IT infrastructure refresh supports more reliable computing and better client management for Stewarts Care

Leading voluntary healthcare provider, Stewarts Care will benefit from resilient, high performance computing and better client management, thanks to a major server and storage refresh, financed by HP and deployed by MJ Flood Technology.

The project involves reducing the server footprint from 12 units to just two VMware virtualised HP DL380 servers, configuring 23 Terabytes (TB) of raw data storage, based on a HP MSA P2000 platform and deploying fully resilient disaster recovery (DR) and business continuity across two campuses.  Financed over five years through HP Financial Services, more than 850 Stewarts’ employees can benefit from the latest technology now without the need for upfront capital expenditure.

“We have a more secure, robust IT infrastructure that’s easier to manage and control with plenty of scalability for future growth. The upgrade was only possible because of finance.  MJ Flood Technology have steered us in the right direction for a long time and their deep understanding of our organisation and services is reflected in the quality of their tender response and deployment.”

Brendan O’Connor, head of ICT services with Stewarts Care. 

Planning for the unexpected
Stewarts Care provides disability support services for adults and children and is spread across two campuses, with 40 buildings at Palmerston, Dublin 20 and several buildings in Rossecourt, Co Dublin.  It also has 30 community hostels at various locations in Dublin and Kildare which support semi-independent living for service-users.

With a wireless link between headquarters in Palmerston and Rossecourt Resource Centre, the comms room in Rossecourt was deemed a perfect location for a secondary set of infrastructure to support Stewarts’ DR plans as Pat O’Neill, senior technical architect with MJ Flood Technology explains:

“We introduced a disaster recovery platform of hardware and software with 15TB of manual failover,” he says.  “Based on Veeam Snapshot and replication technology, the solution involves configuration of a cost-effective, high-performing modular SAN array that continuously replicates data changes to the Rossecourt campus.

If the primary campus is lost, or primary WAN connectivity fails, IT can perform a failover immediately that switches to identical updated Virtual Servers on the other campus continuing with minimum downtime and disruption.”

The decision to move to a HP storage platform was swayed by the company’s ability to provide RAID 50 capability.  This involves creating a large, single ‘datastore’ across a high number of fast input/output (IO) disks for easy data access and retrieval.  Creating a RAID 50 array and balancing the load across multiple disks ensures better performance, higher resilience and increases mean time between disk failures (MTBF).

“A lot of healthcare providers use RAID 50 data warehousing for radiography and patient record systems,” explains O’Connor.   “HP was the only technology provider that could offer this large-scale storage capacity at a reasonable price-point,” he adds.

Service-user records at any of the 30 on-campus residences or various community-based hostels are accessed by employees on Stewarts’ Service Users Record Application – SURA.  In the event of any service interruption at headquarters, they can use the operating environment at Rossecourt for business continuity.

Email Security

Stewarts have also beefed up information security with the addition of email and web filtering and security software.

“With just three people in the ICT department, we need to use our time as efficiently as possible,” explains O’Connor.  By enforcing security policy at perimeter level, we reduce the overhead of ensuring that browsers and clients are zero-day patched and fully compliant.”

In addition, Stewarts have upgraded their server software to the latest Windows Server and SQL 2012 to support all applications.

Planning for the future

Stewarts’ infrastructure upgrade positions the healthcare provider to benefit from any future moves by government to consolidate network infrastructure or applications to the cloud.

“In the not too distant future, government will have a cloud platform.  Being compatible with future government infrastructure availability was a critical consideration in this infrastructure project.  Our current network design allows us to migrate our applications seamlessly and we have also future-proofed the storage infrastructure ensuring that it will take us through to the next technology lifecycle with ease,” says O’Connor.

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