By Emma Marshall, ICT and programme manager, Chorley Council
Chorley has a population of 115,800 people, up 11% in the last decade and with 19% aged 65 or over. As the population grows, the pressure and demand on our council services is increasing. We need to find a way to deal with that, with less resources and less staff.
Late last year, we had both our ICT and Digital strategies approved. These outlined a three-year plan enabling us to deliver improved and efficient digital services both to our residents and also to staff. This is essential to support flexible working, but also a first step towards the full-cloud strategy that we hope to achieve in the next five years.
Because our infrastructure was out of date and redundant, we have replaced entirely the hardware in our data centre and network. With Nviron, we have implemented Dell EMC vSan Ready Nodes, with data backed up to Amazon Web Services (AWS). Previously, we had our data spread over two data centres, with our back-up stored by Lancashire County Council in Preston. By moving to the cloud, we’ve been able to get rid of that, saving a subscription – it is possible for us to get the benefits of having two data centres for the cost of one. Our data is copied to the AWS back-up, and we don’t pay for any processing unless we spin up those services in the event of a disaster.
By moving everything to a single, simple management system, all from the same manufacturer, it makes it much easier to outsource work in the future. It’s future-proofed –within a five year period the hardware will not be fit for use, so we will be looking to move everything to the cloud. It enables our services always to be available, so if members of the public want to order a garden waste bin at 2am then they will be able to do that.
Why did we win the Pioneer Challenge? It’s our belief that many IT departments across UK think that ‘if you can see it, you can fix it’, and have a fear of something in the cloud. We’ve proved that, even though we are a local authority with only 250 staff and 50 elected members, moving to the cloud is possible and can be cost-effective. We are the first user of this solution in the UK and it is working well for us.
Through the Pioneer Challenge we won US$20,000 (£15,400) of AWS credit, which we have used for consultancy and to test our data fully before we roll this out. We are still in the implementation stages, due to be completed in the next few weeks. Because we have the AWS credits, we are going to be able to spin up a full disaster recovery environment to enable our users to test those services and use them for a prolonged length of time.
This testing will give us the assurance that the system is set up properly and is all working; it gives our members the confidence that the money they spent was well worth it. Also, for 15 years, we have had one outstanding audit action where we need to be able to prove that in the event of a disaster our data can be accessible. This ticks that box.