FutureLink's Housing Corporation service fraught with problems

The controversial online bidding system provided by FutureLink Europe for the Housing Corporation is fraught with technical...

The controversial online bidding system provided by FutureLink Europe for the Housing Corporation is fraught with technical problems.

IT and IS managers from housing associations across the country have complained about a number of problems relating to connection and firewall access, connectivity and poor help desk services.

FutureLink has deployed an online bidding system to enable local housing associations to bid for financial grants to build new homes. It has processed at least £2.2bn in bids.

"The major problem people seem to be experiencing [with the ASP system] is actually getting it running because there are problems with the configuration of the proxy server and the firewall," said Andrew Brooks, management accountant at South Staffordshire Housing Association.

"We had to get round it by using a PC with its own modem. This carried on for about a month," he added. "The initial issue was with the firewall, then we could only use certain ISPs."

Other associations have experienced similar connection and firewall problems, and have often had to resort to fixing the problem themselves due to deadlines placed upon them by the Housing Corporation.

Amit Patel, IT manager at Leicester Housing Association, also experienced difficulties. "We had a lot of problems in the initial stages connecting up and with their support desk in terms of getting the right solutions to set it up. We've managed in-house to overcome them. Their input was, 'here's your documentation, get on with it'," he said.

"We had major connectivity issues with their systems and our systems. Initially it was an absolute nightmare, because they'd set up deadlines for us getting our bids in."

Another networking systems manager, who asked not to be identified, described the experience of working with FutureLink and the Housing Corporation as "endless grief".

"We regularly have trouble connecting to the servers, and invariably we are told by technical support that it's our network that's at fault, not theirs," they said. "As far as I was aware there was no testing. I would suggest that what testing they have done was quite low weight."

Documents shown to CW360 also reveal that the Housing Corporation has had doubts about FutureLink. The government body has raised issues relating to the loss of control of systems and data, suggesting a fundamental problem with the ASP model.

FutureLink Europe has been working with the Housing Corporation on the back of an initial four-week contract. Its US parent company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last week.

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