Charity foundation outsources to protect data


Secure systems and reliable servers are critical for donor organizations that supply funding during crises like the recent earthquakes in Chile and Haiti.

The Vancouver Foundation, responsible for $700 million worth of endowments for 1,300 not-for-profit funds, recently decided outsourcing its entire IT infrastructure was the best route to take in order to protect data and ensure security in the event of a crisis occurring in B.C.

“If something would happen in Vancouver like an earthquake, we have a fund that would provide relief, but of course, we have to be able to access those funds in the time of the disaster, so it’s rather important … that our servers don’t go down,” said Karina Thomas, director of IT at the Vancouver Foundation.

From an IT perspective, the recent events in Haiti and Chile show how important it is for donor organizations to maintain and keep their services up and online because so many donations are made through online sources, she noted. It’s equally important for the donor organizations to be able to contact their donors through their systems, she said. 

The Vancouver Foundation recently selected Canadian managed IT solutions provider Fusepoint Managed Services Inc. to provide all of its application and infrastructure support.

Outsourcing made sense from both a staffing and disaster recovery perspective, according to Thomas. “Because we are managing up to $700 million of donors that are rather significant in our community, we don’t want to be in a position where we have potential breaches of security,” she said.

But with a total of 52 staff and four staff in IT, it “wasn’t feasible to have the depth of knowledge that we wanted in-house,” she said. “We have such a small volume of servers and such a small IT staffing footprint, it didn’t make sense.” 

And even if the Foundation did bring in that highly trained skill set, “it would probably be a one- or two-day a week type position and wouldn’t actually give them enough from a professional development viewpoint to retain that skill set we needed,” she said.

The decision to outsource was also based the Foundation’s need to be available in the event of a natural disaster, said Thomas. “We could have looked at co-location, but again, because of our needs around resourcing, it made sense to go with a managed service solution,” she said.

One of the reasons the Foundation selected Fusepoint in particular, according to Thomas, was the company’s background in managed services. “They started in the managed services arena, as opposed to some of the other people who started with co-location, and that seemed to be their strength,” she said.

Another benefit was Fusepoint’s multiple office locations, which includes an office in Vancouver as well as a facility in Toronto. “It’s very nice to have them physically located in Vancouver to work closely with us, but then have our data services actually located out in Toronto from a DRP perspective,” she said.

Fusepoint excels at redundancy issues and emergency response-type planning, said Thomas. “They basically have everything we would need to feel confident and comfortable with having our data there while also being in Canada” she said.

The implementation is expected to go live in within a couple weeks, said Randy Fougere, vice-president of marketing at Fusepoint.

“Once we cut live with the customer, they VPN into their application to make whatever changes they need at the business level, and really that’s all they need to worry about. It’s a pretty turnkey solution in terms of the hardware and the OS and the rest of the stuff that goes on behind the scenes,” he said.

Fusepoint will provide “basically the whole nine yards, other than the actual application they are supporting – the Web site,” said Fougere. This includes the application infrastructure, operating systems, database server, Web server, dedicated firewall, security, bandwidth, backup and a virtualized environment enabled by VMware.

Rather than migrate entire data centres into its facilities, Fusepoint performs “selective outsourcing,” Fougere pointed out. “We will manage the infrastructure piece for specific applications or specific customer projects and work with their IT team and really augment what their IT team does internally,” he said.

“They are basically going to be handling our entire server room infrastructure,” said Thomas.

Fusepoint will provide fully managed services for roughly half a dozen servers, which includes everything except Microsoft Exchange, said Thomas. But because the Foundation outsources Exchange and Blackberry services to the Electric Mail Company, which co-locates those services at Fusepoint, the data will remain centrally located, she noted.

The Vancouver Foundation is Canada’s largest community foundation and services large fundraising organizations such as the Red Cross and the United Way. “We have an agency page where you can go and view all of the non-profit agencies funds that we have and donate directly to any of them,” said Thomas. 

Follow me on Twitter @jenniferkavur 

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