A robust network transforms service delivery across a dynamic London borough.
The local authority for Hounslow, a suburban area of West London with a vibrant community and economy, collaborates with Cisco to bring enhanced service delivery to over 270,000 residents.
Industry: Local government
Location: London, United Kingdom
Size: 2500 employees
The last decade has seen the United Kingdom's local government wrestle with the concept of transformation. Under financial pressure, but with an expectation to provide more services to greater numbers of people while maintaining a secure environment, local authorities recognize the status quo cannot continue. There is an opportunity to rethink service delivery, operational efficiency, and integration. The challenge is to do so quickly, consistently, and securely.
The London Borough of Hounslow is one of 32 local government authorities in the capital. It is responsible for education, social care, waste collection, environmental health, the provision of leisure facilities, and much more.
"We're effectively a company with numerous different service operations running in concert," explains Farhad Choubedar, senior technical lead, Digital Strategy at the London Borough of Hounslow.
Hounslow wants to maximize resources to best serve its 270,000 residents and provide effective community support. Delivering this requires careful planning, a well-structured organization, and a flexible and unfailingly reliable internal infrastructure. It also must meet strong commitments to sustainability, fiscal responsibility, and data privacy.
For Hounslow, cybersecurity is more than just an ongoing necessity—it is a key strategic asset. "Our reality is a huge range of complex IT systems and a need for visibility over everything. We value reliability, automation, and security," explains Choubedar. "We are also subject to U.K. data protection regulations, so everything we do has to be with security in mind."
In 2015, Hounslow radically reassessed its future. Today, this means secure mobile working, digital workflows, and simpler collaboration for 2500 employees, greater self-service options for residents, and a consistent user experience. To deliver all of this, the Council wanted to establish a secure, next-generation approach to its network.
“Working directly with Cisco CX was the most effective approach. We made the upgrade to Cisco Umbrella with no impact on service availability, for residents or staff. They can focus on what matters most: providing the support our community needs in a secure environment.”Andrew Connor, Head of Digital Strategy
The solution was based around Cisco Secure, a portfolio of proven products for security resilience, with Cisco Umbrella at its heart. "We had built a strong [relationship] with Cisco, so we approached them to see what they had in terms of secure internet gateways," says Choubedar, who was attracted to the full web proxy and Domain Name System (DNS)-layer security service in Umbrella.
"We liked what they were talking about, and it was very cost effective. We also didn't have to compromise other services by taking on additional costs. Security threats are continuously shifting, and Umbrella adds to the breadth of solutions and information we use to manage the threat daily. We're using new insights from Umbrella to engage with staff who've inadvertently tried to access malicious sites, and we provide targeted refresher training. That is a better use of our resources. Also, we have far better visibility of different threat categories and the activity of our organization, which better informs our security posture. What's great is Umbrella is a far more dynamic and responsive solution than we had before."
Cisco's local team consulted extensively with Hounslow, demonstrating a range of options complemented by high levels of technical support and expertise. "The support Cisco gave us through the POC [proof of concept] was essential," adds Choubedar. "It was a very important aspect of our choice of Cisco Umbrella as a solution."
Umbrella, integrated with a host of solutions on the Cisco Secure platform, now strengthens Hounslow's security posture. Umbrella provides cloud-delivered protection across distributed devices, users, and locations—ideal for Hounslow's increasingly remote and mobile workforce.
Crucially, the combined solution is also foundational for Hounslow's digital vision. It provides an environment for the Council to automate the deployment, connectivity, and lifecycle of its network infrastructure, with a centralized dashboard providing visibility across local and branch networks.
Working alongside Cisco Services (CX) allowed Hounslow to de-risk the deployment, with Cisco leading the design and implementation process and passing their knowledge onto Hounslow's IT staff. Andrew Connor, head of Digital Strategy at London Borough of Hounslow, admits that tackling the deployment alone would have been a significant undertaking for a network team already stretched, and that Cisco expertise helped Hounslow get the most from the solution, faster.
"Going with completely new technology was a challenge to get accepted across the organization," explains Connor. "This was not a job for a reseller; working directly with Cisco CX was the most effective approach. We made the upgrade to Cisco Umbrella with no impact on service availability for residents or staff."
The new working environment's security and flexibility underpin a revitalized Hounslow, enabling the Council to ramp up remote working for all staff while opening a new head office, the GBP£66 million Hounslow House. The new building provides resident services including meeting rooms, classrooms, and a library, but acts primarily as a wireless-first workspace for employees and Council partners. "The difference in network management and security is night and day," says Connor. Upgrades are easier to manage, and access controls and security policies are simpler to enforce. Web access tickets are down 50 percent. "For employees, there has been no technology downtime. They can focus on what matters most: providing the services and support our community needs in an accessible but also dependable and highly secure environment."
Like many employers, Hounslow is coming to terms with changing workstyles, post-pandemic. Connor notes that it is important for the Council to provide flexibility as new work habits are formed.
"We expect staff to work where they are best able to collaborate with each other and our partners, and that means reliability and security that's as transparent as possible wherever they are; visiting residents and businesses, working closely with our partners, traveling in the borough, in the office, or at home. We want staff able to deliver the best possible service for our borough."
Cisco Secure allows Hounslow to stay one step ahead of security threats. Umbrella is automatically updated once new vulnerabilities are detected, while Cisco Identity Services Engine (ISE) automates policy enforcement for different segments. The Council's IT security team also conducts regular penetration tests.
"Just after the new building went live, our contracted testers assessed the internal security of the network, and we were very impressed with the outcome," says Connor. "After a sustained effort yielded no access, they needed to be granted authorized access to complete the internal tests."
Since Hounslow can press ahead with digital initiatives with the assurance that residents' data is being protected, a key secondary effect is that the Council is seen as better place to work. In a competitive market for talent, this helps attract new recruits and retain existing staff. "We're being copied by our peers across London," says Connor.
With secure new foundations in place, Connor is keen to accelerate the Council's strategy. The plan is to replace networks in its remote sites with Cisco technology. "We're engaging with the residents and business to make Hounslow a 'Smart' Place by introducing a host of environmental sensors and controls across the borough. These will help gather data to inform new services and automate a service response, all of which are geared to making the borough a safer, healthier, and altogether better place to live and work."
With a next-generation network in place, there are now many exciting new options on the table, says Connor. "And we're looking forward to the opportunity for working with Cisco in the future."