Posted on: 12 Sep 16
The Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich was founded in 1914 and includes Suffolk, except for an area around Lowestoft, and one parish in Essex. It serves about 631,000 people living in a geographical area of more than 1,400 square miles and comprises 454 parishes with 478 church buildings, of which 457 are listed.
Gavin Stone, Head of Transformation and Safeguarding, explains that the Diocese, like any large organisation, needs flexible and effective management, communication and support processes to ensure it operates smoothly. As ageing premise-based servers became due for replacement, Gavin took the opportunity to fundamentally review of the way IT supported the Diocesan Administration and build a system that would adapt to future needs.
“We wanted a system that would deliver a better service across the board. I commissioned an external feasibility study to look at all aspects of the diocesan office IT operations from physical hardware and system administration to continuity and security. The report, produced by experts in our sector, then acted as a blueprint for IT companies to tender against,” explains Gavin.The tender called for an extensive use of cloud-based system that would provide the Diocese with the operational flexibility it was looking for. Of the companies asked to tender only Strident offered a solution that matched the report recommendations. “It was important for us to have an IT architecture fit-for-purpose from the beginning as this would be the foundation for all our IT services.”
Microsoft Office 365 for emails and documents and Microsoft Azure cloud-based server platform for business applications were chosen for their flexibility, scalability and security. “The Diocese was already operating a bespoke cloud-based CRM system, which is used by a number of Dioceses, so the benefits of cloud-based systems were already well known to us.“Moving our servers to Azure has improved administration and reduced the maintenance workload to such a degree that we no longer needed a dedicated on-site IT manager,” adds Gavin. Homebased workers were already using VPN connections to the central servers so connecting to Azure servers has not required new training.
Improved flexibility was the key goal in moving to Microsoft Office 365 and Azure. “The system can easily grow to meet our future needs while being easier to administer. In addition, cloud-based operation ensures all our data is securely held off-site for better continuity and disaster recovery,” states Gavin.