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Case Study: iland Treats Home Health Care Companys BC/DR Needs

Help At Home Inc. provides in-home care and respite services to elderly, medically fragile and disabled individuals. In business for more than 30 years, the company employs a large staff of trained personal care aides, respite care givers, nursing assistants and registered nurses who provide 24/7 in-home care.

With more than 100 U.S. offices, Help at Homes operational footprint includes Illinois, Missouri, Indiana, Michigan, Alabama, Mississippi and South Carolina. The company has notable contracts with the Illinois Department on Aging and other state, regional and municipal agencies involved in custodial home care services.

Help at Homes IT organization is relatively small, but responsible for corporate operations and 103 branch offices. In addition to provisioning, help desk and other support services, they manage an internally developed application for client management and billing thats used by hundreds of employees across the nation. This mission critical application ensures patients receive the care they need, company revenues are accurately tracked and Help at Home meets the regulatory requirement of overlapping government agencies.

Challenge:

Like most companies, the IT organization at Help at Home is asked to provide increased services to the business while at the same time reducing IT expenditures. Increasing internal software development with our staff of .NET developers caused us to need more and more servers, explained Eric Heidrich, Help at Homes senior manager of IT. But Heidrich knew adding server after server to its data center would increase electricity bills, create excess heat, require more space and increase the burden of IT management.

Help at Home began to investigate virtualization as a method of making IT more responsive to business needs. This included more efficiently providing business services and ensuring high availability, as well as lowering IT costs, streamlining IT management and becoming more energy efficient.

Instead of purchasing a bunch of hardware, said Heidrich, we decided to virtualize, which also helped us to stay green. Even with server virtualization as a proven method for achieving many of their goals, Heidrich knew running a mission-critical application in one data center was an invitation to unplanned downtime.

Downtime costs more than money; it can cost customers. In the case of Help at Home, IT downtime could interfere with the delivery of health care to its clients. Heidrich and his team recognized the IT insecurity of a mission-critical application running only on in-house servers and vulnerable to natural or man-made disasters. The company wanted a business continuity solution that provided redundancy, recovery and reliability.

Real IT security is about having the redundancy and reliability needed for robust business continuity. For Help at Home, that means redundancy in both infrastructure and data protection for critical files and business services. Their continuity plan needed to be able to restore operations in minutes or hours not days. And it needed to be simple to mange for Heidrich and his busy team.

Solution:

Heidrich spent time looking for a solution that would meet Help at Homes requirements. By far, the most important thing was finding a company that would allow me to ship my virtual machine files to them and boot them up in their hosted VMware environment in the event of a disaster, said Heidrich. But not many companies offer a standby cloud for VMware, and many companies didnt even understand what I was asking for.

After many Google searches and phone calls, I thought I had exhausted my options until I came across iland. They were quick to propose the solution I needed.

iland Internet Solutions is a provider of cloud computing infrastructure delivering solutions such as disaster recovery, desktop virtualization and hybrid cloud colocation for enterprises of all sizes. Founded in 1995, iland operates in dozens of data centers across the United States and Europe, with high availability hubs specifically designed for cloud computing in Boston, Washington, D.C., Houston, Los Angeles, Dallas and London.

Help at Home selected the iland Continuity Cloud. Its specifically designed to provide secure, cost-effective business continuity options to enterprises of all sizes. The iland Continuity Cloud provides not only a replication target for Help at Homes data, but the entire infrastructure solution including redundant and private standby cloud resources.

To achieve the desired recovery time objective (RTO), Help at Home selected a continuously live virtual machine on the iland Continuity Cloud for continual data replication of their SQL servers. This combination of live and standby VMs within the iland Continuity Cloud minimizes IT expenditures, but allows Help at Home to easily test its standby environment and quickly recover from disasters.

Help at Home ships both VM files as well as entire hard drive images of physical servers over a secure VPN to virtual machines in the iland Continuity Cloud. In the event of downtime in the production environment, Help at Home can quickly power-on the standby resources in the iland Continuity Cloud. Now, Help at Home has a backup infrastructure thats always in place and available to run and restore business applications and data access.

We needed a rock-solid disaster recovery solution that could be easily implemented, and easily managed by our small IT department, explained Heidrich. The best aspect of this entire process was working with the knowledgeable iland staff and allowing them to set up and manage the implementation as well as continual replication of our data.

Results:

We reduced our time in procuring and deploying this type of disaster recovery solution, and immediately saved over $15,000 in labor costs, Heidrich said. Beyond that, the iland Continuity Cloud solution will save Help at Home more than $150,000 over three years. That savings is from eliminated capital expenditure for SANs, servers, software licensing, colocation costs and staff management time needed to replicate our production environment.

He added that in the event of a disaster, Help at Home will save millions of dollars by minimizing downtime, allowing operations to continue and preventing regulatory penalties related to patient health care data. More importantly, we will keep vital medical information available to our care providers and ensure the safety of our patients, he said.

Whats next? As our VMware environment matures and grows, we will continue to add standby virtual machines within the iland Continuity Cloud, explained Heidrich. We are also evaluating a fully cloud-based environment with some production servers in diverse iland datacenters next year. In the meantime, iland provides an easy path for growth, is cost effective, and gives our lean department another IT team to leverage.


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