South Hams District Council and West Devon Borough Council - Secure Access for Digital Transformation and Business Continuity
Business Continuity/Disaster Recovery (BC/DR) Project of the Year
Entry Description
South Hams District Council and West Devon Borough Council serves a large portion of the county of Devon in South West England. With just under 400 staff, the council provides a variety of services - including waste services, housing licensing, environmental health and more - to over 100,000 properties and 140,000 residents in South Hams and West Devon.. Like so many organisations before it, the council has wrestled with how to use digital transformation to accommodate new ways of working.

Many organisations - especially Local Authorities - often find themselves challenged with the absolute need to protect sensitive data and at the same time accommodate modern, flexible ways of working.

Several years ago, South Hams District Council and West Devon Borough Council were undergoing the process of transforming the way they worked. Staff were still tied to their office devices and their desks - with little flexibility about how, and from where they did their work.

The council wanted to ensure that in the future, their employees could work in a location agnostic way. Secure Access was central to that transformation, providing a secure connection between an employee’s device and the council’s network.

By mid-2017, the council’s Secure Access appliances were reaching end of life and they wanted to update to the latest platform.

Their appliances used a VPN with an external 2 factor service - meaning that employees would have to go through the manual process of signing in. The council wanted a more seamless process for its staff. It was time for a change.

The council approached ANSecurity for help in managing the upgrade to the latest platform. After a series of calls and on-site meetings, the full upgrade was purchased.

They chose Pulse Secure appliances for their unparalleled ability to combine Secure Access with a user friendly experience.

The council opted for an “always on” VPN - one which would use a device ID to authenticate to the council’s network - thereby circumventing the manual sign-in process and providing a streamlined authentication process for users. From there the processes of logging in at home, or the office became almost identical. By deploying fewer physical 2 factor tokens, the council made further savings. ANSecurity helped the council configure the VPN with a couple of days of on-site consultancy. Before long, the upgrade was complete.

The Council’s new operating model has proved tremendously popular with staff, allowing them to work agilely in whatever location they choose. The Council’s offices are now hot desking locations with around 100 to 150 people using Pulse Secure VPN to log into the office network every day.

In February 2018, a storm dubbed “The Beast from the East” caused many councils to close shop due to adverse weather conditions. South Hams District Council and West Devon Borough Council, however, managed operate as normal even though the offices were inaccessible to staff and public - one of the few in the entire country that managed to run uninterrupted council services.

The ability to capture business processes into their workflow allowed them to downsize their staff costs and save £1.4 million a year. The resultant savings in money, staff and space has also cut their carbon footprint and paper waste significantly.

For South Hams District Council and West Devon Borough council, adopting new Secure Access platforms furthered that transformation. Security is often thought of as a burden on efficient IT operation, but West Devon Borough Council shows that’s not the case. Mike Ward, the council’s head of IT said “security of this type is an enabler to the way we work - we couldn't do it without a VPN.”

They’ve already got two Pulse Secure appliances. But, Ward adds, their new scheme is so popular and their workforce are so tied to remote working - that they may have to buy a third to bolster resiliency across multiple sites and improve testing of new features and releases.

“ANSecurity have been a great partner for us and nothing was too much trouble, they provided good guidance and were there every step of the project. We look forward to working with them on an on-going basis.”