Peer-to-peer business lending company Folk2Folk, founded in 2013, has gone live on the Microsoft Azure cloud, but using Rackspace to architect and optimise its cloud-based applications.
The implementation is intended to underpin expansion plans for the business, based in Launceston, Cornwall, which has prospered by a combination of banks refusing small businesses loans to aid expansion, and investors disgruntled with the low interest rates for savers on offer from the same banks.
"We were sold on the benefits of cloud, but didn't want to set up the solution ourselves because it would have taken focus away from growth, which is a key priority for us," said Karl Straw, IT director at Folk2Folk.
He added that Rackspace will manage the system on Folk2Folk's behalf "so we can keep on innovating without being held back by legacy systems".
Implementing the same system in-house would have cost the company an estimated £250,000 and required a larger IT team for the implementation and the support, claimed Straw.
The first phase of the migration involved the transfer of the company's loan management system, FolkLMS, to Microsoft's Azure cloud. The finance system will follow shortly, said Straw.
"We host FolkLMS and our web portal on Azure, which is managed by Rackspace. In the future we will move our finance system there also. FolkLMS is a bespoke peer-to-peer lending platform that manages all aspects of our relationship with investors and borrowers," he explained.
"FolkLMS is a bespoke application based on BusinessMan, written by Computech. It is the first time BusinessMan has been moved into an Azure environment and the developers are now working to move their core offering into a cloud model."
The company decided to shift to Microsoft Azure as it seemed like a good fit for the business, and then contracted Rackspace to help support the migration.
"Before that, we had a completely in-house server provision and paid for a disaster recovery facility on another site," said Straw.
"We chose Azure because it's a great platform for our business. We are growing rapidly and are in constant need of bigger, better environments. To do this with our own equipment or a normal hosting environment would have been very capital intensive.
"With Azure I just buy what I need when I need it and can spin up and shut down environments at will, something that is impossible if you own the equipment without a massive investment. By using Azure, Folk2Folk is able to invest capital in a high street presence and grow the tech as it's needed."
Rackspace was selected for the speed with which it offered to do the project. "We went live in five weeks from initial contact to bringing the service up," said Straw.
"Our apps are cloud provider-independent and can be deployed on multiple architectures. But the Microsoft Azure cloud was the most adaptable for us at our current size."
The company plans to triple its number of branches over the next two years. It has already extended loans of £120m since 2013 and plans to lend more than £1bn in small-business finance by 2020.
Rackspace has, in the past, sought to pitch itself as a cloud computing rival to Microsoft, Amazon and other big-name players.
More recently, however, and especially since its acquisition by private equity, the firm has taken a more cloud-agnostic approach and repositioned as a services company offering a wider range of cloud and hosting options.
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