Solution from Synapse Networks
Businesses throughout the U.S. depend on Medcor for clinical intervention services that both improve health outcomes and reduce climbing healthcare costs. Medcor provides onsite staffing and clinic management, conducts drug testing and screening and safety services, and its Injury Triage & Reporting call centers provide specially-trained nurses 24/7 to assess injury and advise next steps. Medcor chose Juniper Networks Elite Partner Synapse Networks, Inc., which specializes in complex, redundant, high availability networks, to complete a core network redesign and deployment that provides high performance, full failover, and 100 percent availability.
Healthcare Management Service Requires Failover for High Network Uptime
With the healthcare needs of its clients’ employees always the top priority, Medcor requires a network with high uptime. The growth of its 24/7 Triage hotline means that upwards of 100,000 businesses such as fast food restaurants, grocery stores and retail operations could call Medcor any time of day or night to receive professional healthcare advice for an employee injured on the job. The growth of this service, as well as required SLAs (service level agreements) to maintain its URAC Health IT accreditation, drove the need for a network with upgraded switches and firewalls, as well as a failover solution that would ensure 100 percent uptime.
“When one of our clients has an employee sustain an injury at work, it is as important to us as a 911 call,” said Tim Sahouri, CIO of Medcor. “A dropped call or network failure is just not an option.”
Medcor is located outside of Chicago, and the somewhat remote location lacks top-level telecoms and infrastructure. While Medcor’s existing network solution had disaster recovery in place, recovery could take up to several hours. Sahouri was getting too many middle-of-the-night calls about network problems and sending teams out to data center sites at all hours, then worrying about the impact on clients and on Medcor’s business. “I’ve been on the phone in the middle of the night with telecom VPs more times than I care to count,” he said. “Every time our network went down, we risked losing money, damaging client faith, and worse, possibly putting someone’s health at risk.”
Medcor committed to a core network redesign initiative and turned to Synapse Networks, a Chicago-based Juniper Networks Elite Partner that serves a wide customer range across many business sectors. Synapse Networks specializes in providing networks with high availability and high performance by ensuring its employees maintain a high level of expertise and certifications along with a deep knowledge of technical skills.
“I really trust the people at Synapse Networks,” said Sahouri. “If I have a networking need or question, Synapse is my first call. They are easy to work with, they understand the needs of my business, and they are straight shooters with the highest integrity.”
Complex Network Deployed With Minimal Downtime
Although Medcor was counting on a Juniper Networks solution from Synapse, they did their due diligence and researched options from other vendors. They found that these other solutions were not only more expensive than Juniper, they offered less functionality.
“We trust Synapse Networks implicitly and we have used Juniper Networks devices for a number of years,” said Sahouri. “Like any business today, every penny counts for us. We went with a Juniper solution for two reasons: it cost less than the other main contender, and Synapse recommended it.”
Synapse kicked off the project by conducting a thorough study of Medcor’s existing network and its business needs.
“Their previous network was not initially designed to provide the resiliency they wanted, and their SAN infrastructure upgrade provided new capabilities for replication and new network challenges,” said Stuart Brainerd, president of Synapse Networks. “Working together with Medcor’s engineers, we found hardware weaknesses, a routing implementation that was not redundant between sites, and no real auto-failover on the LAN side.”
Telecom provider AT&T was able to provide the LAN failover on their end, so it was up to Synapse to supply new hardware and a completely re-designed network that, should one Medcor location go down, would failover seamlessly to the other location. Medcor’s network needs are fairly complex, with security filters, firewalls and access controls. It needed a solution with the ability to handle hardware and redundancy at different levels, such as route redundancy and equipment failure redundancy. Synapse also planned the deployment to move the existing network and handle installing and upgrading procedures within very few maintenance windows throughout the week. This would both minimize business disruption and allow Medcor to gradually migrate to the new network.
Synapse installed the Juniper Networks SRX240 firewalls in parallel with Medcor’s existing firewalls, then moved the services over gradually. The actual cutover was made late on a Sunday night, when call volume is at its lowest. The solution also included Juniper Networks EX3300 Ethernet switches with Power over Ethernet (PoE) to support Medcor’s Voice over IP (VoIP) environment. In addition, Juniper Networks EX4200 Ethernet switches were deployed as network core and access solutions, while Juniper Networks Secure Access SSL VPNs provide remote access.
“We deployed equipment in parallel where it made sense in order to minimize disruption,” said Brainerd. “We also determined the best way to flexibly route around as needed. Juniper Networks offers features that are very helpful for this, such as filter-based forwarding that allow us to move services in a more gradual way.”
Complete Failover Solution Good for Business
Medcor takes great pride in providing its healthcare clients with the very highest levels of service. That means answering calls quickly, bringing up medical information or records in real time, and no dropped calls or communications due to network problems. Sahouri is sleeping better these days, knowing that if communications go down on one site, built-in redundancy means that the network will automatically and seamlessly shift to the other site. Medcor’s IT system administrators are no longer driving around to data centers at all times of the day and night, and the company’s business division is happier knowing that all SLAs and accreditations are met or exceeded. Medcor is now well within all of the legal requirements for healthcare providers thanks to the firewalls and the redundant solution put in place by Synapse Networks.
Its new network and the ability to guarantee nearly 100 percent uptime also provides a strong competitive advantage, according to Sahouri. “Uptime of 99 percent used to be good enough and is fairly easy to achieve,” notes Sahouri. “Those last four or five 9s are very difficult to achieve.” Synapse Networks and Juniper Networks are up to the challenge, ensuring a healthy outcome for Medcor and its clients.