Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Health Care Data Center Relocation and Overhaul Increases Security, Savings

Building a Healthy Data Infrastructure

One of the largest healthcare associations in the United States with numerous locations and divisions, this client’s operations run and depend on its data center. For a number of years, data center operations were outsourced to a hosting partner, and fees and costs continually increased. Further, accessibility to the partner’s location was restricted and the client representative expressed concerns about the overall security and true costs associated with this outsourced model. Upon discussing the issues with Nathan Young, MicroAge Solutions Expert, it was clear that the client needed a new model—one that they owned, controlled and managed themselves.

“In our conversations and subsequent research, we uncovered that their equipment was not dedicated, it was shared; concerns about security breaches were high; and the equipment itself was old and approaching obsolescence,” notes Nathan. “I suggested that they re-create the data center in their building and at another outside center, replicating functionality to secure their data… they agreed and we began the process of constructing a data center that would meet their needs both today and tomorrow.”

Within nine months, after extensive planning and revisions, MicroAge took the client from its subpar solution to a dynamic, cost-effective and transparent data center over which they have complete control. The solution included installing 20 HP servers, developing an HP storage area network (SAN) to fully enclose data, and introducing virtualization with VMware and a Microsoft corporate licensing program. APC back-up systems rounded out the data center’s security profile. Overall, the data center took the client to a higher level of technology, security, and efficiency; combining someservers at the home office and the rest in a rack-and-stack configuration at another data center, they essentially pay for space and broadband lines, without incurring inflating fees. Given the space limitations of headquarters it makes sense to utilize an outside location, which also provides a level of security with replication.

Nathan’s expertise played a vital role throughout the phased solution: he assisted with model selection, equipment sourcing, managing implementation, and installing redundant back-up power to ensure that all project milestones were met. While the purchasing/installation phase is complete, he is engaged with the client to support easier management with remote control software. Since the client has a relatively small IT staff monitoring approximately 50 offices, the value-add of collaborating with MicroAge helps ensures that full functionality remains constant. With better reporting tools, interdepartmental linkages, and a more cohesive network structure, the client is well positioned to control and manage a healthy rate of growth in a consistently productive environment.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Dynamic, Durable CRM Solution Crafted for Education Client

The Customer’s Always Right!

Effective customer relationship management (CRM) is integral to business success. If you don’t cultivate and maintain positive interactions with customers, you don’t stand much of a chance. This is especially true in virtual business models, where your customer connection is managed through email or web contact.

Recently, a client in the education field experienced some serious challenges both with its CRM capabilities and an unresponsive resource. After visiting the MicroAge booth at an industry convention, the company turned to MicroAge to develop a credible solution. The client provides key services connecting college students to academic institutions and was experiencing difficulties in the delivery of virtual CRM. Prior to partnering with MicroAge, the client worked with another resource that could not address significant issues after repeated attempts. The problem, from our point of view, was that the client needed a customized, managed solution that met their specific needs, not a generic bundle of services.

Further, the company clearly needed a solution that could handle daily updates and which included follow-up support, both in virtual and actual terms. The client agreed, ended its previous association, and mapped out its requirements in a comprehensive, 25-page assessment for MicroAge to address.

Upon review, MicroAge Solution Expert Chris Pirwitz developed a Scope of Work to manage and deliver the recommended solution using Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011. Considering the project’s complexities, he invited fellow MicroAge colleague Barrett Lamothe to assist—Barrett’s specific technical expertise made him a highly valuable addition in terms of developing the CRM solution. Chris comments,
After reviewing the project assessment, we distributed our own requirement lists to various vendors specializing in the CRM arena. Within the context of the overarching Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 solution, we reached out to supporting vendors with expertise in business intelligence to further customize the client’s software and platform structure.”
A collaborative team of vendors and MicroAge project management services resulted in a dynamic, durable solution. Again, as Chris says, “After working both on and off site with the client for a number of weeks, we rolled out the CRM and virtualization solution. As virtualization required extensive training of client personnel on the various hardware and software applications involved, Barrett and I provide regular follow-up support to the client on weekly basis. And since the solution has been implemented, the client has enjoyed the consistency and reliability of the Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 that meets its needs without interruption.”

In fact, the client was so pleased with the success of the solution that they recently approached MicroAge to implement another IT project, which is currently under way. ‘Keeping the customer satisfied’ is a tried-and-true maxim for any organization; at MicroAge, it is central to how we flexibly address every client’s needs to ensure we deliver the best possible solution.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Mobile IT Solutions Help Biomedical Organization with Efficiency and Budget

Upgrading Technology, Improving Lives

For healthcare product manufacturers and service providers, saving and improving lives is the central mission. Nowhere is this more evident than in biomedical products, where the product literally becomes the beginning of a patient’s return to health.

For several years, MicroAge has partnered with a leading bio-product company to support uninterrupted delivery of its truly mission-critical work. Maximizing the value of its technology investment is a clear priority for the organization; since MicroAge has access to numerous technology partners, budget-sensitive clients can rely on it to develop appropriate and lasting technology solutions.

As Ken Katz, MicroAge Solutions Expert notes, “The client identified multifaceted technology requirements: first, it needed to upgrade office printers and second, it had to obtain notebook computers to improve productivity. Understanding the client’s strict budgetary parameters, we provided a solution that didn’t break the bank and kept them at optimal efficiency. Specific to printers, I recommended the OKI B4600 product line both for its reliability and because each unit’s drum is housed separately from the toner cartridge. With this design, either component can be replaced as needed without incurring the cost of replacing both— efficiently using the technology spend.”

In addition, the printers needed to rugged and have a minimal footprint with paper trays residing within those parameters. Why? Since the client operates mobile units to obtain and deliver various bio products, they needed to withstand regular transportation and transference without any service interruption. The OKI B4600 met all these specifications and by purchasing a three-year warranty, the client is further assured of consistent performance.

For the notebooks, there were some challenges in sourcing necessary components. Replacing obsolete units with new Fujitsu notebooks, it was necessary to source drivers compatible with the client’s pre-installed UNIX environment. It was also necessary to specify several different models to meet differing applications—from administrative tasks to touch-screen capability. Fujitsu’s personalized support was a determining factor in its selection—the company plans self maintenance so the upfront support was a valuable assist in the initial set up.
“We recognized the company’s unique requirements and because we partnered with not one but two vendors whose products and services met these needs, MicroAge delivered a tailored and cost-effective solution,” says Ken.
Given the client’s mission of providing life-saving bio products, both Ken and MicroAge were committed to ‘going the extra mile’ to ensure that its vital services remain supported and ultimately delivered to those who need them.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Assignment from Education Client Involved Data Center Refresh, SAN Implementation

Making the Grade in Server Design

Nationwide, charter schools have been embraced as an educational alternative. For one of MicroAge’s clients, growth has been impressive: as the operator of a couple of dozen schools around the country, the client has had to catch up quickly to its own success!

With the volume of users increasing from a few hundred to more than 2,500, the client realized that the timely addition of new servers, server consolidation, implementing back-up and disaster recovery systems, and installing other mission-critical aspects were all essential to avoid system overloads.
Faced with this need, the newly hired CIO of this organization called MicroAge. As I quickly found out, his needs were complex:
  • In addition to a complete refresh of his data center, they were moving it to another state AND building a second data center in yet a third state.
  • They had a headquarters facility in – are you keeping track? – a fourth state, AND were in the midst of building another corporate facility in the general locale of one of their data centers.
  • Oh, and just to make it interesting, this all had to be accomplished in three months! A very aggressive timeline for such a major rollout.
As proactive as the client’s business plan was, there were physical limitations to increasing network capability. So while server consolidation, disaster recovery, improved switches and firewalls were top of mind, there was very limited room to actually install anything. Given both the sense of urgency and space limitations, it was clear that I needed to conduct a site inspection in order to provide an optimal solution.

After visiting the client and reviewing all timelines, space restraints and budget sensitivities, I determined that HP’s BladeSystem server product was an ideal solution: its design permits stacking in racks and efficiently uses space. With the BladeSystem in place, we then selected Baracuda network products for content security, networking, data storage, and data protection. They were an excellent fit for the customer’s needs. Finally, the support of a Cisco network backbone to manage all SAN requirements completed the overall technology architecture.

Once coordination was completed with all manufacturers, I mapped out a detailed presentation of the overall solution, complete with budget, project milestones, and space considerations. The client was very enthusiastic and approval to move forward was immediate.

Once a solution is approved, we partner closely with the customer until every aspect of the solution is complete. In this case, along with coordinating vendors, project schedules and the like, I brought in HP Financial Services to arrange for the lease of the all of the equipment. And this was not your typical lease, due to the array of manufacturers involved and the two separate data center locations.

Since implementation, the solution has effectively met the client’s needs, scaling to meet its continued growth. The engagement was so successful that the client has since chosen MicroAge to provide additional solutions in turnkey SAN implementation, WAN optimization and SAN disaster recovery. I guess you could say that MicroAge earned an “A” this time around!