Bellway Homes was founded in 1946 in Newcastle upon Tyne as a family-run housebuilding firm. Since then they have grown to be one of the most successful residential property developers in the country. They have a strong focus on quality, trust and service and currently have over nineteen regional divisions hiring local talent. Bellway Homes has used Perfect Image as their outsourced IT department for the past 25 years.
Bellway Homes was hosting its bespoke financial systems on-premise; however, it was fault-prone and restrictive in the available computing power. It didn’t have the capacity necessary for either requirement and it was expensive to maintain. When the hardware needed to be replaced it would be an incredibly expensive upfront cost. Their on-premise infrastructure was unreliable, with too many single points of failure. If one item failed, the whole system would stop. This was a huge risk, as with two and a half thousand end users, any downtime would be disastrous.
Perfect Image proposed moving their bespoke financial systems from on-premise infrastructure to the public cloud. As Bellway’s own IT department, we have a great understanding of what their technical and business needs are.
We built the cloud solution using Bellway’s existing Amazon Web Services (AWS) environment and private subnets that were hosting their Microsoft Exchange servers. To protect against single instance failures, the SQL solution was built with three EC2 server instances across three availability zones using SQL Always on Availability groups with automatic failover.
The AWS solution is built to be fault-tolerant, to give Bellway room for growth with any future applications that could be migrated onto it. Now, even if a whole server or Availability Zone (AZ) is lost then the system will continue working on an alternate server or AZ. As with any large company, even the smallest amount of downtime is detrimental to their time-sensitive and high-cost construction work. Knowing the system won’t let them down gives everyone at Bellway peace of mind.
The environment can easily be scaled up (or down, if required) to support any future growth or additional workloads using its scalable architecture and storage. We can add extra resources for Bellway in minutes without upfront capital expenditure. For example, if they wanted to double the number of users on the system because of business expansion, they could do that easily and have the required computing power and storage. This means their infrastructure will never hinder business growth. It is a far more efficient way of working than on-premise physical hardware which always runs at full power regardless of what is actually being used.
Perfect Image runs an innovative Network Operations Centre (NOC) that constantly monitors Bellway’s infrastructure. We constantly check the security levels of their data, systems and networks, to ensure it is locked down and secure. We do proactive monitoring, which is identifying and eliminating issues before they become problems, and reactive monitoring, which means if anything breaks we can immediately fix it. Every individual aspect of their infrastructure is monitored. It takes the stress away from Bellway to know that issues are being dealt with by us, so they can focus on their business.
When beginning this project, a big bonus for Bellway was they didn’t have a huge upfront cost to adopt the cloud, which also meant they avoided the cost of buying more physical infrastructure. They make use of “SQL license included” Amazon EC2 instances, as this ensures AWS manages licensing compliance. The cost of the SQL license is covered within the monthly pay as you go AWS model, removing the need for large upfront investment in SQL licenses.
Using our NOC, we are also able to monitor and optimise costs on an ongoing basis. If Bellway’s expenses suddenly spike, for example an element of the cloud using more resource than expected, the NOC will alert us. This is far beyond typical technical monitoring – cost is not what IT monitoring would normally cover. All of this together has led to reduced operational costs.
Perfect Image protected Bellway’s important and sensitive financial systems and data by optimising security controls beyond the already reliable inbuilt security that exists within AWS environments. We designed a tightly secure environment architecture specific to Bellway’s existing architecture and taking their current and future needs into consideration. Access control was implemented so only certain users have the privileges to access certain data. Perfect Image’s NOC also acts as another layer of security protecting Bellway’s network from external threats. If a breach occurs, we will be alerted immediately to take action.