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Upgrading Regional Healthcare

December 3, 2008


Aspirus, Inc. reduces backup and management costs and increases reliability using Symantec products.
Founded in 1947, Aspirus, Inc. healthcare has grown to include more than 30 primary and specialty clinics in addition to its base hospital in Wausau, Wisconsin. Aspirus provides leading heart, cancer, gastrointestinal, spine and neurological care for its patients throughout 14 counties in northern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. In 2007, Aspirus admitted over 14,000 patients and logged over 72,000 outpatient visits to its facilities. The data network of this regional non-profit company connects all of its outlying clinics to its central location in Wausau.

Growth poses a challenge

As Aspirus grew, so did its IT infrastructure. Because of its many remote facilities and high concentration of applications in its central location, keeping ahead of growth became a constant challenge. Over the last few years, the facility’s storage multiplied rapidly in its mixed operating system, 700-server data center. This put a tremendous stress on the tape backup systems, software, and backup administration. The company needed to reduce their backup window while centrally managing the increase in storage.
“Backups have always been very time consum¬ing from an administrative standpoint,” said Mark Chickering, Server Analyst II for Aspirus. “As much as we would like it to be a ‘set it and forget it’ process, it’s way too important for that. We are constantly looking for easier, faster solutions with smaller backup windows.”
If backup were not enough of a challenge, the complexity of managing and securing a growing number of network clients across mixed Windows and Unix operating environments caused security and reliability concerns as well. Maintenance of applications and upgrades of servers also began to consume more and more human resources.

Solving backup gridlock

Working with a Symantec consultant, ITS Partners, Aspirus began a roll-out of Veritas NetBackup in 2005 to not only centralize and consolidate backup operations, but also to move to a disk-to-disk-to-tape solution. “It’s been most significant to me that we’ve revamped our backup windows,“ said Mark Chickering. “By adding faster hardware on the receiving end with the de-dupli¬cation of ExaGrid, and the ease of changing our policies in Veritas NetBackup, we were able to get our backup windows under control.”
Tape was then relegated to archiving the disk-based backup sessions. As a result, restores and complete backups were an order of magnitude faster, and Aspirus saved hours in management productivity.

Revamped virus protection and end–to-end management

With over 700 servers and thousands of network clients, the Aspirus IT group next called on ITS Partners to identify a centralized management solution that would inventory its vast network and provide policy-based software delivery. The group installed Altiris Client Management Suite and the Altiris Software Delivery Solution to track and maintain the applications running throughout the enterprise, including license monitoring. Meanwhile, the Altiris Server Management Suite unified the management of all Unix and Windows servers, including scripting of administrative tasks and automated patch management.
With management under control, Aspirus tackled the task of implementing comprehensive enterprise-wide virus protection by replacing older software. Any new software needed to fit into the new centralized management scheme and provide additional network security. After extensive research, the company decided to replace its current McAfee VirusScan with Symantec Endpoint Protection. “We decided to go with Symantec Endpoint Protection 11.0, not only because of the features, but because of the integration with Altiris. We would then have a smaller footprint, and a more robust, endpoint protection environment for our whole organization,” said Glynn Hollis, Director of Technical Services at Aspirus. As a result, Symantec Endpoint Protection replaced other Trend Micro, Webroot, and McAfee antivirus and anti-spyware products at Aspirus, providing one centralized solution for enterprise protection.
Data recovery from Symantec Online Storage is equally uncomplicated. Since the contents of the data backup can be catalogued, restoration involves simply creating and running a restore job. Restored data can go back to the original location, or it can be redirected to an alternate location.

Saving costs while raising reliability

While the full upgrade to its systems took nearly four years, Aspirus now has a more secure and reliable infrastructure. As a tremendous benefit, the company also realized a $2 million cost savings in labor and management over its previous system. The following is a summary of the savings for Aspirus:
  • Through streamlined data backups from January 2005 through December 2009, Veritas NetBackup will save an estimated $200,000 in IT labor costs.
  • Veritas NetBackup will reduce the amount of time spent managing and troubleshooting backups from January 2005 through December 2009, saving an estimated $400,000.
  • Altiris Client Management Suite will net an estimated $18,000 in IT labor productivity improve¬ments through streamlining server imaging from January 2005 to December 2009.
  • Using Altiris Client Management Suite, Aspirus realized about $430,000 in IT labor productivity gains.
  • Endpoint Protection will produce an estimated $960,000 in end-user labor productivity gains from May 2008 through December 2009.
For more information, click here to read the full success story about Aspirus, Inc.

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