Saint John of God Hospitaller Services looks to digital future


17 Jan 2010

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Saint John of God Hospitaller Services has always brought its services to wherever they’re needed in the community. Now, even its most rural Irish facilities can access reliable, high-bandwidth network services for the first time, thanks to combined services from Interfusion Networks and AirSpeed Telecom.

With 17 main sites and many more satellite sites and homes in nine counties across Ireland, Saint John of God Hospitaller Services offers supports and services in the areas of mental health, intellectual disability and elderly care. While the charity faces many challenges in its work, its highly dispersed geographical structure makes effective ICT delivery equally challenging.

Historically, the organisation relied on low-speed leased lines around Ireland. But with more people needing to use its network and the bandwidth-intensive nature of its applications, users experienced constant network congestion. Additionally, a lack of information available from the network hampered the organisation’s ability to plan and deploy services.

"We weren’t able to roll out new clinical applications we had developed," says ICT director Brendan McCormack. "We also had to impose severe restrictions on our users, including small email attachment sizes and periodic network blackout periods for everyone but selected users." Needing to deliver better ICT service levels, the charity issued a tender in January 2009 for a solution that would provide more bandwidth for users, full resilience and better management and control for ICT support staff.

High-bandwidth network services transform ICT service levels

  • Interfusion and AirSpeed Telecom partner for delivery: The managed network services company Interfusion proposed a combined solution featuring its managed services and AirSpeed Telecom’s infrastructure. Interfusion won the tender and the result has been hugely positive for the charity. AirSpeed Telecom has deployed a licensed wireless network delivering on average 20Mbps to the organisation’s sites as primary connectivity, up from 128kbps on average previously. At its hospital in Dublin, 100Mbps from AirSpeed Telecom backs up its fibre connection to the ICT centre. "We recently pulled the plug on the fibre to simulate a digger cutting through it, and failover was perfect," Brendan said. "Our traffic automatically rerouted via AirSpeed Telecom to our IT centre. That’s great peace of mind for us."
  • A unified service with a single point of contact: Interfusion is a single point of contact for the charity’s IT staff and provides a complete managed service for the organisation’s network, which is based on IP MPLS. Interfusion manages all contact with AirSpeed Telecom, whose Network Operations Centre (NOC) detects, remediates and informs Interfusion of any underlying network issues. On an infrastructure level, dual redundant interconnects link Interfusion and AirSpeed Telecom across two different data centres, for maximum resilience.
  • Rapid roll out delivers immediate network "pain relief": AirSpeed Telecom and Interfusion committed to completing 100pc of network sites in five months, and 80pc were online within three months, giving the organisation immediate relief from serious network reliability issues. Each switchover was seamless, conducted with no end-user impact.
  • Improved bandwidth and reliability eliminate help desk calls: After rollout, end-user calls to the charity’s help desk dropped 50pc. "The main reason is we no longer have frustrated users who can’t access email or reach websites," Brendan said. "Instead of firefighting, we can progress large-scale strategic ICT projects. We’ll have no concerns about running up-to-date software, introducing new initiatives like VoIP, unified communications or using remote access tools on the network. We never would have had the bandwidth to do these things before."

AirSpeed Telecom’s deployment experience bears dividends

During rollout, Brendan said he appreciated the effective co-operation among Interfusion, AirSpeed Telecom and the charity’s facilities managers, who need to enforce strict controls on access to their buildings and rooftops.

"We had no exposure to AirSpeed Telecom until the rollout, and we were very impressed with the way they conducted site surveys, completed implementation, and installed all equipment – they’re very responsive and accommodating," Brendan said. "Our services are dispersed, some of our sites are hard to access, and our facilities managers are understandably protective of our service users and must control access to the buildings. AirSpeed was excellent at working with our people, and also at coming up with innovative solutions to connectivity problems that arose."

Interfusion, too, gives high praise to AirSpeed Telecom’s clear experience and skill in negotiating the complexities of deployment.

"At one site, we had to get agreement from six different groups before we could walk on the roof," said Chris Doran, Interfusion projects and services manager. "Rolling out wireless infrastructure sounds easy, but teasing out everybody’s requirements can be tricky. AirSpeed Telecom took pictures of the rooftop and overlaid images to show how it would look with the wireless infrastructure; this helped facility managers to visualise the end result and seriously reduced time taken to obtain agreement.

"With this kind of preparation they were able to allay everybody’s concerns. There’s quite a large number of permissions that needed to be achieved, and documentation like method statements, safety policies, plan of works: they were stunningly good at producing this. It’s a significant skill, especially as no two locations were the same."

Chris also says AirSpeed’s delivery of finely grained bandwidths, from just 2Mbps up to 100Mbps, is flexibility his organisation needs. And the ability to secure this at virtually any point in Ireland is invaluable, he says.

"We have clients with some very isolated sites that are poorly served with connectivity. All modern applications require high bandwidth, and AirSpeed’s ability to deliver infrastructure anywhere lets us help ensure that our clients’ remote offices aren’t ‘poor relations,’" Chris says. "Lots of companies deliver bandwidth, but AirSpeed reaches into locations you just can’t reach any other way, and their service is excellent — they can adjust speed on any link in a day."

For the charity, this speed and flexibility has transformed what the ICT department can achieve.

"The contrast between then and now couldn’t be greater," Brendan says. "Our objectives were to improve resilience and achieve customer-focused service delivery from ICT, and that’s what AirSpeed Telecom and Interfusion have helped us do.

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"Also, our ICT team’s motivation and job satisfaction have improved tremendously. Before it was so frustrating for everyone, because we knew what was possible but we didn’t have the network to serve our users," he says. "Now that the network is everything it should be, there’s a real buzz in here, because we know we can deliver. And when we deliver, we’re helping our clients and service users out in the community: that’s what it’s all about."

Customer overview

Charitable organisation operating mental health and intellectual disability services across Ireland, with many sites in rural locations.

The need

Ageing leased line infrastructure meant a lack of bandwidth and poor network reliability, making many applications unusable. 

The solution

·  An AirSpeed Telecom licensed wireless network is the primary connectivity at 16 sites.

·  Average end-user speeds are now 20Mbps (up from 128k).

·  A 100Mbps AirSpeed link supports the fibre connection at the charity’s main site.

·  Interfusion provides a one-stop managed network service for the organisation’s new IP MPLS network based on AirSpeed infrastructure.

·  AirSpeed’s expertise meant 90pc of locations were connected within three months, even at challenging sites.

The benefit

·  Improved infrastructure enabled roll out of new applications.

·  Proven disaster recovery at head office delivers peace of mind.

·  50pc drop in calls to the organisation’s ICT help desk.

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