Stone Group - Providing digital transformation solutions to organisations across the UK.

FreeAgent is an award-winning accounting software for small businesses which allows business owners to run their operations from anywhere. Designed to be suitable for limited companies, limited liability partnerships or sole traders the online platform boasts 200,000 business customers across the UK. In addition, the platform also has many features which make it popular with professional accountants and bookkeepers who can use it to assist their own clients and grow their practice.

Half of the 250 staff are based at an Edinburgh head office and half work remotely across numerous locations across the country. John Fredrickson is Head of Platform Engineering for FreeAgent and manages several teams within his department.

When FreeAgent decided to migrate all data from two data centres to a cloud based storage system, John was tasked with finding a suitable external organisation to remove their existing servers along with ensuring the secure erasure of data.

“It was vital that this one-off project was handled by a professional company who could offer a comprehensive end-to-end service,” he said. “We organised an in-house process to ascertain what it was that we wanted from a provider and we approached several suppliers for recommendations, as well as doing our own research online.”

Having carried out their research FreeAgent was left with a short list of several companies.  “From a shortlist of around five companies, it was immediately apparent that the professional services offered by Stone Group were far superior to their competitors,” said John. “Not only would they be able to offer rebates on our kit that was tens of thousands of pounds more than any other company – but their whole set up was head and shoulders above anyone else.”.

Stone Group offered expertise that FreeAgent didn’t have

FreeAgent’s data centres were based in Kent and Berkshire and Stone Group collected equipment from one centre one day and repeated the process the following day at the next location.  As the removal happened during the pandemic, John liaised with Stone via phone calls and emails to establish the protocols.

John said: “We were given a video tour of Stone Group’s headquarters including their impressive WEE complaint recycling facility which reiterated our decision to work with Stone. In addition, all my dealings with my appointed Stone Group Account Manager were consistently professional and good humoured.”

John was also pleased to be handing over the unracking to an external company. “We have great staff but they don’t have the experience to carry out data lifting and shifting around 1000 kilos of valuable equipment and so I was happy to leave it to the professionals.”

"Stone Groups’ sustainability promise was very important to us and nothing phased our Account Manager – he was consistently brilliant. FreeAgent had every confidence that Stone Group would safely erase our secure data."

John Fredrickson, Head of Platform Engineering

Secure data erasure is vital to FreeAgent business and reputation

The collection of the equipment went according to plan.  Stone Group operatives removed four racks worth of equipment including 52 servers, 12 network switches and all the associated power bars and console servers.  The kit was then transferred to Stone’s recycling facility in solid sided GPS tracked vehicles fitted with security cameras.

“Stone arrived on time and verified all the equipment we said would be there – was actually there,” said John. “They even provided us with photographic evidence too.”

Once the equipment had arrived at Stone Group’s Recycling Facility data was securely erased using industry leading data wiping software Blancco. This meets GDPR regulations and ensures FreeAgent had total confidence in the process.

“We are owned by a bank and have very strict criteria when it comes to data handling and erasure,” said John. “Our Head of Security was more than happy with the evidence provided by Stone Group that our data had been securely wiped and my colleague was more than happy with the audit trail that Stone provided.”

Stone Group offer a cost positive experience

As an online business, FreeAgent is committed to sustainability and another reason for working with Stone Group was its accreditation for zero to landfill.  “We liked Stone’s commitment to the environment and the fact it works hard to re-purpose kit like ours where possible. Our Chief Financial Officer was particularly pleased to see the amount of money we were able to earn from this process thanks to the rebates we had on kit that qualified for recycling.”

Stone Group is committed to ensuring all of its operations are WEEE compliant and contribute to a better environment, preventing landfill and reusing or re-purposing equipment wherever possible.  Clients such as FreeAgent can be confident that their old data-bearing equipment is safely disposed at the same time as caring for the planet.

“I can’t think of any other service that we use which is cost positive,” said John. “Stone removed our equipment free of charge and then sent us a healthy reimbursement. As a sustainable company FreeAgent is pleased that we have not contributed to landfill and that our old kit has been recycled.

“Although this was a one-off project, having been introduced to Stone Group – should we every require their recycling services in the future FreeAgent would have no hesitation in working with them again.”

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