How a 1,700-tablet rollout helped transform this health care company

When you’re in the back of an ambulance, you want your EMTs to have the newest, most reliable, most easy-to-use technology. You don’t want clunky computers and tablets from 10 years ago, and you don’t want a slow, messy deployment process of new technology to cause hiccups in your ongoing care. If your life is on the line, you want to know everything related to saving it is as efficient and up-to-date as possible.

Health care is in a more precarious place than most industries, as failures can have life or death consequences. That’s why, when one ambulance dispatch company wanted to replace 5,500 of the computers and tablets in its ambulances, it needed the process to be efficient, move quickly, and—most importantly—improve the lives of both doctors and patients.

Here’s how it did exactly that.

Emergency vehicles with problems of their own

The company dispatched ambulances all over the country, meaning that it had a huge supply of mobile devices. The tablets and laptops the company deployed ran the company’s enterprise app, which EMTs used to check patients and catalog their vital statistics, but device management issues regularly popped up across the board.

There was no unified management system that could easily image all of those devices. The ruggedized laptops and tablets were old, heavy, bulky, expensive, and on strange lifecycles. The company struggled to tell when old devices should be retired and disposed of, or how data was transferred or deleted, or if training was needed for a new device.

With all of these troubles, the company was looking for an enterprise-wide upgrade: an army of the same devices that could be managed by one system for seamless device and information integration. A big draw for the company was Windows 10, which it was hoping to implement in all areas of business in order to streamline imaging and management. It turned to Microsoft, which offered a good deal on Surface 3 tablets, InTune, and Azure to complete the deployment.

Tight turnaround, high demand

Despite this generous offer from Microsoft, challenges remained. The first came in the form of inventory. As the company’s longtime partner, SHI was responsible for sourcing the 1,700 Surface tablets and accompanying accessories, such as Urban Armor Gear cases and Compulocks DoubelGlass Screen Shield screen protectors, that would be used in the ambulances—no easy feat, considering the Surface tablets best suited for the company were not new models. However, by working with multiple distributors and leveraging its strong relationship with Microsoft’s Surface team, SHI was able to get access to Surfaces as they became available.

The second challenge came in the form of prioritizing the rollout. With so many locations and only a four-month rollout period, it was important that the schedule ran tightly to the expected timeline and properly prioritized each site in terms of need. By engaging with suppliers and the health care company’s key stakeholders, SHI was able to figure out which locations would implement the rollout first, manage the supply chain to accommodate that, and simplify the timeline. SHI also encrypted, imaged, and asset tagged each device, so that they could be sent to the proper location and work right out of the box—a process partly made possible by SHI’s new Integration Center.

Making it all come together

Upgrading its hardware allowed the company’s enterprise app to run much more smoothly, meaning doctors and EMTs can share patient information more easily than before. The Surface 3 is lighter and more user-friendly than the old machines the company was using, and adding the functionality of the included Surface pen and other accessories means that hospitals can check in and process patients faster.

The Surface 3, of course, also runs Windows 10, which can up productivity for doctors, nurses, and EMTs. By adding mobility and Windows 10 to its environment, the company improves flow of information between health care practitioners and patients—a valuable addition in a field where every second can count.

But it doesn’t end there. Although the rollout went smoothly and quickly for this health care company, there’s still a long way to go. By switching all of its devices to Windows 10 and compatible services, this company hopes to improve its communication and device management even further, creating a more connected environment that could help save even more lives.

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How SHI helped coordinate telephony upgrades for 500 branches

Sometimes, you’re just due for an upgrade. That sounds like a routine process, but when you’re a huge supply company spanning the country, things can get extremely complicated.

In one particular case, a customer wanted to update its telephony infrastructure—about 500 branches of work over a relatively short period of time. Having been a customer of SHI for over a decade, the company came to us for help. Even with our extensive knowledge of the client and their equipment, it was true that this was going to be a challenge.

Despite these doubts, the initial complications of pilot testing and rollout, and the overall complexity of the project, SHI managed to find the perfect set of resources and people to get the project done right. Here’s how we did it. Continue Reading…

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Here’s what happened when Avenue, a clothing retailer, turned to tablets to increase sales

retail-tabletsIt’s a bricks-and-mortar retail reality: You can’t stock everything, and that means you lose sales when a customer is looking for a style or color you don’t have.

This is the story of how Avenue, a specialty clothing retailer, bucked that trend with tablets. Continue Reading…

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This is how Datacate got a great deal on data center space

data-centerDatacate, a regional colocation provider, was recently in the market for new colocation space, but had strict requirements: Space had to come at the right price, but timing was the wrinkle. The entire process – negotiating contracts, ordering hardware, constructing cages, and making everything ready for move-in — would have to be completed in just over a month while keeping costs down. That’s a tight timeframe for a full implementation when constructing cages alone often takes several weeks. Continue Reading…

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How one retailer rolled out thousands of tablets to 600 stores across the nation

tablets-in-retailA small project for a large organization is often nothing of the sort. One recent example is a large national retailer’s plan to deploy 8,500 tablets to 600 stores.

As part of a mobility push, the retailer sought to equip thousands of store managers and other personnel with tablets. After working through a proof of concept with a number of options, the retailer chose a family of Microsoft Surface tablets (primarily Surface 3 devices) for their size, light weight, touch-screen capabilities, and ease of use in the store environment. The tablets allow managers to track inventory and monitor sales from anywhere – in the office, on the floor, or behind the register. Continue Reading…

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Here’s how a company patched up its crumbling IT foundation

colocation 2The company had a problem: Its IT environment was so disjointed and outdated, it was a proverbial house of cards, teetering on collapse. The outdated infrastructure was unreliable and slow, which caused delays in sales and inventory reporting. If one system failed, it could shut down the entire IT infrastructure and paralyze sales management and order fulfillment.

For small and medium-sized businesses with more pressing budgetary priorities, it’s easy to see how such a situation could arise. When an external audit found that the company had severely underfunded its IT department for years, management took notice. Continue Reading…

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How one company regained visibility into its IT supply chain and saved nearly a million dollars

serversA multinational conglomerate needed hardware fast. After deciding to spin off one of its businesses, it needed to build data centers to equip the new entity with servers and storage.

The spinoff was on a tight timeline, but that wasn’t the only need for a speedy rollout. The new data centers required tight security controls that ensured customers’ data – designs and other intellectual property – wasn’t at risk. Continue Reading…

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How one health care firm fixed its data storage worries

medical dataWhen the new IT director at a U.S. health care and financial management firm examined his on-premises storage environment, he noticed something unexpected: The last byte of storage was in sight.

The company needed storage, and soon. The entire business — collecting, analyzing, and processing new medical records, health care, and insurance data — depended on it. A lack of storage space would halt the review and processing of insurance claims and billing, and there wasn’t much time to prevent it. Continue Reading…

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Resources, relationships, and results: How a children’s hospital fixed its disaster recovery plan

children's hospitalWhen faced with bad choices, it’s sometimes easier to just do nothing, even if that inaction can lead to a new round of issues.

Such was the situation for a children’s hospital in one U.S. city. The hospital had no disaster recovery (DR), and it was stuck with an impractical plan from a consultant – backup hardware in a building across the street. Continue Reading…

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How one school’s simple hardware upgrade helped improve its entire IT infrastructure

educationEven the simplest IT environments can harbor complex challenges. And for some organizations, one simple fix only uncovers a new need. A public charter school in Washington, D.C. had exactly that kind of environment.

The school has a fairly simple IT environment to support its more than 320 students from grades 6 to 12. An HP shop, it had two servers and a SAN, and virtualization through VMware.

Upgrading that environment by replacing a few components seemed simple on the surface, but some network constraints and unexpected challenges made the job a search-and-rescue operation of installations and fixes. These challenges were more than the IT department could handle in house with a school of students, teachers, and staff to keep up and running.

A seemingly easy hardware upgrade? Maybe not.

With a few hardware components approaching end-of-life, the school aimed to expand its processing capability by adding two next generation (Gen9) servers to its environment and decommissioning one of the older (Gen5) servers, increasing the number of production servers from two to three. It also needed to replace its one storage array, an HP MSA 2212. The school was satisfied with its HP hardware, and budgeted to replace its soon-to-be-obsolete server and storage unit with the newest models.

Of course, a storage replacement would also entail some data migration, which posed a challenge. Nearly every school-related IT task, from email to VoIP to management applications to students’ personal information, was stored and run on this simple architecture. Any downtime, as a result of the migration, had to occur during non-school hours or weekends, or threatened to effectively shut down teaching for a school day.

But the school’s IT department was lean, and needed a helping hand in installing the servers and storage, and migrating the data, without disrupting teachers and students and while attending to the day-to-day IT workload. What the school needed was a plan, and an expert that could help carry it out.

Solving one problem, followed by solving a few more

The school purchased the new hardware through SHI, which had provided virtualization software support for the past year and a half.

And although it was only increasing its net server capacity by one, the school’s IT department needed help to install and configure the new hardware, two HP DL360 Gen9 servers and one HP MSA 2040 array, while also providing in-classroom support to students and staff. SHI’s technical expertise would mean the new hardware was installed quickly and properly.

But when it started replacing the hardware, the IT team and SHI saw this was a bigger job than anticipated. Working together, the parties were able to rack, cable, and initialize the hardware without a hiccup, but as they did so, they discovered that the school’s VMware needed proper configuration and was behind in the upgrade cycle. It was another wrinkle to the project, but one that could be solved by cleaning up improperly defined rules within VMware, in addition to upgrading the software to version 6.0.

Still, the biggest part of this hardware upgrade was yet to come – data migration. Transferring the data to the new MSA wasn’t the most complex job, but it needed to be carefully executed to minimize work disruptions. SHI’s experts teamed up with the school’s IT team to take the system down during night and weekend hours to complete the migration, which redistributed 19 VMware virtual machines and migrated approximately 3 terabytes of data.

But while they were at it, they discovered another issue that needed to be fixed – two storage network switches needed proper configuration. Finding the right tools and establishing the right credentials took time and expertise to sort through, even for a relatively simple task like this one. Finally, the school’s data migration was completed, its minor problems patched up, and its network enhanced.

The slow and steady approach to a set of problems

The school’s hardware upgrade wasn’t as simple as plug in and go – it learned its network switches could be better utilized and its virtualization needed a proper configuration. Its data migration had to avoid disrupting students learning in the classroom.

The school’s hardware upgrade ballooned into a bigger project that, once carried out, improved the IT setup of the entire school through new storage and enhanced virtualization. But in a busy IT environment central to the school’s operation, an expert’s help not only accelerated the project, but set the entire IT house in order.

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