UK railway concessionaire connects people and destinations in record time with cloud solution

London-based HS1 Limited holds the concession to operate and maintain the infrastructure for the high-speed railway that connects St Pancras International Station in London and the Channel Tunnel, joining international high-speed routes between London, Paris, and Brussels, along with several domestic routes. Its 50 employees found collaboration with the hundreds of vendors and regulators they work with easier, faster, and more secure after converting to the cloud-based services in Microsoft 365.

HS1 Limited is an anomaly in the corporate world. Owned by a consortium of three investment firms, it holds a 30-year concession to operate the United Kingdom’s first high-speed rail line, High Speed 1, and the four stations along its route. Although the company bears the full responsibility for the railway infrastructure and is beholden to its shareholders and stakeholders, it also operates in a regulated industry subject to legislative constraints on operational decisions such as track access charges. The IT department consists of two employees. Yet because the 50-person company works with hundreds of counterparts and vendors, security and collaboration are a high priority. How to find a way to a highly secure, collaborative solution without investing in a full datacenter? For HS1 Limited, the answer is Microsoft 365 E5.

Navigating the cloud

The company’s 50 employees are a tightly integrated team, says Shawn Marcellin, IT and Facilities Manager at HS1 Limited. He should know: as the sole IT manager, with a firstline support worker as his only IT staff member, Marcellin wears a lot of hats. His colleagues across the company are a finely tuned team, and collaboration with each other and with an enormous web of external contacts is key to success. In addition to working with hundreds of vendors, HS1 employees interface with Network Rail, the largest railway infrastructure company in the United Kingdom and the entity that HS1 Limited has charged with maintaining the High Speed 1 railway. Companies like HS1 Limited must also adhere to strict data security regulations, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which comes into effect on May 25, 2018.

Five years ago, Marcellin sought a solution that would check all these requirements. Moving from its on-premises system to a private cloud provider proved to be only a partial solution. Its new hybrid model shared many of the same disadvantages as an on-premises datacenter but afforded less control. “Our IT strategy was to take advantage of remote capability in the cloud, so that offsite workers can access cloud-based IT systems,” says Marcellin. “But although the service was improved in many ways, the cloud provider’s infrastructure wasn’t always updated with the version of the Microsoft tools we wanted to use. And our email could be down for four to five hours a week.” Additionally, company leaders expected that the team would continue to grow, so they demanded a scalable solution that would offer availability and solid security 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Helping secure the lines of communication

Confident that he could deliver the stability that leadership required, Marcellin selected Microsoft Office 365, which included online versions of all the applications his colleagues regularly used: Microsoft Excel, PowerPoint, Word, and SharePoint. Marcellin had a solution that pleased the team. “SharePoint Online gave us a single version of the truth,” he says. When Microsoft 365 E3 was introduced, he saw an opportunity to deliver value for his shareholders and stakeholders while supplying a premium collaborative solution that combines the power of Office 365, Enterprise Mobility + Security, and the Windows 10 Enterprise operating system.

HS1 Limited data was protected by a third-party application and by the threat protection inherent in Microsoft 365, but Marcellin sought a deeper level of protection for his company’s data. Like other IT executives throughout the United Kingdom and Europe who find the GDPR deadline hurtling toward them, he felt a sense of urgency. Any company out of compliance with the strict data protection standards faces massive fines—up to €20 million (USD24 million) or 4 percent of revenue, whichever is greater. When Microsoft 365 E5 was announced, Marcellin committed to early adoption for its advanced security features, including Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection, Office 365 Advanced Threat Protection, and Office 365 Threat Intelligence. Identity management through Microsoft Azure Active Directory Premium P2 was another advantage of Microsoft 365 E5—protecting data with Microsoft Cloud App Security and Office 365 Advanced Threat Protection. Marcellin maintains that it was an easy decision. “Microsoft is among the biggest investors in data security,” he says. “And Microsoft 365 gives us more control over our data.”

Partnering to advantage

Like other small to midsize businesses, HS1 Limited has all the collaboration and security needs of a larger company, minus a full-featured IT department. Marcellin’s solution: engaging with system integrator Perspicuity, a member of the Microsoft Partner Network with a Gold Cloud Productivity competency. “Perspicuity has been a godsend,” says Marcellin. “They have brought with them deep expertise across the entire Microsoft 365 E5 set of services and have gone the extra mile to configure SharePoint Online and Exchange Online to work for our specific business needs and help us migrate.”

Shifting to the new ultra mobility

Ironically, HS1 Limited recently moved from its offices in Euston, London, to a new office in Kings Cross, London, to make way for High Speed 2, the next phase of high-speed rail travel in the United Kingdom. In addition to the office move, the evolving workplace norms and the transitory nature of this transportation company mean that more people are working remotely—whether from rail stations they supervise or from home offices when commuting to London is not possible. To support its increasingly mobile workforce, HS1 Limited has distributed Microsoft Lumia smartphones to staff. “Microsoft Lumia is one of the most successful deployments we’ve ever had in terms of uptake,” says Marcellin. “Other phones have required much more elaborate infrastructure. Now that we don’t have to pay for the servers required by previous mobile systems we’ve used, we’re seeing big savings.”

Driving better decisions with data

Some of the company’s employees have adopted Microsoft Power BI for reporting and statistical analysis. One of the HS1 Limited station managers uses the tool to report on station safety and other operational metrics that assist in ongoing operational decisions.

Marcellin is confident that the move to a total cloud-based solution will continue to benefit HS1 Limited beyond the savings of time and expense and the high level of security already realized. “I knew at the beginning that getting everyone ready to take full advantage of the new features would be the hardest thing,” he says. “And it was clear that the Microsoft deployment itself would be the easiest part.”

Microsoft Lumia is one of the most successful deployments we’ve ever had in terms of uptake. Other phones have required much more elaborate infrastructure. Now that we don’t have to pay for the servers required by previous mobile systems we’ve used, we’re seeing big savings.
Shawn Marcellin, IT and Facilities Manager HS1 Limited


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