Royal Society of Chemistry Safeguards Scientific Resources with HeleCloud and AWS

Executive Summary

When legacy technology threatened the Royal Society of Chemistry’s ability to support the advancement of the chemical sciences, the organization turned to AWS Premier Consulting Partner HeleCloud. Since the migration of its on-premises data center to AWS, the Royal Society of Chemistry has improved the efficiency of its publishing business and safeguarded scientific resources accessed by tens of thousands of researchers worldwide.

Royal Society of Chemistry Safeguards Scientific Resources with HeleCloud and AWS

For nearly 200 years, the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) has contributed to worldwide research efforts that fuel life-changing discoveries and innovation in the field of chemical sciences. When legacy technology in its on-premises data center threatened to disrupt its pursuit of its royal charter to advance excellence in the chemical sciences, the RSC knew it was time for a change.
The organization worked with AWS Premier Consulting Partner HeleCloud to move to the cloud. It immediately saw increased efficiency in its IT and publishing operations, better safeguards for valuable scientific journal archives, and improved access to resources for its 54,000 members worldwide.
Based in Cambridge in the UK, the RSC and its 650 employees manage a publishing and knowledge business, provide support for scientific education, and work with the UK government to develop scientific policy.
But as its data center technology reached end of life, supporting these diverse activities became difficult. Maintenance of multiple platforms, including more than 500 Windows servers, meant the IT team struggled to effectively support the production of the scientific articles in RSC journals and the tens of thousands of researchers accessing its resources.  Facing a capital expenditure of £1 million to refresh its data center—a significant expenditure for a non-profit organization like the RSC—it looked to the cloud for a future-proof solution.

Discovery Process Reveals Opportunities for Change

The RSC chose to work with Amazon Web Services (AWS) for its wide range of leading-edge services and support for Windows and VMWare, both of which it relied on.
Because the RSC lacked sufficient cloud knowledge, HeleCloud stepped in to help manage the migration, which included migrating a valuable archive of research publications going back to 1840.
HeleCloud began with a thorough audit of the IT setup—hardware and software—to get a full picture of the disparate estate and regain institutional knowledge lost due to staff turnover. Working closely with the RSC team, HeleCloud created a migration readiness plan, which proved more than just a box-ticking exercise.
“Undergoing that discovery process prior to migration gave us a deep and detailed understanding of how our systems work and the possibilities of what we can do with it,” says Chris Callaghan, head of DevOps at the RSC.
“Moving to AWS made us truly global. We pushed through the challenges and delivered changes that prepare the RSC to do great things for years to come.”

-  Chris Callaghan, Head of DevOps, Royal Society of Chemistry

Publishing More Content, More Efficiently

The RSC edits and produces scientific articles for its many journals, and the hundreds of employees responsible for that work were feeling the strain. The previous systems struggled to keep up with the growing numbers of research submissions received. Large files especially resulted in slow access to file servers and frequent outages due to storage overruns or network connectivity issues.
HeleCloud and the RSC set out to redesign the publishing environment but soon realized the complexity of the data sets involved was greater than anticipated. “Because we applied best practices and work collaboratively, we were able to deal with these challenges,” says Nikos Terizakis, chief delivery officer at HeleCloud. “We wanted what was best for the RSC, so we knew we had to think hard to develop good solutions and do it right.”  That back and forth, especially from outsiders, helped drive better thinking, says Callaghan. “We weren’t afraid to challenge each other to get a good outcome, and that approach worked well for us.”
After the publishing systems were running on AWS, RSC staff noticed immediate improvements to workflow. They had quicker access to file servers and databases and improved reliability with no outages. They can now publish more content, more efficiently, and provide a better experience. The systems can now scale easily to accommodate growing numbers of research submissions and users accessing the archive.

New Career Paths and Tighter Security

The IT team also saved time by eliminating manual maintenance tasks such as software updates and storage provisioning. This meant the team had time to focus on improving processes and developing new functionality to benefit their publishing colleagues.
“We’re now able to move fast and rapidly test new ideas, which we simply didn’t have the time or ability to do before,” says Callaghan.
Training on cloud skills for RSC staff led by HeleCloud and AWS also created new career paths aligned around AWS frameworks, something that the RSC previously couldn’t offer. Using AWS allows the RSC team to practice DevOps techniques, improving efficiency of development cycles while maintaining software quality and reducing security risks.
“Having guided the RSC through its transformation project, it’s satisfying to see the IT team and business users be more productive and efficient because of technology changes we made,” says Terizakis.

The move to AWS also improved security oversight at the RSC. Previously, the organization lacked the ability to trace events in an effective manner and to ensure the security of both data and its network.
“HeleCloud helped us to set up solutions to ingest security logs so we can analyze them for trends,” says Callaghan. “As a result, we’ve become more proactive and comprehensive in protecting our assets and can now confidently communicate our security and compliance stance to senior management.”

Flexible Working and Truly Global Reach

Using AWS has provided the RSC with more flexible working patterns and more convenient communication with its global members.
With IT in the cloud, employees are no longer tied to working in the Cambridge office. This was a big benefit when the RSC shifted to remote working during COVID-19 lockdowns. For staff requiring remote workstations during the pandemic, the RSC used Amazon WorkSpaces to rapidly create secure connections that it would have been time-consuming and complex to provide with its previous legacy systems.
Performance has also improved for staff and researchers accessing its resources worldwide, thanks to using AWS Regions and Availability Zones.  “Moving to AWS made us truly global,” says Callaghan. “The project was a success because of the transparent and honest relationship we developed with HeleCloud. We pushed through the challenges and delivered changes that prepare the RSC to do great things for years to come.”
The Royal Society of Chemistry

About The Royal Society of Chemistry

The Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) is an 180-year-old not-for-profit organization with a charter to advance excellence in the field of chemical sciences. With over 54,000 members worldwide and 650 staff at its Cambridge, UK headquarters, it runs a publishing and knowledge business, supports science education in schools and universities, and works with government to set scientific policy.

About HeleCloud

HeleCloud, a SoftwareONE company, provides strategic and technology consultancy, AWS cloud application development, AWS infrastructure engineering, and is an AWS Managed Services Provider.

Published March 2022