Growing from humble beginnings back in 1993, Ludlow Wealth Management Group has expanded into five locations and are trusted to manage assets totalling over £1.8 billion. Their recent venture with Mattioli Woods, announced in April 2021, adds a breadth of service that supports their focus on meeting and exceeding client expectations. Their ethos is built on that fact as they believe that financial planning is all about enabling families and individuals to build a prosperous future that helps them to get exactly what they want from life. The nature of the highly personal information that they hold for each client means that they are particularly focussed on cyber security. String has now worked with them for over five years to ensure that their IT service delivers on this security focus; originally providing them with an on-premises, hyper-converged server, and Windows Remote Desktop solution.About the customer
Whilst the on-premises solution had delivered on all of its original design requirements, the increasing demand for online meetings, driven in no small part by the Covid crisis, meant that the Remote Desktop Solution was increasingly unable to provide an acceptable user experience.
In addition to the above, we had previously moved Ludlow to their new Microsoft 365 environment, significantly reducing the requirements for on-premises file and authentication services.
When the time came to refresh their IT infrastructure, we worked with the Ludlow team to ensure that the next upgrade cycle would address the changing end-user requirements, whilst further enhancing their cyber security, and providing a high degree of scalability to cope with their ongoing growth.
Whilst their Microsoft 365 subscription had alleviated the requirement for an on-premises file server and Active Directory services; there remained a requirement to provide access to their Line of Business (LoB) application at each of their five offices. As the application required Microsoft SQL server to provide database services, and no purely cloud-based alternative was available, some form of hosting environment was required.
Working with Ludlow, we produced a business case that showed that moving to Microsoft’s Azure Virtual Desktop solution, and hosting their LoB application on Microsoft Azure would be provide a more secure, cost-effective alternative to purchasing a physical server cluster, and its associated operational costs (power, air condition etc).
End-users would access their Microsoft Cloud environment using a mix of thin-client terminals (with Windows 10 embedded to provide media offload for video calling) for office-based workers, and Microsoft Azure joined laptops for roaming users. Laptops would be secured and protected using Microsoft InTune to ensure that organisational security and compliance measures were enforced.
Their LoB application was migrated to Microsoft Azure, and presented to end-users as a Published Application, removing the need for them to connect to a separate virtual desktop to access the application. Azure Backup was used to provide backup and business continuity to further enhance Microsoft’s already robust resilience measure.
As with all of our projects, our Project Management methodology was used to ensure that the transition to the new Microsoft environment would be as non-disruptive as possible. For this reason, the deployment was completed over four phases:
At the outset, a Project Definition Workshop was held to ensure that all parties and stakeholders were able to contribute to the Project Plan. Potentially business impacting risks were identified and mitigated, and Pilot users identified to ensure that the solution was fully tested before the go-live.
Build & Testing Phase
Once the new Microsoft environment had been built, a thorough testing phase was conducted, comprising initial Operational Acceptance Testing, and User Acceptance Testing with users representing the various use cases within Ludlow.
Following testing, the migration phase saw all users moved to the new Microsoft Azure Virtual Desktop, and Azure LoB hosting environment. String consultants were on hand throughout to ensure that user disruption was kept to an absolute minimum.
For the first month after migration, the Azure environment was run as a pay-as-you-go model which, whilst slightly more expensive, allowed us to confirm that our initial sizing calculations where correct before they committed to Azure three-year reservations. Our sizing was subsequently proven accurate, and they were moved to the more cost-effective Reserved Instance model.
Like the vast majority of our clients, Ludlow has now said “Goodbye” to the last physical server they’ll ever need. As a result, their clients’ data now enjoys unprecedented levels of security through the adoption of Microsoft’s Zero Trust approach to cyber security. Cyber security is further enhanced by our provision of Cyber Awareness training, and simulated Phishing attacks as part of our managed support service.
Ludlow’s users are now able to securely access their Microsoft cloud environment from any location; with strict conditional access polices, Multi-Factor Authentication, and end-user device management extending the security envelope around their devices. Once connected, they can fully utilise the full range of innovative, and constantly evolving collaboration features made available by the Microsoft 365 subscription.
Access to their key Line of Business application, whilst hosted in Microsoft Azure, is a simple click of an icon on their desktop, with users being wholly unaware that the application is running rom one Microsoft’s two, secure UK data centres.
Ludlow can now continue their ongoing success and growth, secure in the knowledge that their Microsoft environment will scale with them, without fuss. And of course, String will continue to look after them to ensure that they continue to benefit from the stream of innovations that Microsoft produces each and every day.
String has consistently provided us with innovative IT solutions, without compromising our cyber security. The whole team are a pleasure to work with, and we consider them a trusted extension to our own team.
Rob Brown, Chief Operating Officer, Ludlow Wealth Management Group