Over 140 years ago George Holloway invented income protection to support members of the friendly society through sickness and injury. Holloway Friendly is a mutual society that continues to provide income protection policies to its members to this day.
The Business Challenge
Holloway Friendly has an in-house IT team and the decision had been made to migrate one of the main policy administration systems to the Cloud.
As Rob Broady explains “Hosting IT is not core to the business of Holloway Friendly, so it made sense from a security and risk position to migrate our IT infrastructure to be hosted in a secure, reliable cloud environment. As Head of IT, I am responsible for strategically leading us on our journey to Microsoft Cloud and away from traditional on-premise IT infrastructure. We wanted to move our core business systems into the Cloud to ensure our IT was robust for the future”.
The decision was made to use Microsoft Azure cloud as the rest of the IT systems were based on the Microsoft estate – including M365. Holloway Friendly already had in-house Power BI and Microsoft expert on the team who suggested that an external consultant could be helpful to support the team through this process..
The aim of using an external consultant was to ensure that the team was following best practice, and to ensure that the system put in place was robust.
Compete366 was recommended as an Azure expert by Microsoft, and the team chose to work them – primarily due to the unique Compete366 model of providing free ongoing expert advice and guidance if a customer purchases their Azure consumption from them.
As Rob explains “Right from the start the consultants from Compete366 were helpful and provided really useful advice. The appealing aspect for us is that Compete366 help us look after own IT estate – and get better at what we needed to do. Working with them seemed very straightforward.”
He continues “It was the first time we had set up Azure infrastructure so we used the advice from Compete366 to make sure we were doing the right thing, and that it was an appopriate set-up for an organisation of our size and type.
The project achieved all the outcomes that were expected – improving IT security, reducing risk and increasing efficiency. The result is a very stable system that has improved the IT security position through using Azure.
An additional benefit is that the Holloway Friendly IT team were able to earn and get better with Cloud technologies through this project. As Rob continues “The support from Compete366 has allowed us to upskill our own team – in fact this outcome of the project exceeded our expectations.
Holloway chose Compete366 as they were a recommended provider from Microsoft. As Rob explains “We went with the Microsoft recommendation of Compete366, they had a good, informative website and we had some good initial conversations. We found them and their consultants to be very responsive and timely. Sometimes we were trying to sort something out and needed an immediate response which they were able to give. The service felt quite personal, as if they were an extension of our team, and we found them easy to work with.”
“Compete366 also helped us to find the answers ourselves and also identify where the problems were with our set-up.“
Holloway Friendly has a Platform as a Service (PaaS) set up for Microsoft Azure using:
Internal web application runs on Azure App Service – front- end
Azure SQL Managed Instance back end (for databases)
Compete366 provided a free advisory and guidance service on the cloud architecture project in 3 key project areas:
To ensure the infrastructure was designed correctly, there were three key areas to consider:
Identity – as Holloway Friendly was using a blend of on-premise and Microsoft Cloud, there were some choices to be made around how to handle this.
Networking was one area where Holloway Friendly particularly needed help. The team had made a start but needed the expert support from Compete366 with network design and connectivity issues.
Security – ensuring the infrastructure had the appropriate security settings for a core business system was key
Implement and Deploy
Throughout the implement and deploy phase, Compete366 experts were available to provide detailed troubleshooting to support and overcome queries and issues. The team identified some performance issues and the Compete366 experts were on hand to help to diagnose the problems and suggest solutions.
Go live and post go live
After the project go live date, some further support and guidance was provided by the Compete366 experts. This was to help Holloway Friendly with cost optimisation of their infrastructure, which included:
Ensuring all elements were sized correctly to provide the required performance. This was completed after the systems had been running for 3-4 months, and will be an ongoing activity.
Taking advantage of Microsoft Azure RI (reserved instance) pricing for the server infrastructure (CPU and memory)
Taking advantage of SQL hybrid use benefit pricing to make cost savings by committing upfront to purchasing licences.
Related to performance issues too – find the right levels to pull to get the performance right. 3-4 months in – done base line on usage requirements and that’s ongoing.
The outcome of the project was a success. This was a core business system migrating to the Cloud, and having carried out testing and volume testing some performance issues needed to be resolved. Fortunately all issues were resolved within a short space of time – and all of the system users are very happy with the new set up.
In terms of future plans, Holloway Friendly has an ongoing Cloud First strategy for its IT – and wants to make more use of Microsoft Cloud Infrastructure each time it looks to change or improve its IT systems.
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“It’s great to work with the Compete366 team, the team members are really knowledgeable, helpful and responsive. No question is too difficult for them. They have really helped us to manage our Azure costs and ensure we have the right environment. When we bring a new customer on-board we can scale up immediately via the Azure portal and quickly make environments available to our customers.”
“We also find that there’s never a heavy sales pitch from them – they are technically focused and recommend what’s right for us.”
Paul Coyne, Rusada
“We had great support from the Compete366 AVD expert, who was really helpful, and guided me through options to tackle issues that arose.”
“The great thing about our AVD set up is that we have a custom set up for each project which Compete366 showed me how to do. And with the scalability and flexibility of AVD – we can meet clients’ expectations and get project users up and running more quickly.”
Amir Dangol, Senior IT Manager, Integrity
“We were immediately impressed with the advice that the Compete366 specialists in Azure Architecture were able to provide. This was all new to us and we really needed some external expertise that we could use to get our questions answered. The beauty of working with Compete366 is that we transferred our Azure consumption to them, and at the same time received all of their advice and guidance free of charge.”
Tim Entwistle, Head of Software Development, Herrco
“Working with Compete366 has been like extending our own team – they are extremely and easy to work with. Right from the outset, it was clear what was on offer – everything was presented to us in a straightforward and uncomplicated way. They also provided just the right level of challenge to our developers and saved us time and money by suggesting better ways to implement our infrastructure.”
Oliver Mackereth, Project Director, Hanse
“Compete366 were able to help us leverage some useful contacts in Microsoft. We really value the expert advice and guidance that they have offered us in setting up a highly scalable infrastructure. We are also setting in place a regular monthly meeting which will allow us to further refine our architecture and ensure we keep on track as our requirements grow and change.”
Matt Brocklehurst, Technical Director - AWOL Adventure
“I have been delighted with the migration, where my team worked very hard, supported by expert advice from Compete366, and achieved everything in the timescale we had set out. Compete 366 made sure that we didn’t make any expensive mistakes, and guided us through the process”