How we provided Golden Lane Housing with a new IT infrastructure and permanent remote working capabilities

Golden Lane Housing was established in 1998 by Mencap as an independent registered charity in order to help tackle the huge challenges that people with a learning disability face in finding a home.

Today, Golden Lane Housing works closely with people with learning disabilities in order to provide supported housing around which they can build their lives. To date it has invested over £100 million transforming the lives of thousands of people with a wide range of needs in more than 940 properties across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.  

As the country’s leading supported housing landlord for people with a learning disability Golden Lane Housing is continually seeking innovate ways in which to deliver appropriate housing solutions in an ever-changing world. 

THE CHALLENGE.

While still working closely with Mencapit was decided that it was time for Golden Lane Housing to become an entirely separate and completely autonomous organisation. 

This decision raised a number of challenges, especially with regard to its IT operations as previously it had shared Mencap’s infrastructure and resources. Golden Lane Housing faced the stark reality that it had no infrastructure or software licences to call its ownSo, to all intents and purposes it was starting from scratch. 

Had it been an entirely new venture, it might have been quite straightforward, but Golden Lane Housing was an organisation that had been operating for decades. As a result, it had a huge amount of valuable operational data that needed to be identified and transferred over to any new IT infrastructure and systems that would be built.

Consequently, any solution needed to incorporate both a new future-focused infrastructure solution and a high-level plan to migrate all Golden Lane Housing’s data from the existing Mencap IT infrastructure.

To add to an already challenging situation, like many thousands of organisations across the globe the coronavirus pandemic had forced Golden Lane Housing’s staff to work from homePrompt action was required if Golden Lane Housing was to continue serving its many thousands of vulnerable tenants, so over 100 members of staff were immediately equipped with laptops.

While this enabled staff to meet their immediate goals, looking forward it was realised that it required a far more substantial and secure method of remote working if it were to meet future challenges.

In addition, the move away from an office-based workforce toward more permanent flexible working practices meant that it would result in even greater demands on the organisation’s internal IT resources. Yet Golden Lane Housing simply didn’t have the resources to manage increasing numbers of service tickets.

The scale and complexity of these challenges meant they needed expert help, so they asked Quadris for the solution. 

THE SOLUTION.

  1. A new future-focused infrastructure solution.

    The first step in the project was to design a brand-new future-focused IT infrastructure and associated systems. This would not only answer Golden Lane Housing’s immediate requirements, but also ensure it would allow for future growth and the increase in compute and storage requirements brought about by the new remote working practices.

    Housed in its own dedicated datacentre, the IT infrastructure solution itself will answer Golden Lane Housing’s newly defined operating requirements through an All-Flash storage and high-performance compute cluster based on VMware. This ingenious solution will support Golden Lane Housing’s IT requirements both now and for years to comewhile also delivering a huge improvement in performance over the previous setup.

  2. Quadris’ Managed Disaster Recovery as a Service.

    The new hosted solution provides all of the local resiliency you would expect from a modern high-performance cluster, with any single component failure automatically recovering and ‘self-healing’. 

    Our fully managed Disaster Recovery as a service (DRaaS) is also a key component of the new solution. Not only are the servers and systems replicated to a second Quadris datacentre site, but Golden Lane Housing can also relax in the knowledge that Quadris will manage their DR process, monitoring, testing, and documentation. This will free up their internal IT team from complex processes and planning; allowing them to focus on delivering continued excellent service to end users.

  3. Citrix Virtual Desktops

    Citrix Virtual Desktops will deliver secure virtual apps and desktops to every device, while alleviating the time-consuming tasks associated with the installation, setup, upgrades, and ongoing monitoring.

    Protected by Multi Factor Authentication (MFA), complete control is retained over all applications, policies, while delivering an unrivalled user experience.

    In fact, the All-Flash storage combined with Office 365 optimised profiles will result in a better than desktop level of performance from the Citrix environment.

  4. Office 365

    In order to help staff to stay productive while working remotely, we also implemented Office 365, giving
    every member of staff access to Outlook, Word, Excel, OneDrive, SharePoint, and Microsoft Teams. In addition, Office 365 provides the ability to access files no matter where staff are working, delivers secure cloud storage, automatic upgrades, and centralised collaboration.

    But our role doesn’t stop at just the implementation of Office 365, it also includes full training and ongoing support to ensure staff continue to make the very most of this  suite of business tools.

  5. Quadris Managed Digital Workplace.
     

    Quadris Managed Digital Workspace is the easiest way to ensure every member of staff has the very latest and most productive tools. In addition, it will reduce the pressure on the organisation’s internal IT department, freeing it up to concentrate on higher value work. 

    To deal with the growing threats presented to staff working remotely, our Managed Digital Workplace includes a powerful set of services that combine to deliver comprehensive protection and continual threat analysis to every end user – no matter where they are working. 

    The solution includes a full managed Anti-Virus (AV) and Domain Name System (DNS) based web protection service to provide high-level security. Furthermore, both the Citrix Virtual Desktops and the end-user devices will be protected by a number of key security applications to provide full end-to-end protection – no matter where staff are working. 

    To discover more about our Managed Digital Workspace service, click here.

  6.  Quadris Managed Service Desk.

    In addition to providing the full support and maintenance of the brand new infrastructure, Golden Lane Housingalso requested additional help with any IT issues that users themselves may encounter. 

    As a result, Golden Lane Housing has signed up for our Managed Service Deskto supplement its own internal service desk, so that users can now call upon comprehensive round-the-clock help and support.

    In addition to being able to call upon highly trained technical experts for immediate assistance, the service also leverages industry-leading software and ITIL processes, coupled with full visibility via real-time service reporting dashboards. 

    Quadris Managed Service Desk provides greater visibility and central control in dealing with IT issues, ensuring that the organisation and its workforce all benefit from maximum uptime. 

    To discover more about our Managed Digital Service Desk, click here.

  7.  EyeQ – a world-beating IT Service Management Platform (ITSM). 

    Golden Lane Housing’s own service desk also required an internal monitoring and ticketing system to help keep track of user enquiries. So as an integral part of the overall solution we have provided them with access to EyeQ. 

    This world-beating IT Service Management Platform (ITSM) gathers all the different processes (such as Cisco Umbrella Secure internet gateway (SIG) and Cisco Advanced Malware Protection (AMP) for Endpoints) and then channels them into a single, easy-to-manage, automated process.

    EyeQ has been designed to make the monitoring of IT systems as easy as possible. A single pane of glass dashboard presents users with clear, detailed overview of all the systems and software and then delivers detailed reports designed for both internal use and external compliance auditing. 

    As a result, not only does EyeQ provide Golden Lane Housing with total visibility and control of its IT systems and assets, it also enables its administrators to continually gauge our service performance.

  8. Extracting the data from Mencap’s IT systems. 

    One of the most challenging aspects of this project was working out how to separate Golden Lane Housing’s data from Mencap’sas all the applications that Golden Lane Housing was using (Accounts, HR, Housing Management etc.) were all owned and provided by Mencap

    As a result, both organisation’s data was mixed together, making the task of extracting data specific to Golden Lane Housing extremely problematic. In order to identify and then subsequently transfer this data to Golden Lane Housing’s new IT setup requires a considered and carefully laid out plan of action. 

    Golden Lane Housing has made the decision to buy brand new, mostly cloud-based, software packages, and we will create Virtual Machines (VMs) for their installation on the new IT infrastructure. Instead of attempting to migrate their data off the Mencap system immediately, it has been decided to run a type of hybrid system for the first year. 

    In the meantime, we will implement all the new software packages into the new datacentre so that Golden Lane Housing can access all of these, while still retaining access to all the legacy applications. Furthermore, by publishing the Mencap applications into the new environment, for the time being, when users logon to the new system the applications they see will automatically link back to Mencap. 

    Once all the archive data has been identified and transferred over to the new applications the link will be severed and Golden Lane Housing will be completely autonomous.

The completed project will deliver Golden Lane Housing with both a new IT infrastructure and remote working capabilities, so it can continue to support some of the UK’s most vulnerable people.

What challenges do you face?

To discuss your IT challenges and how we can help, just pick a slot in the calendar and Peter will be happy to help. Alternatively, feel free to call us on 0161 537 4980 and ask for Peter Grayson or email peter.grayson@giftalien.com  

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