Central Networks and Technologies (Central) has recently announced the addition of two new members to its growing team. The recruitment of James Clarke as a technical engineer and James Robertson as a third line support engineer signifies Central's commitment to expanding its workforce and strengthening its capabilities to better serve its clients.
With the arrival of James Clarke, the firm gains a skilled technical engineer who brings a wealth of experience to the table. James started his career as an internal systems administrator and has since honed his expertise at various organisations, including Lima Networks and Frontline Consultancy and Business Services. His background in social housing and his extensive knowledge of cloud computing and virtualisation software Citrix make him an invaluable asset to the engineering team. James will primarily focus on project work, such as upgrading clients' Citrix environments and ensuring increased capacity to meet the growing demands of the industry.
Also joining Central, James Robertson assumes the role of third line support engineer. With an impressive career spanning several decades, James brings a vast wealth of experience to the team. His previous role as a senior support and network engineer at Working IT Solutions and his speciality expertise as a senior engineer position him as a seasoned professional in the field. James will serve as a senior figure on the service desk, offering his expertise and guidance to the team while mentoring and upskilling other staff members.
"We are thrilled to welcome James Clarke and James Robertson to our team," said Nick Bowling, service desk manager at, Central Networks and Technologies. "Their extensive experience and commitment to excellence align perfectly with our company's goals. With their addition, we can continue to deliver exceptional technology solutions to our clients while further expanding our capabilities.”
Here at Central, people are at the heart of the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of everything we do.
We started out on our IT journey back in 1991, and our mission and ethos haven’t changed. We’re a family-run firm that pride ourselves on our integrity, honesty, and objectivity – and we make IT stress free by keeping it as simple as possible.
But it’s our employees who make this all possible. Get to know them more in our spotlight.
Name: Brad Jackson.
Job title: Service desk engineer.
Department: Service desk.
Sum up your role at Central in one sentence:
Providing remote and on-site technical support to our customers.
What three words would your colleagues use to describe you?
Positive. Friendly. Technical.
And what do you enjoy most about your job?
I enjoy the different technologies that I get exposed to each day at Central.
Check your phone, what was the last emoji you sent?
Crying emoji 😭 (my football team lost 4-0).
Who was or is your biggest inspiration?
My parents — they always worked hard to make sure we had everything we needed.
You’re hosting a three-course dinner party, what’s on the menu?
Black pudding starter, steak and ale pie with thick cut chips and gravy for main, and cheesecake for dessert.
Back to Central, what makes the company stand out?
We have the resources and flexibility to be more agile when reacting to customers' needs, and can provide services that firms might not get at a larger MSP.
Tell us a fun fact about yourself we might not know:
I once unknowingly hiked a trail in Canada’s rocky mountains that had been closed due to attacks by a pack of wolves that had moved into the area.
What would the title of your autobiography be?
Permatired: The Dad Years.
Central’s mission is to ‘put IT at the heart of business’ – tell us more about what this means to you:
It means providing a reliable service to fit our customers’ unique needs, so they can be confident that their IT operations are in good hands.
As we hurtle full speed towards a technology-driven future, BT Openreach’s Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) is approaching its final days. The impending PSTN switch-off carries significant implications across various industries, and the social housing sector is no exception. But for many associations, a lack of awareness about the topic presents serious risks of being left behind, and losing all services that remain reliant on legacy products.
Delving into the dynamics of the transition and its importance in the realm of social housing, our operations director John Blackburn uncovers some of the strategies required to thrive, and explores how managed service providers (MSPs) can help facilitate a seamless shift…
For decades, the PSTN has been the backbone of our telecommunication infrastructure — enabling traditional landline phone connections over a wired network. However, advancements in technology, the rise of digital communication platforms, and the demand for more efficient and cost-effective solutions have since rendered the traditional PSTN system obsolete.
What does the PSTN switch-off mean for social housing?
Marking a monumental shift towards modern alternatives like Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and cloud-based communication systems, the December 2025 switch-off carries both challenges and opportunities for organisations across the UK. The PSTN switch-off is not merely about replacing outdated systems but embracing a transformative future.
Within social housing specifically the adoption of advanced communication technologies like Unified Communications (UC) presents a more reliable and effective engagement channel for tenants, helps streamline operations with enhanced efficiency and collaboration, and enables providers to deliver more innovative services like video conferencing and virtual maintenance requests, for example.
Cloud-based systems also offer scalability, flexibility, and enhanced data security for the nation’s housing associations. These advancements empower social housing providers with greater expenditure visibility and control, with services able to be expanded or reduced in accordance with requirements, as well as eliminating the need for substantial upfront infrastructure investments.
Robust data security measures boasted by digital tools also help demonstrate firms’ ongoing commitment to safety, privacy, and compliance — which has become increasingly crucial when obtaining cyber insurance in the sector.
The role of an MSP in facilitating a smooth transition.
To navigate the complexities of the PSTN switch-off, IT professionals must be proactive in upgrading their skill sets and knowledge base. As well as familiarising themselves with the emerging technologies that will replace legacy phone systems, they should understand the intricacies of managing and maintaining them.
Engaging in training programmes, attending industry conferences, and staying connected with professional networks can help shed more light on best practices for a seamless transition to cloud-based communication systems. To ensure technology strategies also align with wider business objectives, it’s also important to collaborate with other departments and organisations throughout every step of the process.
Reducing the headache of these responsibilities, MSPs act as a central hub of information to advise on all aspects of the PSTN switch-off and cloud products. Bringing extensive experience and expertise in managing complex technology transitions, they can safeguard business continuity, and provide cost-effective solutions.
Available individually as a consultant or to manage the end-to-end process, an MSP can assist in assessing current telecommunication infrastructure, devising a roadmap for the transition, implementing new systems, and providing ongoing support and maintenance. This collaborative approach allows housing associations to focus on their core operations, with peace of mind that their entire tech estate remains up-to-date and compliant.
So, how do you choose the right IT partner? Don’t just take their word for it…
With the previous Cisco telephony system having been embedded for over a decade, transitioning a 450-strong team of social housing professionals (and growing!) to Microsoft Teams Voice for Eastlight Community Homes was no mean feat. But it wasn’t Central’s first rodeo either. Keen to explore how we facilitated the transition? Catch the full case study here, to get a flavour of our reputation and expertise.
Looking for flexible, customer-focused IT support to aid your housing association’s digital transformation? Let’s talk.
From smart devices and artificial intelligence, to machine learning, big data, and more, technology is evolving at an astonishing pace – meaning that the investments you put into your IT department today, may not be enough to meet the demands of tomorrow.
So, how can the sector’s professionals be sure what they’re currently working with is truly up to scratch? Jordan Gallier, Central’s technical architect and engineering team lead, explores…
Firms' tech stacks comprise various interconnected components — including hardware, software, networks, and security systems — that work together to support day-to-day operations and enable seamless communication, data management, and overall productivity. Each component plays a crucial role in ensuring the reliability, scalability, and security of the IT infrastructure.
Over time, this complex ecosystem can become susceptible to issues such as outdated technology, security vulnerabilities, and performance bottlenecks. That’s why carefully selecting and regularly maintaining each component is key. Here are just some of the ways IT infrastructure audits play a central role in evaluating the health of your systems:
Six tips for auditing your IT infrastructure
For organisations without a technical specialist to front the process, knowing where to start when analysing the health of your company’s IT infrastructure can be daunting. Using the following recommendations, firms can gain valuable insights, enhance system integrity, and ensure their technology backbone is in optimal shape for daily operations.
1. Perform comprehensive audits
Start by conducting thorough audits of your hardware, software, and network configurations. This process involves reviewing equipment, licences, warranties, and documentation to identify any gaps or areas needing improvement.
2. Evaluate system performance
Utilise monitoring tools to assess the performance of your servers, network, and applications. Analyse metrics such as response times, bandwidth utilisation, and resource usage to identify bottlenecks and optimise performance.
3. Review security measures
Regularly assess your security protocols — including firewalls, antivirus software, and intrusion detection systems. Stay up-to-date with the latest security patches and ensure that your data backup and disaster recovery plans are robust and tested regularly.
4. Keep software up-to-date
Outdated software can pose security risks and hinder productivity. Regularly review your software stack — including operating systems, applications, and firmware — and ensure that you have a strategy in place for timely updates and patches.
5. Consider the cloud
Cloud computing offers scalability, flexibility, and enhanced security for many organisations. Assess whether migrating some or all of your infrastructure to the cloud can help optimise your operations, reduce costs, and increase resilience. If you’re not sure, get in touch and we’d be happy to walk you through the benefits.
6. Seek professional assistance
Engaging a reliable managed IT services provider like Central can provide expert guidance and support throughout the assessment process. Our 30+ years of technical expertise can help identify areas of improvement and implement best practices tailored to your specific requirements.
Remember, technology is constantly evolving, so regular evaluations are essential to stay ahead of the curve. At Central , we're here to support you every step of the way. Contact us today to discover how our managed IT services can help you keep your IT infrastructure in top shape.
Housing association, Eastlight Community Homes, enhances internal and external communications with a unified communications system.
Recently in Housing Executive our operations director John Blackburn outlined some of the biggest IT challenges facing the social housing sector and the role that outsourcing could play in resolving them.
When it comes to IT provision, housing associations (HAs) aren’t known for their big budgets, and there is increasing pressure to streamline systems and demonstrate greater return on investment. However, privy to large amounts of sensitive data, they still need access to high-quality, robust tech support.
Achieving budgetary and operational efficiency
Managing a range of complex, integrated systems and portals is no easy task for social housing IT professionals. And with an increasing number of daily help desk tickets being raised — comprising login queries, authentication issues, antivirus questions, and more — everything can rapidly feel like a competing priority.
Enlisting the help of an experienced IT partner — whether for help desk requests and security, or larger technology integration and transition projects — can bring significant financial and operational benefits.
Offering the ability to scale up or down as required, it means housing associations have the support they need, and only pay for what they require at that moment in time – with the guarantee that the resource will be readily available.
It is commonly misconceived that outsourcing IT replaces in-house teams. The reality is the two can, and should, complement and enhance one another. With external assistance, internal teams can afford the time and headspace to focus on the core business applications and tactical future of the HA’s tech stack, without getting engrossed in help desk issues.
Overcoming recruitment challenges
The shortage of high-level talent within IT teams and beyond is a growing concern for social housing organisations across the UK. Not having the right personnel in place can greatly impede growth, stifle efficiencies and productivity, and result in spiralling recruitment fees. And this will remain a reality if a solution is not found.
To help avoid skills shortages within technology departments, outsourced teams could hold the answer – whether temporarily or permanently.
As experienced specialists who are highly skilled in their role, they can be engaged at short notice to bring an immediate solution to an urgent project need. Furthermore, outsourced teams regularly work across a spectrum of clients and industries, which means they can use knowledge and learnings from other projects to help quickly solve persistent issues.
Ensuring a strong security posture
The dramatic shift to more flexible, hybrid, and digitally focused ways of working means that effective cyber security strategies are essential — enabling full visibility over software and hardware updates, antivirus technology, firewalls, Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), and more. But it also affords more secure access control – ensuring only authorised personnel within the organisation can gain entry to sensitive data.
Specialist outsourced IT support can also work with housing associations to improve the performance of virtual and physical servers, including when they should be backed up and at what frequency — whilst also devising a robust recovery plan. This details the steps to be taken to regain access and functionality to IT infrastructure — following events such as natural disasters, cyber-attacks, or business disruptions. For example, in the case of a hacking attempt, what data protection measures will the recovery team have in place to respond?
By having processes and procedures for a disaster recovery plan set up, and regularly testing and optimising security and data protection strategies, social housing providers can successfully navigate such challenges.
Obtaining peace of mind
Against the current backdrop of IT-resource challenges and economic uncertainty, having the flexible, specialist support of outsourced IT can not only alleviate some of the burden but boost efficiency too – providing housing associations with the peace of mind that their IT infrastructure is fit for purpose both in the present and for the future.
In a digital-dependent world, the social housing sector is under more pressure than ever to streamline IT infrastructure, to ensure technology brings benefits across every department. So, what are the main IT challenges faced by the industry and, with limited financial resources, how can you tackle them head on?
Our operations director, John Blackburn, outlines some key IT hurdles and how working with a trusted technology partner can help you overcome them.
Challenge 1: Reliable IT infrastructure
A strong IT infrastructure is essential for success. Outdated legacy software could mean your IT network is underperforming, be unsuitable for your evolving needs, and have flaws leading to several hidden security risks.
Before upgrading or replacing infrastructure, you first need to gain an accurate picture of what infrastructure you currently have, what works well, and what needs improving – along with being clear on what the end-goal looks like.
Challenge 2: Security threats
Sadly, every organisation is likely to encounter a security threat at some point, whether through natural disaster, or for personal data through phishing, hacking or malware that seeks to disrupt the information technology infrastructure. Therefore, being able to keep networks protected should be a priority for IT teams – no matter where staff are located.
Challenge 3: Backup and disaster recovery
Your data is one of the most valuable assets your organisation has. If that data is lost, it could have devastating effects for your reputation, operations, and bottom line. Therefore, it is essential that you have a reliable disaster recovery plan in place. This details the steps to be taken to regain access and functionality to IT infrastructure after events like a natural disaster, cyber-attack, or business disruption.
By having processes and procedures in place, and regularly testing and optimising security and data protection strategies, social housing providers can successfully navigate this challenge. While this might seem to be a complex or overwhelming task, with the support of trusted experts, implementing an effective backup and disaster recovery strategy will be stress free.
Challenge 4: Cost management in the cloud
Factors such as remote working, cyber security, data handling, and safe storage have led many housing associations to adopt cloud-based platforms over recent years to help them work seamlessly and securely. Cloud subscriptions are a significant expenditure within your IT budget, and if you’re not organised in your approach to using it, you risk losing control of your cloud spend.
As usage increases across different teams and departments, the overheads of using the chosen platform can grow rapidly. In addition, Microsoft recently implemented an extensive shake-up of its software licensing arrangements, with a price increase on some of its most popular subscriptions.
To control costs, housing associations should tap into the expertise of a trusted IT partner who can help you understand the difference between the various cloud management systems and licence options available. They can also help you save money on maintenance, unused services, or unnecessary add-ons, to get the best out of your cloud management platform.
Challenge 5: Having a clear IT strategy
Straightforward implementation of IT systems can pave the way for cost-savings, modernisation, and agile working. It’s vital that all elements work together, and that you have a roadmap for your technical approach, to prepare your business for future challenges and support scaling operations. Having a technology partner who specialises in consultancy services will provide clarity and direction for your strategy.
If you need assistance overcoming any of these IT challenges, get in touch with Central Networks today. We pride ourselves on being a strategic technology partner with a human touch — making IT stress free. You can also find out more about the projects we’ve worked on with other social housing providers, here!
With such a relentless number of pressures facing organisations across the UK, settling into the pattern of another new year isn’t the only challenge right now. But navigating such a multifaceted role means the stakes are particularly high for the social housing sector.
As well as managing everything from recruitment challenges and already stretched IT budgets, to the effects of ongoing geopolitical turmoil, the responsibility to serve a growing demographic with specialist properties and support continues. Having traditionally been reluctant to adapt to technological innovation, the sector is still battling with inefficient — and often redundant — legacy infrastructure too.
But it’s not just about wholesale change. By shifting priorities and opening doors to greater opportunities, social housing organisations can drive powerful progress over the coming months. Here, client director at Central Networks, Mike Dunleavy, explores which IT advancements will have the biggest impact in 2023…
Expecting and accepting downtime
With the increasing proliferation of cyber attacks, it’s only natural to feel overwhelmed by the possibility of downtime – not least with the oft-cited statistic looming, which states that £3.6m could be lost by organisations each year as a result.
Of course, there are so many reasons for IT to become momentarily out of use – from malicious malware downloads, to natural disaster strikes, general human error, and more. But accepting these feats as inevitable means shaking responsibility altogether.
By instead taking a proactive approach to maintenance, housing associations can prevent unprecedented cyber attacks in their infancy, minimise unproductive work hours, protect costs, plus safeguard company reputation amongst customers, partners, and stakeholders alike. Above all else, foolproof training procedures must take centre stage this year — ensuring teams feel empowered to spot potentially risky nuances in the network.
Overlooking the benefits of outsourced IT support
Talent attraction and retention is a major concern for all organisations. But with the growing lack of resource, economic struggles, and nationwide digital skills shortage, housing associations are under increasing pressures.
The return on investment offered by outsourcing key IT needs – such as help desk support and proactive network maintenance – is well worth its weight in gold. Not only do specialist teams offer years of experience, spanning a variety of industries, they also often boast lower costs, and enable you to focus internal resources on your core business strategy.
Paying for redundant tech
Digital transformation needs are evolving constantly. And without a CTO or finance team in place to focus on the strategic future of your housing association, a lot of organisations will find themselves running into trouble – implementing knee-jerk, sticking plaster solutions that serve limited long-term purpose.
With both finances and human resources stretched in countless directions, the pressure to introduce the fastest and cheapest fixes into the tech stack is immense. But what many IT leaders also forget when solving organisational challenges, is that future growth must be taken into consideration too.
A major part of this strategy, is to invest in infrastructure that’s truly scalable. In being able to flex up and down as required, firms won’t risk overspending on overprovisioned technology – because it will grow in line with evolving business needs.
Assuming that productivity is a given
With a limited number of resources to tap into, housing associations are navigating the need to do more with less. And the current economic backdrop, coupled with rising recruitment pressures, means this feat will only become more of a challenge in 2023.
Ensuring the right infrastructure is in place will be a major driver of productivity. Being technologically savvy is not a given, for example – no matter how digital our world has become. So, will the new ways of working suit your employees? And will the right support be in place to help with a seamless transition?
Failing to replace legacy infrastructure
Like many industries, archaic legacy systems are seriously hampering growth in the social housing sector. As well as being costly to maintain and worse for the environment, they’re often incredibly unreliable – not to mention dangerously unsecure.
Most of the time, IT leaders and CFOs are well aware of this. However, the prospect of mapping out a well-considered digital transformation project is often far too daunting. This is an issue that will only grow in severity over time, so appointing the right support to facilitate such a transition – optimising infrastructure, whilst keeping costs as low as possible, and minimising the risk of downtime – is crucial this year, if not done already.
Further procrastination will simply not suffice, unless organisations want to place business continuity, cyber security, team productivity, and customer satisfaction at greater risk.
Keen to continue this conversation? Central Networks is an outsourced IT partner, specialising in realms spanning cloud services and digital security, to managed help desk support, strategic consultancy, and more. Simply get in touch, to see how we can help drive your social housing firm forward – in 2023, and beyond.
The shortage of high-level talent in the social housing sector is well documented – with 71% of employers expecting to face recruitment difficulties over the coming year, a third having already experienced a scarcity of projects and change management skills, and half increasingly struggling to find candidates with senior leadership qualities.
But with sector activity continuing apace during economic downturn – as people depend on affordable housing solutions – coupled with nearing government targets to tackle the under-supply of properties, the need for skilled talent has never been so great.
Outsourcing IT services is certainly not a new concept, but it’s one that is often overlooked when finding ways to combat such recruitment challenges.
Here, our operations director and social housing specialist, John Blackburn, explores how re-allocating the help desk function in particular, can deliver significant financial, operational, social, and environmental benefits.
Whilst managed services providers (MSPs) aren’t immune to the skills shortages facing the social housing sector, they remain an excellent way to access a rich and diverse pool of knowledge and expertise.
As specialist organisations with a wide network of industry connections, they’ll often onboard professionals who are both experienced and highly skilled in their role – and don’t require dedicated training. It’s because of this that MSPs can be engaged at short notice, to bring an immediate solution to an urgent project need.
Boasting experience and expertise in a variety of sectors, MSPs are able to tap into intelligence from different customer projects to offer first contact resolution and facilitate a higher quality end-user experience.
With the ability to enter service level agreements (SLAs) with outsourced IT companies, IT teams working within housing associations can also reap the benefits of improved performance. Not only is it easier to turn the dials up when compared with internal teams, but it’s also easier to measure and feedback on process, due to greater oversight.
There’s a common misconception that MSPs act as a direct replacement for your internal teams. The reality is, the two can easily work together effectively.
By outsourcing your help desk function, your managerial and human resources teams won’t need to add handling an IT department to their list. A third-party partner will take care of everything – and often around the clock – leaving your organisation free to focus on the strategic and tactical future of its tech estate.
It’s important to remember that growth doesn’t always come from more business – often, it’s about having more time to concentrate and look at the bigger picture.
With in-house IT help desks requiring multiple, full-time salaries, added operational costs, and ongoing training budget, MSPs bring significant financial benefits to your organisation, too.
Offering the ability to scale up and down as required, organisations can pay for the specific IT services they need, when they need them – with the guarantee that the resources will be readily available. Plus, the MSP will take care of the full project – from technology integration and transition to long-term end-user support – to remove unnecessary headaches and help retain in-house talent.
In recent years, we’ve witnessed a dramatic shift to more flexible, hybrid, and digitally-focused ways of working. And as a result, there’s an ongoing need to keep pace with the wants and needs of today’s employees. To do so, organisations must be able to offer innovative solutions that are user-friendly and efficient, whilst keeping a sharp eye on finances.
With vast expertise in services – spanning cloud consultancy, security-first SD-WANs, IT environment audits, transformation services, and more – MSPs can offer valuable infrastructure and support to help you compete in the talent market and attract skilled workers.
Our team at Central has a collective 250 years’ experience within the technology industry – so not only can we provide the know-how, but cost-effectiveness and a professional service to boot.
We make it our mission to be seen as an extension of our clients’ IT teams, so if you need our help short-term to solve a problem in the long-term, let’s talk.
A year filled with unprecedented challenges and a need to navigate external pressures more collaboratively than ever before, 2022 is definitely another one for the history books. But while it’s certainly been different, it hasn’t come without reward and opportunity.
As we take time to reflect on our successes over the past 12 months, we’re filled with an overwhelming sense of pride and accomplishment over the things we’ve achieved.
And while you’ll often find us working in the background to keep your business-critical operations running smoothly – whether that’s optimising your tech infrastructure or providing first, second, and third-line support – we thought we’d pinch the limelight for just five minutes. Here’s what we’re celebrating…
While Central was already granted G-Cloud status, the recently introduced 13th iteration called for a renewed application. And we’re delighted to have been appointed!
From hosting and software to general support, this digital marketplace opens up new markets for the business – extending our cloud technology to public sector customers. With 10 new services already live for organisations to procure, we’re excited to broaden our horizons even further in 2023.
Despite only joining the fold this year our latest recruit has made a significant impact with colleagues, customers, and partners alike.
Bringing a portfolio of experiences and oodles of personality, Vicki not only keeps the business on top form, but is an excellent addition to the team on a cultural level too. Here’s hoping we get some equally impactful recruits next year! If you want in, why not contact us?
Sticking with the employee theme, we’re delighted to have seen Jordan Gallier take the next step in his career in 2022 – as he rose up the ranks from technical to senior architect.
Starting out as an apprentice just a few years ago it’s been a real privilege to watch Jordan move forward alongside the management team and play an ever-integral role in business growth and success. Who knows what’s next…
Being trusted to deliver on our promises has always been part of our DNA, here at Central. And while the advice we give has always been based on honesty and objectivity, this has been especially important for every sector we operate in this year – not least with so many challenges and questions around the integrity of organisations.
By providing comprehensive, well-considered assessments of IT requirements, this has given our customers the assurance they so desperately needed this year. And it’s something we look forward to continuing in 2023 and beyond.
As an outsourced IT partner, the support we offer is vast and varied. And since starting out in 1991, our mission to place IT at the heart of every business and keep it as headache-free as possible hasn’t wavered. This year, that’s seen Central strengthen existing relationships with clients and partners, as well as develop a whole host of new ones. Some notable mentions for various housing clients, for points six to 12, include…
And there’s plenty more where that came from! The end of the year brings no greater joy than the opportunity to thank our clients and partners for their continued support. We look forward to an even greater 2023, together.
You’ll also be pleased to know that, besides the bank holidays, we’ll be operating business as usual over the festive period. Those with out-of-hours cover in their contract should have the information on how to contact us, should Central’s support be required during this time.
If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Central Networks are a strategic technology partner. Excellent technology is a given, customer service, trust and long-term relationships are what drive our business. We support CEOs, Heads of IT, IT technicians and transformation directors to ensure technology provides an edge to their organisations.