Optimising internal and external communications for a top housing association
About North Star
Born in 2006 from the merger of the Endeavour and Teesdale housing associations, North Star is a forward-thinking housing association that not only builds affordable homes across the North of England, but helps create strong communities and personal connections wherever they operate, driving and taking part in numerous initiatives to make a lasting, positive difference in people's lives.
In 2016, North Star was preparing to welcome the Darlington Housing Association into its group. As the plans for this merger were put into place, it became clear that the complex legacy IT infrastructure was rapidly approaching the end of its lifecycle, and as a result, potential ways to future-proof and optimise it were presented for consideration.
In particular, with the increasing complexity of legal and compliance obligations, combined with an evolving cyber threat landscape, maintaining robust security and data protection was a key priority. Furthermore, while they had a Virtual Desktop solution in place, it had proven both slow and difficult to manage, which limited staff's options with regards to remote working and omnichannel communication with colleagues and residents.
In light of these concerns, and in order to bring the IT infrastructure back in line with their long-term business goals, North Star seized the opportunity to modernise their entire IT infrastructure, for which they engaged with Exponential-e.
Following a detailed review of North Star's goals, requirements and existing infrastructure, a full-scale Cloud migration was conducted, with the entire legacy infrastructure moved to a UK-based Virtual Data Centre, and full server replication to a second VDC, also hosted in the UK. This controlled migration process was managed by a dedicated account team from Exponential-e, ensuring the transformation was completed on time, to budget, and with minimal disruption to daily operations.
All eight North Star sites were connected with a high-performance WAN, ensuring consistent performance of the new Virtual Desktop for all teams, and - in turn - enhancing communication and collaboration.
The existing Virtual Desktop solution was completely replaced with Citrix Virtual Desktops, delivered as a fully managed service to ensure North Star's staff could begin making use of the solution's full capabilities as quickly as possible, and that any initial and future issues could be swiftly identified and resolved, without creating an unnecessary drain on internal IT teams' time and resources.
The managed services model was extended to the security ecosystem, with Exponential-e providing hands-on monitoring and drawing on cutting-edge threat intelligence to ensure the latest cyber threats could be pre-emptively dealt with and any potential weaknesses in the infrastructure could be resolved before they were exploited.
Throughout lockdown, with staff forced to work remotely, the new infrastructure proved invaluable, allowing staff and residents to remain in close contact through a range of channels, including voice, telephony, online chat, and email, with consistently high quality throughout. This not only allowed staff to remain as close to 'business as usual' as possible, but allowed residents to continue accessing essential services as easily as possible, with Exponential-e's monitoring of the infrastructure freeing staff to focus on first-class service delivery and quick resolutions.
The success of this migration represents the first steppingstone towards North Star's planned Cloud-first strategy, with a fully virtualised infrastructure providing the agility needed to effectively respond to unexpected changes in the digital landscape and the evolving needs of their residents.
- Improved control and governance at all levels
- High-performance, omnichannel communication for staff and residents
- Enhanced efficiency, security, and resilience across the entire organisation
- Optimal scalability and agility, through a Cloud-based consumption model
- A strong foundation for a Cloud-first strategy
Housing is an inherently people-focused sector, and IT infrastructure must support that. Our work with Exponential-e has proven essential in this regard, ensuring we can meet our own technology goals, while keeping our residents at the centre of everything we do.Sean Lawless
Head of ITC and Digital, North Star