Moving to the cloud

Moving to the cloud

Everything seems to be ‘in the cloud’ these days. It’s used by big businesses, schools and universities and in our everyday personal lives – you may well use the cloud to store photos and music on your devices, for example.

We’re keen to make the most of what the cloud can offer too.

You may be aware the Horizon system is currently hosted in two fixed-location data centres in Belfast. Such data centres are fast becoming eclipsed by cloud technology.

Therefore, we have a programme that is assessing how best to transition our technology platforms, including Horizon, to the cloud. This begins to set up our future needs for cloud-based hosting of systems.

Branches won’t see anything different during this work, or after the move takes place, and it won’t change the way Horizon operates in branch.

This plan is in parallel to developing a new branch IT system to replace Horizon in the next few years, which some of you are already involved with through the Postmaster IT Working Group. While we intend to replace Horizon, we will continue to make the most of our current technology by progressively using cloud technology to ensure the best possible service to branches, customers and clients.

Why are we moving to the cloud?
We need to keep moving with the times and ensure we can best support not only current needs, but future needs as well. This change will reduce our reliance on legacy data centres. Much of the IT infrastructure at the fixed sites is also approaching end-of-life.

Cloud technology will help us operate IT systems that more easily keep pace with the continuous rapid changes in technology and help us meet changing customer needs. Moving to the cloud will allow us to buy in the services we need when we want them more easily, bringing more flexibility and speed when changes to products and services are needed. It also meets the Government’s Cloud First strategy.

The new Post Office cloud platform is being provided by Amazon Web Services (AWS), which is a subsidiary of Amazon.

We will still own and manage the data and it will of course remain secure – put simply, the Post Office cloud platform will be the new storage container we keep it in.

What’s due to happen when?
The changes are being carefully planned to minimise any potential impact on services by moving the content currently held in the fixed data centres across to the cloud gradually in small waves.

We are already working in the background to start moving the content of the databases across and carrying out thorough testing.

Once testing is successfully completed, later this year we plan to start moving the applications the branch counters use.

A pilot will take place first with a small number of branches. As long as that’s successful, the branch counters for the rest of the network will then start to move over in batches. It will only be a small number of branches at first and will gradually build up.

We’ll let each branch know when it’s your turn and the only action you should need to take is to make sure your counters are left switched on overnight on the relevant date.

We will keep you updated as our plans progress and before this branch activity starts.