The UK government’s Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) has used the Microsoft Azure cloud to meet citizens’ increased needs for its services during the Covid-19 pandemic.
ACAS moved from on-premises data centres to Microsoft Azure in 2019, which Microsoft says “proved to be a crucial decision”. Seeing calls double from 3,000 per day before the first UK lockdown in March 2020 to over 6,000, the organisation helped people cope with employment issues created by the pandemic.
ACAS also rolled out Windows 10 laptops and Microsoft Teams to enable staff to continue working from home.
“We wouldn’t have made it through Covid-19 like we have if we hadn’t moved to Azure and rolled out Windows 10,” said Paul Dowse, head of projects and analysis at ACAS. “We’ve seen a huge rise in the number of people needing advice and help. Every time there was a new announcement from the Government, we would update the information on our website and see a wave of calls. We needed robust systems to cope with that demand. Moving to Azure has definitely saved us valuable time in making changes to our environment and money, we have cut costs by around 50 per cent compared to our previous data centre costs. We are now also using Teams to help resolve some employment disputes in place of face-to-face meetings, which has enabled us to maintain our service during the pandemic and is reducing costs for everyone.
“No one thought the implications of Covid-19 were going to be as dramatic and long lasting as they have been, so if you’re thinking about moving to the cloud, do it now, because you never know what’s going to happen in the future.”
ACAS staff have been providing the latest information and advice on topics such as the UK government’s furlough scheme by logging into Azure-managed systems while working from home. Microsoft says that those systems “can be updated remotely by the IT team to ensure that the organisation’s services can continue to operate as normal”.
“Azure has helped many businesses and organisations transition to new ways of working over the past year,” said Michael Wignall, Azure business lead at Microsoft UK. “Microsoft’s cloud has the flexibility to handle sudden, large workloads, while also often being more cost-effective than on-premises solutions. Azure is the perfect tool for ACAS as the organisation continues to help those in need of employment advice and services.”