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New cloud-based core IT infrastructure

New cloud-based core IT infrastructure

Transformative communications & collaboration platform

Transformative communications & collaboration platform

Easily scalable service

Easily scalable service delivery for fluctuating user base

Renewed enthusiasm for IT as an enabler across all departments

Renewed enthusiasm for IT as an enabler across all departments

“From the very early stages of discussions, it was clear that the IT Lab team were incredibly professional, knowledgeable and switched on. They took the time to really understand our operational challenges before proposing a solution, and this gave us a huge amount of confidence in their ability to deliver.”

“We have a highly mobile team, and this mobility is central to our service delivery model. We identified the need for a flexible, scalable and highly-available communications platform and IT Lab delivered in every area. We’re delighted with the results.”

Chris Latta, ICT & CCIS Manager


Inspira Cumbria Limited (Inspira) is a leading social enterprise providing community services targeted at young people and adults.

The non-profit organisation approached IT Lab to participate in a competitive tender process they were carrying out as part of an overall re-imagining of how best to deliver their services to clients. Inspira were aware of IT Lab through our work with a regional housing provider, Community Gateway, and another local community services organisation, Positive Steps Oldham.

Inspira’s existing co-located IT infrastructure included a virtual desktop solution which they felt was limiting their ability to engage with an increasingly mobile service team and client base.

After a thorough tender process, IT Lab was selected to scope, design, build and support a new core IT platform for Inspira.

The Client

Employing approximately 100 full-time staff and up to 100 temporary staff (during specific times of the year), Inspira is headquartered in Penrith, Cumbria and operates from six further sites around the North West of England.

Inspira specialises in giving people the tools to unlock their potential and find their purpose with a particular focus on personal and career development. Their services, courses and programmes range from confidence-building and interview techniques to practical assistance with preparing for the world of work, finding apprenticeships and training and returning to the workplace. Inspira works in partnership with a number of other local and regional service providers and has assisted thousands of clients since 2001.


The Challenge


IT Lab’s solutions team needed to design a stable IT infrastructure that could deliver key services, applications and data to Inspira’s 100 permanent staff across its six sites, and those who work remotely. It also had to be flexible and scalable enough to accommodate the 100-part time and seasonal staff who often operated on a roaming basis throughout Cumbria and Lancashire.

The existing server and storage hardware was co-located in a 3rd party data centre with all users needing to connect via a VPN to a Citrix shared desktop solution for all network authentication, applications, files and internet access. The performance of this system was inconsistent. This meant that staff’s ability to deliver services, particularly in the field, was often well below acceptable levels. Although much of this could be attributed to the hardware approaching end-of-life, it was also true that Inspira’s incumbent support provider was unable to address these challenges.

The IT Lab team proposed a solution comprising a CloudLab Private Virtual Cloud platform which could be scaled on demand according to user volumes with an on premise server retained for access to Inspira’s legacy applications.

Microsoft Azure, Office 365, Enterprise, Mobility and Security Suite, Skype for Business and additional cloud based security layers were combined to provide a remote working and unified communications model that we were confident would give them the flexibility and stability they needed to function effectively.

“Being able to help an organisation which in turn helps young people make the most of their lives is doubly rewarding. We were really pleased to design and implement a solution which allows for optimal working for an organisation like Inspira that needs to be agile, know they’re getting value for money and ultimately enabling its users to work in a way which is most productive for them.”

Mark Summers, Head of Business Development, IT Lab

The Service

Inspira’s management team had originally envisaged using a public cloud based Microsoft Azure environment, but instead opted for IT Lab’s private virtual cloud platform, CloudLab with SharePoint and OneDrive deployed for synchronised user file access. This allows Inspira far more freedom and flexibility in terms of delivering a bespoke set of services as it is fully owned and managed by IT Lab. As such, the platform can be tailored for the specific requirements of each customer deployment.

The private, fully managed, highly resilient and DR-enabled new core platform has been seamlessly integrated with Office 365 and other line-of-business, security and network / device management applications. This, combined with IT Lab’s 24/7 managed support service (to reinforce their capable internal IT team) has enabled Inspira staff to work securely and effectively wherever & whenever they need to. Overall, IT Lab’s solutions have given Inspira renewed confidence to bid for new service contracts and provide more innovative, efficient services to their existing customers.

As with any highly mobile team, Inspira had identified communication and collaboration as key drivers for their new infrastructure. Skype for Business, with its instant messaging, video/audio conferencing and team spaces functionality has had a transformative effect on the whole team, delivering vast improvements in productivity and effectiveness across the organisation.

The Service

The Outcome

The overall project has been a great success, with the especially pleasing outcome of re-energising Inspira staff’s attitude to technology as an enabler. Enthusiasm for Office 365 and SharePoint in particular has seen many users using these services to deliver innovation across the organisation.

Additionally, Inspira’s internal IT team has far more time to focus on new projects rather than continually dealing with the routine network and user issues as they previously had to.

The stability and scalability of the new infrastructure allows the management team to accurately plan and budget for periodic and long-term growth as all costs are entirely predictable. The centralised delivery and management of the services also provides clear, actionable business data which in turn enables better-informed decision-making across all departments.

Future expansion of Inspira’s services, both through internal innovation and improved bid capabilities, is now firmly on the agenda thanks to them now having a solid technology base on which to build.

Several new projects are already in the planning stages, and IT Lab are delighted to be part of Inspira’s exciting future.


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