According to Castleton’s managing director, Paul Sexton, on-premise IT infrastructure will be obsolete within five years and every business will be operating in the cloud. If correct, this has clear implications for housing providers not currently considering moving to the Cloud, yet in a recent survey only 50 per cent of respondents said that they had a clear cloud strategy and were on track to delivering it.
Most people are familiar with public cloud services, hosted by ‘hyper-scale’ providers such as Microsoft and Amazon Web Services, and many already use it for applications such as Office 365. However, although the public cloud is massively scalable, it’s not particularly flexible in accommodating individual business needs, doesn’t cater to SLA agreements, is US-based and presents an attractive target for hackers (making it less secure than on premise infrastructure).
Opex, not capex
A better option for housing providers is a private cloud service which offers large-scale infrastructure with high availability in terms of internet service, much greater data security and the same benefits of being scalable and cost-effective – the opex model means no capital outlay on equipment is needed, and an agreed regular spend based on per user per month helps with building budgets. The private cloud is also very flexible, allowing you to shrink or grow the service according to your needs, paying only for what you use.
For example, Castleton’s private cloud, designed for and dedicated to the housing sector, hosts customers’ data, as well the software applications we provide, safely and securely on our own equipment within UK-based data centres. It allows housing providers to set their own service level agreements, provides more flexibility and control and makes data recovery much simpler.
We can either host your entire infrastructure in our cloud, or in most cases, we provide a hybrid solution whereby applications such as Office365 remain in the public cloud and sit alongside managed services in the Castleton Cloud. For example, it makes sense to store email in the public cloud rather than eating up valuable storage space with large mailboxes, but use our cloud for key applications such as housing management, CRM, HR and finance.
Benefits for housing providers
By outsourcing management of your underlying infrastructure to a managed service provider such as Castleton, you can liberate the valuable resources within your in-house IT department to focus on your business applications.
In our recent survey, 90 per cent of respondents in the housing sector reported that their IT departments only had a little or moderate amount of time to focus on strategy and new technology, and this is the crux of the matter. Housing providers with on-premise servers find that their IT departments spend half their time managing the infrastructure and the other half developing business systems. As a result, they can’t roll out business transformation as fast as they should because they are spending time on areas they don’t need to. Moving to the cloud takes away that pain and removes the limitation on business development.
Digital transformation is a key priority, with housing providers trying to bring more services online to meet tenants’ needs, such as paying their rent or booking repairs from the comfort of their own home on their mobile device. Being in cloud enables you to support those services with the latest software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications which are hosted in the cloud by default. It also gives your remote and mobile workers visiting tenants the ability to access your systems and data from anywhere.
Don’t get left behind!
Fears about data security and the cost of moving to the cloud are misplaced. Data is more secure on a private cloud than a public cloud and is safer on a data recovery basis too. The data remains yours and can be accessed whenever and wherever required. And while there is a cost to migrating to the cloud, moving to an opex model makes it affordable, transparent, easy to manage and cost-effective.
Alongside the accelerating adoption of cloud services by housing providers, most technology developers are increasingly focusing their software strategy on delivering cloud-first applications. By embracing the cloud, housing providers can future-proof their technology, deliver digital services and achieve real business transformation.
Paul Sexton is the managing director of Castleton Technology.