengthen and monitor their security posture. And if something does go wrong, they are much better positioned to recover quickly and fully, with Azure Site Recovery (ASR) replication reducing the RTO and RPO from a previous time of 24 hours to a matter of just minutes.

 

  • Sustainability: The project has done much to bring the trust’s technical environment in line with its overarching sustainability goals too. With its infrastructure now sitting across 32 servers rather than 100, and residing in a modern data centre that utilises energy-efficient technology, the trust can better support its ESG targets.

Overall, the project has been a hugely successful first step towards Southway Housing Trust becoming cloud native. Thanks to our technical team’s in-depth knowledge of Azure, BCN was able to work with Southway to modernise the infrastructure fully, and within the tight timeframe required, maximising the range of Microsoft cloud services to deliver a truly modernised infrastructure. Partnering with BCN ensured the trust had access to Microsoft experts who could not only build and migrate legacy infrastructure and applications, but who could replicate and deploy core housing management systems as a truly one-of-a-kind POC.

Testimonial

Southway Housing now has a faster, more efficient, more scalable and ultimately more secure IT environment. We’ve seen some impressive cyber security improvements due to the nature of the changes that came out of the project, and, importantly, we now have a DR solution that is fully tested and proven. We’re pleased to work alongside BCN to make sure everything continues to run smoothly.

Piotr Sokolowski, Cyber Security & Infrastructure Manager at Southway Housing

Next steps

Southway Housing Trust are on a journey to move away from traditional infrastructure to cloud native for innovation, and BCN is proud to be continuing the journey with them. Under the banner of our Azure Managed Service, our Microsoft-certified experts are working to ensure the trust’s Azure environment remains secure and optimised at all times.

We also have an eye on the future and are keeping the trust’s long-term goal of becoming cloud native front of mind. As we collaborate with the trust, getting to know more about how they use their environment and what they need going forward, we are preparing to support the next phase of transformation as the trust focuses on data and a move from IaaS to PaaS.

We’re proud to be supporting Southway Housing Trust to deliver critical services to tenants and their communities, and we look forward to continuing to do so for many years come.

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