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UK smart metering provider transforms environment with Microsoft Azure

UK smart metering provider transforms environment with Microsoft Azure

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Westcon-Comstor Sub-Saharan Africa, a global distributor, has announced Cape Town-based IT solutions provider and Microsoft partner, RJ45 Networking Solutions, has recently migrated the IT environment of UK metering and billing agent, Insite Energy, to Microsoft Azure. The migration was done without downtime to live services, including Insite Energy’s newly launched in-house digital prepayment web app, enabling the organisation to significantly enhance its billing and meter management services to its clients and customers.

Insite Energy is a UK metering and billing agent working with heat suppliers and landlords who have heat networks installed in their buildings. The company provides smart metering, billing, and payment services to more than 250 heat network schemes and 25,000 homes in the UK. In recent years, Insite’s ageing IT environment made it challenging to service customers and clients cost-effectively and to a high quality. The company opted to standardise on Microsoft Azure to enhance its existing cloud environment and servers hosted in remote data centres.

“Although we have always been cloud-focused, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a massive impact on the way companies work. For instance, our Peterborough call centre had fewer people coming into the office due to lockdown restrictions. Generally, work from home has benefitted our business, as we wanted to offer our staff greater flexibility and provide Business Continuity. By choosing Azure and Microsoft 365, we have achieved this,” said Louis Uys, Head, IT at Insite Energy.

Making the shift, employees can work from anywhere, with files accessible via Microsoft Teams, email available through Microsoft 365 and a virtual private network (VPN). As part of the migration, RJ45 took over firewall management, moving user computers away from a traditional IP address set-up and ensuring Insite Energy’s VPNs and firewalls would integrate with Azure. This required overhauling the company’s existing VPN solutions from third-party vendors, of which there were many.

Additionally, Insite Energy migrated its top-up payment environment, which supports over the counter (OTC) payments at PayPoint outlets, requiring every UK PayPoint affiliate to send a payment request over a VPN link to the Insite Unix Payment Server in Azure. And seamless connectivity to its brand-new in-house prepayment web-app solution, KURVE, allows customers to make payments on the web, over the phone, and OTC. Multi-factor security for its remote employees accessing the system was implemented to assure the integrity and security of customer data.

“Pay-as-you-go (PAYG) customers are the single most important aspect of Insite’s business. They have no other way to top up their utilities and our clients expect this platform to be up 100% of the time. The Azure migration had to be cognizant of that, with downtime not an option. Given the scale of the project, this was a significant challenge for RJ45, which it handled with aplomb,” said Uys.

Benefits enjoyed by the company resulting from its migration to Azure include significant performance improvements and significantly more flexibility with all its services, including its call centre, now available in the cloud. According to Uys, its experience working with RJ45 has been excellent, even though the migration was a complex undertaking. The RJ45 team was always available for support, and it addressed issues virtually and instantaneously.

“Within Azure, we can now access live data and be in full control of our environment. Insite can perform monitoring on an individual virtual machine basis to identify any bottlenecks, whether it be metering or customer payments. Previously, we had no idea why some of our servers were running slowly and had to throw more computing power at them. With the work RJ45 has done, we now have visibility of our entire IT environment,” added Uys.

“Our servers are now linked at the speeds required with no bottlenecks constraining our operational success. We can perform backups and have restores instantly available, which previously took a few days to perform. Our client and customer experience have improved significantly due to this, which opens up more business opportunities for us,” said Uys.

Insite employees can now operate using a laptop and an Internet connection from anywhere in the world through a Windows Remote Desktop session. Azure has also significantly benefitted its old software licensing structure.

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