Home Office needed a cloud partner it could depend on to host four important applications and provide a disaster recovery service to minimise downtime.
These applications are essential to help ensure the safety of UK citizens, prevent fraud, license the import and export of controlled drugs and precursor chemicals and equip civil servants with the knowledge to do their jobs effectively.
Seamlessly migrating critical applications from an unaccredited platform to Sungard Availability Services’ secure, Government-assured cloud
In line with the government's 'Cloud First' policy, Home Office had selected an approved cloud supplier under the G-Cloud framework. However, when its provider unexpectedly lost its authorisation to deliver secure government cloud services, Home Office quickly needed to find a new assured cloud partner to provide a secure, resilient cloud platform for its important business applications.
- The vital National Drug Control System (NDS) application, which supports the drugs licensing work of UNODC, allowing controlled drugs in raw and medicinal forms and precursor chemicals to be transported across country borders.
- Intranet False and Authentic Documents Online (iFADO) system, which maintains a highly sensitive European Union database detailing the design, security and abuse of secure identity documents such as passports, identity cards, driving licences and other documentation that can be checked at entry points and at internal checks of EU member states
- 'Discover' learning management system (LMS) - a government e-learning system carrying sensitive vocational training material for various departments
- 'TeamMate' - a workflow application designed to increase the efficiency and productivity of the internal audit process within Home Office.
Given the importance of the applications and the sensitivity of the data involved, Home Office needed a provider who met accreditation and platform requirements and would be capable of successfully managing the migration process. The chosen provider would be entrusted to deliver a secure cloud platform with the high availability, security and resilience its applications demand.
Sungard Availability Services is among a select handful of cloud providers accredited to offer OFFICIAL-SENSITIVE cloud services under the latest G-Cloud framework. Attracted by our transparent, competitive pricing and ability to manage many aspects of the project, Home Office awarded us the contract to host its applications on our Secure Government Cloud. Although this comes with the assurance of up to 99.99% uptime, for added peace of mind Home Office also contracted cloud recovery services to cover the hardware and operating system.
The wide-ranging project scope included high level and low level design of the new platform, integration of middleware and databases, testing and steering Home Office through the complex migration process. Due to the sensitivity of the information involved, data could only be transferred via portable encryption devices that had first been scanned and cleared in a quarantine-style process.
The migration was further complicated by the fact that some of the applications needed upgrading to meet accreditation and platform requirements. Each application had been developed by a number of separate vendors but, throughout the project, all parties involved worked closely together to achieve a common goal.
Service management integration was another major consideration. Whereas previously this had been the responsibility of the cloud provider, under the terms of the new contract Home Office was responsible for performing the service integrator role.
Recognising this was a new area of responsibility, Sungard AS provided hands-on help, training Home Office employees in the unfamiliar processes and procedures to support a smoother transition for users as the contract moved from one provider to another.
One of the benefits of buying through the G-Cloud framework is that it simplifies and speeds up the procurement process. Senior Portfolio Manager Andrew Rivers notes, "The level of red tape was drastically reduced as all the due diligence work had been carried out upfront and this really shortcut the procurement process."
Predictable, consumption-based pricing is another plus as it eliminates the need to raise purchase requests for capital investments and gain director-level sign-off. Andrew Rivers values the freedom the fixed two-year contract term affords him. "The G-Cloud framework is very light touch," he says. "It means we can respond more quickly to take advantage of new developments."
Moving to a secure, cloud-based infrastructure has enabled Home Office to support the government's 'Cloud First' policy and benefit from high levels of resilience, availability and flexibility. Home Office has the peace of mind that comes from knowing OFFICIAL data is now hosted within two UK-based data centres and supported around the clock by a dedicated security-cleared operations team.
A year on since the system went live, Home Office Group Wide Services has enjoyed 100% availability. Andrew Rivers remarks, "It just sits there and does what it’s meant to, which gives me great peace of mind."