SeeAbility: A Bold Move to IaaS Returns Big Benefits - Open Reality

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SeeAbility: A Bold Move to IaaS Returns Big Benefits


Executive Summary

BrightCloud have been working in a close partnership with SeeAbility for over 10 years. During this time we have delivered consistent results and setup networks, deployed a VDI solution, virtualised their servers and provide remote helpdesk support. This built such trust that we now deliver SeeAbility’s IT Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS).

The bold move to a monthly “lease” payment structure has delivered significant cost savings for the charity and means they benefit from an IT infrastructure with the associated security, resilience and data recovery it otherwise could not afford.

We now purchase our IT in much the same way we do our other utilities – as a service. We no longer have the capital, maintenance and upgrade costs, or the issues related to owning hardware and software assets. Instead, we have the latest, most resilient and secure virtual desktops, servers, data recovery, storage and applications available, delivered on tap by BrightCloud, at a fixed price.

I truly believe that our IT infrastructure can now rival the biggest charities and most mid-sized businesses. There is no way we could have purchased, managed or maintained this scope of infrastructure or realised the operational benefits that our staff have reported without the support, knowledge and services provided by BrightCloud, now for over 10 years.

Brian Newcombe, Director of Finance and Property

SeeAbility is a specialist registered charity enriching the lives of people who have sight loss and other disabilities, including learning and physical disabilities, mental health difficulties, acquired brain injury and life limiting conditions.

www.seeability.org

It was imperative that we had an IT system that would support our mobile workforce. With over a quarter of a million customers and nearly 143,000 properties to support around the country, they don’t have the time, nor, with the advent of virtual desktops, should they have the need to travel to use technology.

Challenges

To work effectively SeeAbility employees needed to be able to access case files, medical records and reference materials the moment they need them, and ideally, complete any related admin on the spot to ensure that no treatment plans or support changes are delayed.

An outmoded local (and largely paper-based) administrative set-up was severely restricting SeeAbility’s growth opportunities. To move forward, it needed to introduce unified processes that could be centrally managed and securely accessed from anywhere, anytime, by any authorised personnel.

The existing IT network was aging and offered no resilience. There was no scope for diagnostics and so it was hard to understand what was causing network failures and slow access. The cost of refreshing IT hardware was also mounting up as the estate aged.

As an organisation providing vital life services, SeeAbility needed to run efficiently and be free of risk. However, the IT team was bound by the charity’s articles and memorandums and has to ensure that all purchases were justified and delivered a demonstrable benefit to the people using their services.

The Solution

BrightCloud designed an IT strategy that could not only meet these requirements, but also ensured that there was an infrastructure in place to move the organisation forward. The charity had already grown from 10 to 35 sites and premises and it was likely that there would be further expansion of services.

Desktop virtualisation

The first step was for BrightCloud to refresh the PC estate and to network it. The PCs were out of date and standalone. This was the first time the 35 remote offices, residential homes and supported living units had been connected.
The decision was made to provision a hosted Citrix virtual desktop environment which enabled the central management of all PCs and desktop applications. It also provided remote desktop services.

Server rationalisation

The next logical step was to rationalise the server environment, both to cut costs and to increase resilience and security. In 2007, the six servers, which previously had to be accommodated at the charity’s headquarters, were rationalised into three and hosted by BrightCloud.

This move ensured the servers were managed, monitored and maintained to the highest degree and were kept in the ultimate environment for this type of equipment.
The business and operational case was quite simply one of risk reduction and removal of all single points of failure.

Server virtualisation

When the time came to upgrade the servers two years later, it was decided to make the move from physical servers to virtual VMware servers. This introduced a reduction in capital costs as SeeAbility no longer owned the servers, but rented them, shifting all payments to an operational cost. This also eliminated running and maintenance costs outside of the monthly rental charge.

BrightCloud presented the clear case for a VMWare investment. The virtual server would sit in its datacentre and transfer a potential capital cost to an operational cost, which made sound business sense to us. It also meant that we could have a more advanced and evolving infrastructure.

Results and Return on Investment

Almost overnight, cost and time savings were realised. Where once there had been the need to visit each PC to upgrade, roll-out new software, or to establish an issue, these tasks could now be completed from a single location and in most instances, simultaneously.

The IT investment was eliminating duplicate costs and employees were reporting that they were better able to focus on person centred care rather than administration, which had previously been a burden due to the impracticalities of the old IT set-up.

For staff, the major benefit was being able to access their familiar desktop from any access device, in any location at any time. They immediately found this meant that their time could be used more effectively to manage the needs of their clients and residents.

The Story Continues

By this point there was a high level of trust between BrightCloud and SeeAbility and a very progressive relationship had been established. Whilst many organisations were still reluctant to trust the cloud, SeeAbility were keen to consider a proposal from BrightCloud that would see the charity’s entire IT infrastructure hosted in the BrightCloud Cloud.

There was some nervousness initially, but we were confident that BrightCloud would deliver the best outcome for us and they did. By outsourcing our IT there is less for us to worry about and our IT infrastructure is effectively a utility, a true business enabler.

To ensure the successful delivery of the project, a dedicated project manager from BrightCloud was appointed and a detailed structure and project plan was put in place. This ensured accountability and a blueprint for delivery. Total project visibility was guaranteed using the Citrix Podio collaboration tool. Everyone involved in the project could use it to communicate and set-up workspaces with workflows.

The process ran smoothly. There were no hick-ups and BrightCloud’s initiative to use Citrix Podio meant we knew exactly how the project was progressing at each point and potential issues could be identified before they manifested.

SeeAbility’s bold move from owning its IT estate to a fully managed and hosted infrastructure as a service (IaaS) model. This move to a monthly “lease” payment structure has delivered significant cost savings for the charity and means they benefit from having an IT infrastructure, security, resilience and data recovery it could otherwise not afford.

By outsourcing the “mechanics” of our IT, day-to-day trouble shooting and helpdesk services we are able to focus purely on delivering and maintaining the IT applications essential to supporting the SeeAbility operation. This includes services to clients and those underpinning business processes including HR, marketing, finance and administration.

Manlio Mannisi, IT Manager

Next Steps

The next steps are to extend the existing BrightCloud managed service from infrastructure only to the application layer. On the successful roll-out of this, all Microsoft licences will be migrated to service provider versions.

This will introduce a monthly billing model for applications, as well as infrastructure. This will this ensure that users always the latest version upgrades and security fixes as they are released.

As new services provided by SeeAbility continue to be introduced, its workforce is becoming increasingly mobile. The charity has discussed the opportunities of BYOD with BrightCloud and it is seen as being ideal for some roles. Those highlighted as being key beneficiaries include managers of the homes, cluster managers, who can drive up to 40,000 miles a year, estate managers, speech and rehabilitation team members and the management team.

We are increasingly being asked by staff about BYOD and the benefits, particularly for staff working in the community, are clear. We need to look at the best way to manage the data on these devices and how we can ring fence this to ensure that we are compliant with the Data Protection Act.

As our long-term IT partner, BrightCloud is advising us on a BYOD policy and the steps we need to take to a gradual move to total mobility for employees.

Brian Newcombe, Director of Finance and Property


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