Smart Energy GB created a hybrid cloud-based IT infrastructure and outsourced IT to enable it to set up quickly and give it flexible IT that can grow as its business grows.

With a planned 53 million smart meters installed in homes and businesses across the UK, the GB Smart Meter Implementation Plan (SMIP) allows gas and electricity consumption to be monitored to provide information that will help consumers and businesses use energy more efficiently. This promises to lower bills, reduce the UK’s carbon footprint and help energy firms improve provision and prevent shortages.

Once energy meters have been installed in homes, businesses will collect information on usage and send all the data to a central hub that will process it and forward it to the energy suppliers.

The SMIP requires major IT investments, with a need for smart meters, smart communicating sensors, modules, advanced communications networks and technologies to secure data. With a cost of more than £11bn, the rollout of Smart energy GB is needed to convince taxpayers of its benefits.

Alicia Walters, operations manager at Smart Energy GB, said the organisation – which is independent of the government and energy suppliers – needed a flexible IT infrastructure to manage increasing activity as the GB SMIP progresses. Initially, it had some support from Energy UK to get up and running and now outsources all IT to Zhero.

Zhero took responsibility for the IT infrastructure with the necessary IT equipment, such as PC hardware, mailboxes and storage space procured, on Smart Energy GB’s behalf. Due to the rapid growth of activity, for an organisation recently established, Smart Energy GB had to move to a large London-based office after it went from three to 30 users in one year.

It was during this move that the organisation moved to a hybrid public/private cloud infrastructure.

“Zhero really helped us choose the correct cloud options for our needs, with a focus on speed of IT services and low costs,” said Alicia Walters, operations manager at Smart Energy GB. “The hybrid cloud-based IT infrastructure they created for us offers the best of both worlds – namely, great performance and localised, fast access to our data.”

Through the outsourcing contract, Zhero perform the running and management of all Smart Energy GB’s IT systems, including Windows & Mac workstations. It provides a 24/7 IT helpdesk, fast direct-to-engineer support, management and monitoring for user workstations, servers, firewalls and Wi-Fi. Zhero hosts the email and file servers for Smart Energy GB, and it has onsite backup over a NAS.

The organisation has plans to move storage to the cloud using Box services. Part of the attraction of Box is the ability to use DocuSign and put financial transactions in the cloud securely, said Walters.

Research from the British Chambers of Commerce and BT Business has revealed that 60% of UK SMEs already use cloud-based applications.

The survey of around 400 IT decision-makers in UK businesses, with up to 250 staff, found the cloud was critical to flexible working.

Of the businesses interviewed, 86% said they have staff working from home regularly. It found that 47% have staff working away from the office at least once a week and 28% have someone working remotely every day.

A total of 43% said cloud-based applications were critical to effective flexible working and 52% said access to company data was essential.

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