|OSHEAN Helps Community Care Alliance|
OSHEAN Helps Community Care Alliance Move Business-Critical Applications to the Cloud
Rhode Island-based Community Care Alliance, formed by a merger of NRI Community Services and Family Resources Community Action in July of 2014, is a multi-service non-profit unified health and human service agency integrating resources, support and programs to strengthen families, individuals and the community. The organization currently offers more than 50 programs to support individuals and families in their efforts to meet economic, social and emotional challenges and enhance their well-being by empowering people to build better lives.
In early 2013, the CSO of NRI Community Services spearheaded an effort to “align technology to improve business” in order to increase resource utilization and operational efficiency. The availability of advanced cloud technologies enabled a number of powerful options to make many of NRI’s technical resources far more efficient – and effective.
NRI Gains Ground with the Beacon 2.0 Network
The first step in implementing a reliable cloud solution for NRI Community Services was to thoroughly evaluate the network and current connections to the internet, essentially the “on ramp to the cloud.” With multiple NRI sites including three main locations and more than 15 remote locations, preparing for this transition was no small undertaking.
One partner that NRI discovered along the way was OSHEAN, a non-profit organization that delivers carrier class optical transport, advanced IP-based networking and innovative cloud solutions to Community Anchor Institutions and the communities they serve. To take advantage of the cloud and help set the stage for the virtual infrastructure build-out, there was an overall need to improve connectivity. To help achieve this, NRI implemented new commercial internet connections and linked its data center to OSHEAN’s Beacon 2.0 fiber optic backbone, one of the most advanced optical networks in the country. The Beacon 2.0 network also provides a direct, on-net connection to one of the world’s leading cloud service providers to support advanced virtual compute, storage and desktop-as-a-service (DaaS) offerings.
OSHEAN was able to assist NRI in another critical area by connecting the three major buildings at very high speed with Air Fiber site-2-site wireless connections for internal traffic, thereby reducing internet traffic and making all of NRI’s connections operate faster and more efficiently.
Key to architecting a virtual infrastructure is providing users with shared storage for cloud applications and virtual machines. Virtualization and pooled storage enable the sharing of applications and greater efficiencies for both doctors and clients, reducing unnecessary paper work. Consolidating physical servers into one data center with direct connection to that shared storage provided the final piece of groundwork for a seamless transition to virtualization.
The July 2014 merger of NRI and Family Resources meant developing a plan to connect another three large locations and potentially a dozen more remote locations. Again, newly-formed Community Care Alliance turned to OSHEAN to assess the options for site to site connectivity with its Air Fiber Wireless LAN connections and continued support for Community Care Alliance’s ongoing phases of virtual infrastructure and cloud deployments for the merged organization.
Harnessing the Power of the Cloud
During this next phase, the expanded network will be put in place, again using virtualization and shared storage to consolidate individual applications into a hybrid cloud environment to achieve better support and ubiquitous access, and provide for disaster recovery and business continuity. The first step into the public cloud for Community Care Alliance is the consolidation and migration of the organizations’ pre-merger on-site Exchange servers into a single, cloud-based collaboration environment using Office 365. Microsoft offers products such as Office 365 at no-cost for non-profits such as Community Care Alliance, which makes implementing business-critical applications, like email, much more resource and cost efficient.
In addition to moving email, collaboration and off-site backups to the cloud, Community Care Alliance is also looking to migrate some of their desktops to the cloud. Since April when Microsoft support ended for Windows XP, those desktops are no longer HIPAA compliant in a healthcare environment. This has prompted many organizations to consider virtual desktops, often using their old XP equipment as thin clients to connect seamlessly with virtual desktop environments, such as those offered by OSHEAN.
“Our partnership with OSHEAN is critical in facilitating access to the many cloud services available to us,” said Michael Fowler, Business & Technology Consultant at Community Care Alliance. “As non-profits, there is a powerful synergy between the missions of OSHEAN and Community Care Alliance.”
Cloud technologies enable resource and budget constrained non-profit organizations like Community Care Alliance to manage a much smaller set of applications, which facilitates better use of those limited IT resources without affecting the quality of support to individual users. By taking routine, day-to-day IT tasks and moving them to the cloud, IT assets can be used towards mission-based resources such as enabling better reporting, billing, and resource sharing initiatives. IT staff is now able to focus time on performing tasks that are closer to the mission of the organization rather than routine IT functions.
Cloud-based solutions also help to ease the financial burden for small businesses and non-profits by shifting expenses away from the traditional, resource intensive capital-expense model and over to the much more cash-friendly and predictable operating expense-based model. Desktop virtualization makes it much easier to plan and budget for IT expenses such as email and desktops on a per employee basis - and to accurately forecast how much staffing needs will cost. This approach further frees up valuable resources for mission-based projects, which are incredibly important for community organizations serving those in need.
Bringing it all Together
Looking forward, strategic collaboration enabled through the cloud can also help community organizations understand clients in a larger context -- across services -- cooperatively, ultimately resulting in better family and patient care. Cloud technologies can be utilized on a greater scale to help share resources between all of Rhode Island’s community organizations. For example, demographic information can be made available to community organizations statewide to prevent the duplication of resource allocation. As a result, this powerful technology would allow community organizations with similar goals and challenges to cooperate, instead of compete for limited funding, by pooling financial resources and forming stronger alliances to serve those in need.
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