Railway Housing cuts IT costs by 30 percent with cloud

Railway Housing Association has announced savings of between 25 and 30 percent since moving its IT infrastructure to the cloud in 2010.


Railway Housing Association has announced savings of between 25 and 30 percent since moving its IT infrastructure to the cloud in 2010.

The savings were achieved by using Civica’s managed ICT services over the last four years instead of running its own ICT inhouse, finance and ICT manager Stuart Bradon told ComputerworldUK.

Civica has been the managed services provider to the association since 2003 but moved Railway onto its cloud platform in 2010.

The service includes secure hosting across two data centres in Manchester and Luton and infrastructure for core applications such as housing, financials and asset management.

The systems run on Windows 2008 with Civica providing full system administration, backup and recovery and access to a technical cloud consultant to plan future changes to the environment.

Railway uses a Citrix-based interface providing access from desktops and tablets, Bradon explained.

The association has just 30 staff managing 1,500 properties across a large area of the north of England and Herefordshire, so having dedicated staff to run IT would cost too much, according to Bradon.

However, he admitted: “Back in 2000, before I joined, we can a very antiquated IT system. So we had to make some big changes. If one housing officer was using the system it meant another couldn’t, which was problematic. We needed a solution to bring our IT up to date.”

Moved to modern systems ‘overnight’

Railway decided to use a managed services provider rather than build its own infrastructure, a decision which allowed Railway to move “from very manual-based systems to modern IT systems overnight”, he said.

Since Civica started as supplier to Railway there have been two further competitive procurement exercises won by the company on both occasions.

Bradon explained: “Most recently we went out to tender in 2013. We had 30 expressions of interest, whittled down to inviting 10 to tender and had six tenders submitted. From that Civica was in the final phase and eventually won the five-year contract.”

He said: “It’s a robust, reliable way of running our IT. The main thing for us is it takes away the burden of running systems, we don’t have to worry about disaster recovery and making sure our business systems are available ourselves.

“The service is generally really good. We get monthly performance stats and the downtime for our main infrastructure is minimal. If we have a day a year that’s extreme.”

Move to new CRM

Bradon added that the association is due to buy ‘Civica Housing CX’, a new web-based CRM and management information system which features dashboard reporting.

He said: “The contract is not officially signed yet but it’s imminent. Although Citrix desktops are available on iPad it’s not as intuitive as CX. We’ll keep the current system in the background for a year or so then switch it off.”

Bradon said the main attraction of CX is “it’s more-user friendly than the present system and available any time or anywhere provided you have a web connection.”

The organisation is also planning to refresh its telephony system in the coming months too, he added.

He said: “We don’t have a formal BYOD [Bring Your Own Device] scheme. It’s not something want to encourage at the moment because don’t have an IT department.

“People are allowed to have their work e-mail on their phones, the chief executive uses their iPad and so on. We’re happy to allow that to a degree.”

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