LED shapes up with managed Azure migration with Claranet

Established in 2006, LED (LED Leisure Management Ltd) is a charitable not-for-profit organisation which aims to bring a range of cultural, sporting, and physical activities to people living in South West England.

The challenge

With a deep commitment to the communities it serves, LED is passionate about continuously improving the services it offers, and empowering its team to meet the needs of its customers and the wider organisation. The technology that sits behind its leisure centres – from its website for online bookings to its leisure management application and payment processing – is critical to achieving these aims. Reliability and availability of these applications are therefore essential for a good customer experience.

In addition, as a charity, cost is another key consideration, so the organisation makes every effort to ensure that it is operating as efficiently as possible.

Moving to the cloud offered the opportunity to right-size our infrastructure.

LED had been hosting its applications and servers in a traditional on-premise environment, through which the leisure centres accessed a centralised Remote Desktop Server (RDS) farm, which ran its booking and payment applications. While this setup had served the organisation well in the past, the operating system was nearing end of life and with its support contract coming to an end. Within this context LED saw the opportunity to migrate its applications to the cloud to future-proof its operations and achieve greater cost efficiencies.

Kate Hoskins, Head of Finance and Support Services at LED, explained: “As an organisation we’ve been steadily transforming our services and the technologies that support us to better serve our customers and employees, and help to move the business forward. A lack of flexibility in our previous on-premise arrangement slowed the pace of this transformation and meant that we were paying for capacity that wasn’t used a lot of the time.

“Moving to the cloud offered the opportunity to right-size our infrastructure so that we would only pay for what we use, which would go a long way towards preparing us for the long-term future. However, we needed a partner with the right skills and expertise to help us make the move.”

The fact that they only pay for the infrastructure they use will have a huge financial impact.

The solution

LED turned to Claranet to design, implement, and manage a new high-performance application hosting environment in Azure from the ground up, to create a rock-solid foundation for future projects and expansion.

Claranet set about building the environment in Azure, spinning VMs for its databases and web applications and migrating them across. The team moved LED’s RDS farm over to Windows Server 2016, addressing the end of life issue and delivering new functionality.

To keep its employees connected securely to critical line-of-business data and applications, Claranet built in a secure connection to Azure – Azure ExpressRoute – ensuring that LED’s traffic never leaves its private network when accessing its applications. This effectively makes the Azure platform an extension of LED’s corporate environment and helps to safeguard availability, reliability, and security.

The solution takes full advantage of Azure’s scalability and scales up and down in line with demand. This ensures that its applications can easily handle sudden increases in web traffic without impacting the user experience, and that LED only pays for what it uses.

As a fully managed service, Claranet provides complete support behind the scenes, ensuring and protecting application availability and offering advice on how to optimise the infrastructure to deliver performance improvements and cost savings.

We’d struggle to operate without the services that Claranet provides.

The result

In a big departure from its previous on-premise environment – which it had to run 24/7 – LED now has the flexibility to turn things off when they aren’t being used. The fact that they only pay for the infrastructure they use will have a huge financial impact in the long run. As the pace of technological change in leisure quickens, the cloud environment also allows the team to strengthen change control by allowing the ICT team to build temporary appropriate environments for trials or the duration of a project.

Kate explained: “The scalability and flexibility of our new infrastructure have brought huge benefits. We get a big rush from members using online booking to book into facilities and classes when new sessions are released because they tend to fill up fast, so we need capacity at that point but not for the rest of the night. It just doesn’t make sense for us to keep all of our servers running all the time. Even something as small as this has made a difference to our bottom line.”

This migration is the latest in a series of projects that Claranet has carried out in partnership with LED over the last two decades. These have provided a range of different services, including its MPLS network, and Claranet is also currently in the process of deploying its Hosted Voice service. This, according to Kate, has made Claranet a strategically important and trusted partner for the organisation.

Kate continued: “We’d struggle to operate without the services that Claranet provides. If the network goes down, for example, we’d be unable to take card payments or make bookings so they’re effectively the lifeline for our customer experience and revenues. A public cloud platform with Claranet’s technical expertise behind our in house team has enabled us to drive the business forward, safe in the knowledge we’re in good hands.”

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