Knowledge is power

Data is the new oil. It’s a huge sea of untapped value in the digital age. But making sense of it is difficult and requires powerful servers to manage. Fasthosts helps Bancstreet achieve that for its customers.

As Sir Francis Bacon said, knowledge is power. For most of history, access to information was limited to the elite who had a small number of precious texts, laboriously copied by hand. As a result, they held sway.

That changed with the printing press, causing an information explosion. Ever since, data, information and the rate at which it is knowable has grown exponentially – resulting in the big data era. However, with so much data, everywhere, making sense of it has become a challenge. In most cases, it’s hard to see the wood for the trees.

This is where Bancstreet comes in. Founded in the mid-90s by CEO, Marcelle von Wendland, it’s an elite group of five specialists who now manage terabyte after terabyte of data, in her words. The amount of information they process for customers is mind-boggling.

Integrity of the platform, flexibility, cost and customer service. It’s a list of boxes that any customer would want ticked.
- CEO, Marcelle von Wendland

For anyone not in the industry, it might seem complicated. And it is. So, perhaps the best way to understand what Bancstreet does is with an example. It works for a pharmaceutical sales company that helps drug manufacturers sell medicines to the NHS. Any normal sales team might just use trial and error, over time building up an understanding of which bit of the NHS needs what drugs.

But this isn’t any normal sales team. It uses data to inform its activity. This includes publically available information about the prevalence of illnesses in different parts of the UK, or types of hospital admissions and prescribing trends. It could even be data about pollution levels in certain areas.

Bancstreet interprets this data and presents it to the sales teams. Armed with this information, a sales person can go to their customer and say, I see you have a lot of people in your area suffering from asthma. I can also see that pollution levels are high here, causing admissions to hospital. I have just the thing for you. Without that knowledge, they might have tried to sell something different and failed.

Bancstreet does the hard lifting, says Marcelle. We find different sources of data, which might be available via NHS websites or even the Met Office or ONS. We pull this information into our system and use software to see how it all fits together and where the patterns are, specifically looking for things customers need to know. Users of the system can then log on and see what the data tells them.

We turn data into a usable product. Imagine you’re going mushroom picking. You need a guide and a book to know which ones to pick and how best to serve them. Otherwise, you could be picking anything. Even something dangerous. We are that guide and book rolled into one. We help clients pick the useful sources of data and then mix them up in a useful recipe to create a delicious dish.

In short, Bancstreet finds, manipulates, makes sense of, and presents data in ways that customers can act on. And that last bit is the most important. Because data is useless if you can’t use it to make a decision. What’s more, if the data you’re using becomes old, it’s equally useless, which is why Bancstreet automatically collects new info as it becomes available to ensure customers can act on the latest insight.

The business initially worked with financial services and capital markets. They wanted to get a grip on their data and prove to investors they were performing well, says Marcelle. Since then the business has moved into healthcare, pharmaceuticals, government, manufacturing, utilities and more.

“Our account manager is available immediately...If you use AWS or Azure you end up in a loop of customer tickets and can’t speak to anyone”.

Most organisations sit on huge amounts of data and don’t know how to use it. We do. And we combine it with other sources to make it even more useful, smiles Marcelle. We do the hard work so that they can make the right decisions and meet their goals. That might be as simple as increasing sales. Or it could be about saving a life through a medical intervention.

Of course, handling so much data, from so many sources, for so many organisations requires huge processing power. This is where Fasthosts comes in. They provide us with a cloud environment, continues Marcelle. We have 36 servers and can provision new ones at the click of a button. It’s really easy to scale and also allows us to deal with peaks in demand.

The CloudNX servers do a number of things for Bancstreet. They hold the software that manages and collates the data. They also store the data ready for customer to access. This is in addition to allowing development of the software. Given the systems hold colossal lakes of info from multiple sources, which are constantly flowing into the servers, they have to be robust.

The data products we create for customers are their information bank vaults, cautions Marcelle. They have to be secure, stable and easily available. In this way, they’re incredibly important to us.

When asked why Marcelle and her team uses Fasthosts, she immediately says, Integrity of the platform, flexibility, cost and customer service. It’s a list of boxes that any customer would want ticked. We only pay for what we need, which is important when we are handling such vast quantities of data.

Overall, Fasthosts has been a game changer for us. We’ve been with them since 2008 and have been able to grow significantly as a result. We can do everything we need to on their servers at a price that works for us. It’s also incredibly secure and reliable.

As with any technology firm, things sometimes need fixing. Our account manager is available immediately and helps us. If you use AWS or Azure you end up in a loop of customer tickets and can’t speak to anyone.

What’s more, without Fasthosts, Marcelle believes she would have to employ another five people just to deal with the infrastructure. This is a fixed overhead she is keen to avoid.

It’s incredible to think that just five people manage such huge swathes of information for some very large organisations. The scale of the data crunching they do is amazing. And so is the impact it’s having on our lives. Marcelle and her team are helping people all over the country make the right decisions, increasing business success, improving public services and getting the right medications to those in most need.

Data creates information, information creates understanding, understanding creates action and action drives success. Which is why Francis Bacon was right. Knowledge is power.

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