A Safe House
The infrastructure hosting partner behind a leading Housing Management software provider’s success.
Founded in 2019, Designer Software is the developer and provider of the HomeMaster financial accounting and administration platform for UK Housing Associations. The five company founders, with their previous and varied experience of working in the housing sector, had identified the market opportunity for the provision of a comprehensive yet more flexible software as a service (SaaS) solution delivered via the web.
At that time, all financial software offerings available to Housing Providers were locked in to custom on-premise solutions which presented growing security, compliance, cost and support concerns to many.
In May 2019, with the support of cloud hosting infrastructure specialists Host-IT, Designer Software launched HomeMaster to their first Housing Association customer based in Glasgow.
When designing and developing their initial web-based solution in 2019, the team at Designer Software recognized the importance of identifying a suitable hosting provider. This was essential to enabling them to be ready to quickly roll out and scale the software platform at launch. However, with no previous in-house infrastructure experience, the chosen hosting partner would ideally need to be willing to invest time in learning and understanding the unique challenges of their start-up business as well as the changing and often complex requirements of their Housing Provider clients.
“We knew we required a more hands-on approach and ongoing technical support,” recalls Craig Brock, Co-founder and Chief Operating Officer. “While we had plenty of knowledge from working in the Housing sector, we were not cloud hosting infrastructure experts and recognized from day one that we did not want to be hosting our platform in-house. It’s very tough to break into the Housing sector and we could not afford to risk our reputation due to any potential IT delivery issues.”
Key Hosting Partner Criteria:
- Scalable and low latency hosting solution
- Proven Infrastructure and IT support track-record
- Data security and compliance credentials
- Customer-centric service
Having considered various cloud hosting options including Microsoft Azure and Amazon AWS, Designer Software selected Host-IT as their hosting and infrastructure provider. Host-IT has been developing and hosting web sites and operating its own data centres since 1995. The company supports many types of clients both technical and non-technical including SMEs, large multi- nationals, local authorities, not for profit organisations, IT service providers, and web development companies. Their services are strategically located at Proximity Data Centres’ colocation data centre campus in Milton Keynes, a purpose built, tier 3 standard 48,000 sq ft facility with multiple data halls. Providing 3 MW of available power, the site offers low latency connectivity via multiple tier 1 carrier connections including dark fibres with fully diverse links.
Craig Brock: “Host-IT quickly understood and solved our cloud hosting infrastructure needs by having a local data centre with dedicated on-site engineering support personnel. To help build the vital trust factor in front of our clients, they could also demonstrable a strong track-record in serving public sector organisations. Equally important, they were prepared to grow with us even though back then we were in start-up mode.”
Initially, Host-IT helped implement a secure and partitioned ‘shared server’ for all HomeMaster clients. Today, however, there are an additional 15 ‘private servers’ in operation for meeting the different capacity and compliance requirements needs of the rapidly expanding client base. Recently, Host-IT also proposed, piloted and subsequently implemented new CPU architecture resulting in a 30% processing performance increase while also further reducing latency.
“This innovation was instigated by Host-IT initially as a test solution free-of-charge to help us maximise the user experience for our clients and is a testament to the high level of ongoing service we receive,” attests Designer Software’s Craig Brock. “The impressive customer tours of their data centre which our clients have taken advantage of, is a further example. These play a huge part in satisfying our clients’ ongoing requirements and concerns regarding data sovereignty and ensuring their compliance with GDPR and Cyber Essentials Plus.”
As a software as a service (SaaS) platform, HomeMaster avoids clients using an in-house server with the associated resource overheads. Furthermore, there is no up-front capital expenditure due to the annual pricing structure. Today, HomeMaster allows 55 Community Housing Providers, each responsible for thousands of properties, to work more efficiently and scale as necessary as their requirements change. With growing demand for its flexible subscription-based solution, the business now employs over 20 people and is currently looking to recruit further.
Craig concluded: “HomeMaster is now firmly established as an industry leading housing and finance platform. One that uses state-of-the-art development technologies to remain future-proof and continue to meet the ever-evolving needs of Housing Providers. With Host-IT’s first-class infrastructure and support we can assure our clients a scalable and resilient low latency SaaS solution while also benefitting from ongoing access to their high quality 24/7 engineering services. The added peace of mind this gives us is immeasurable.”
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