Pensions Regulator moves email and web portal to cloud

This case study is part of guidance on moving to modern network solutions and away from legacy networks.


The Pensions Regulator (TPR) decided to move to the cloud so the organisation could:

  • save money by reducing internal infrastructure and IT contracts

  • provide better flexible working support for staff

  • make it easier to manage its services internally

  • share data more securely using technologies like Virtual Private Networks (VPNs)


The Pensions Regulator (TPR) regulates UK workplace pensions and is an arm’s length body of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

To adjust to the phasing out of the PSN (Public Services Network), TPR decided to re-shape its long term IT strategy.

The view at the organisation was that the PSN was not any more secure than cloud-based connections. Instead of investing in the PSN to upgrade its limited 2MB throughput, IT leaders decided this was a good time to invest in cloud solutions. After this was evidenced by the IT dept, it was agreed by senior stakeholders the removal of PSN and a move to more cloud based technologies would be more secure and cheaper than the PSN.

What PSN services The Pensions Regulator used

TPR’s day-to-day operations were heavily reliant on the PSN as the organisation used the infrastructure to:

  • send, receive and filter all emails

  • provide the Pension Protection Fund (PPF) with access to an online portal

  • get daily information updates from a central government department

Starting with the email migration

The first thing the TPR planned was to move to email addresses and away from addresses, which were using the PSN. The IT team followed the Government Digital Service (GDS) guidance and as part of a BAU (Business As Usual) initiative it took 3 to 4 weeks to carry out the migration internally. The migration of email addresses was done in a phased way. The team engaged with Vodafone and got a redirect enabled from the supplier to repoint any email addresses to addresses.

Because TPR was one of the first organisations to move away from GSI, it had to tell other organisations like police forces it would no longer use GSI. An internal team was used to communicate this message to TPR’s partners like the National Cyber Security Centre, to make sure that daily communications were not disrupted.

Upgrading email filtering

The PSN did offer a mail filtering solution TPR needed to replace, so the IT team moved to the Mimecast software, which provides all the features they need in one package. This includes options to send large files and send email securely. This removed the organisation’s reliance on internal infrastructure and the PSN.

Moving to Exchange Online

The next step was to migrate all the email to the Microsoft Outlook Exchange in the cloud because TPR already had Microsoft E3 licenses. This part of the migration was delayed as it was decided to pair this with a Windows 10 rollout across the organisation, in order to minimise disruption to the end users within TPR. This project took a year from planning to execution, with 850 Lenovo ThinkPad devices rolled out to employees via a variety of sessions and workshops designed to facilitate a smooth transition for the end user. TPR used a third-party to help with rollout of devices.

Migrating its website portal

The Pension Protection Fund (PPF) accessed pension fund and plan information from TPR’s internal services using a PSN-connected web-portal.

The IT team at TPR decided to build a secure internet web service, which the PPF could use to access the portal instead of the PSN. This took about 3 months as it required recoding the website and testing the solution.

The Automatic Enrollment (AE portal)

TPR was using the Government Gateway to allow employers to access and amend data, which employers use to show they have enrolled staff in a pension. The organisation decided to use the Automatic Enrollment (AE) portal.

The new portal was designed in cooperation with a third-party and TPR is no longer reliant on any external services. The portal:

  • makes it easier to respond to legislative changes

  • provides all the same functionality including allowing users to access the services

  • allows employers to save progress automatically and provide or edit information relating to their scheme

The portal also provides a guest route and account route for employers, depending on how they wish to use the service. The guest route provides a pathway for employers who simply want to complete a declaration/re-declaration online without creating an account.

Challenges to the migration

TPR had legacy apps that were designed for on-premise systems so these needed recoding. For example, a registry database that allowed an employer to input information had a mail component which used the in-house and on-premise mail client. The IT team had to recode and buy a new web editing toolset, moving from Reddot to Sitecore and from on-premise Capita infrastructure to Microsoft Exchange.

TPR is not completely PSN free as it still needs to exchange information on a daily basis with a central government department. However, it has moved all its internal services away from the PSN and once this external transfer is available over the internet it will be ready to cut its connection.

Benefits of moving to the cloud

TPR has seen lots of benefits by moving core services away from the PSN. The organisation now:

  • has more transparency related to the cost of tools and services

  • has more granular control over the entire service

  • is less reliant on legacy infrastructure

  • provides a more flexible working experience for employees

  • finds it easier to maintain services with support from suppliers

  • sends technical people on a single training course rather than multiple courses

  • has the option to more easily migrate away to other cloud suppliers

Lessons learned

TPR found its migration from the PSN generally went smoothly as it had internal expertise. Much of the retooling and migration did not pose a problem but the organisation did acknowledge that project delivery took longer than anticipated and it would have built in better contingency plans.

TPR would have preferred to have a centralised list of PSN service contacts to help find the right people to talk to help with the migration.

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