Using the best technology to help deliver on its mission to serve Canadians living with arthritis is critical to the success of The Arthritis Society, but doing that on a charity’s budget posed a challenge. One answered by managed IT services.

The Arthritis Society provides education, programming and therapy services to support the over 4.6 million Canadians living with arthritis, and depends on technology to help reach and interact with such a large audience. How- ever, implementing the latest and greatest technology can be an impossibly costly endeavour for a charity. The organization turned to TELUS Managed IT Services to cost-effectively implement the leading-edge technology that brings the organization flexibility, agility and operational efficiency to support its important mission.

Seeking out IT efficiencies

As the largest non-government funder of arthritis research in Canada, The Arthritis Society has invested more than $185 million towards research projects that have led to advances in the diagnosis, treatment and, importantly, the care of people living with arthritis. It’s safe to say that the not-for-profit organization under- stands the importance of innovation and advancing capabilities.

The Arthritis Society takes a broad approach in its goal to improve the quality of life for people living with arthritis, and its many initiatives are increasingly tied to technology, such as its new community engagement tool, thepain.ca which helps gives a voice to those impacted by arthritis— its social media campaigns through Facebook and Twitter, and numerous educational and informative Web portals.

“We are operating and competing in the challenging area of health information and services. To support our initiatives we need to implement the leading-edge technologies that you would find in the private sector, but the perception has been that such technology is simply not affordable or accessible for a not-for-profit,” says Carlos Palacio, Vice-President of Information Technology and CIO at The Arthritis Society. “This is not true: you just have to be open to creative solutions. Still, as a not-for-profit we don’t have the unlimited resources of some enterprises, so it’s even more important we find a cost-effective way to meet our IT goals.”

Overcoming complexity creep

In addition to the high cost of top-tier technology, the need to keep that technology current across the organization’s 32 offices coast to coast—some in remote areas, and serviced by multiple vendors using disparate technologies—increased complexity, which in turn created inefficiencies. The organization saw an opportunity to reduce its operational costs both by consolidating its communications and network under one service provider, and by moving to a managed IT services model.

The Arthritis Society moved its data to TELUS’s Tier 3 Plus data centre in Toronto, where the provider designed a flexible man- aged service plan tailored to the Society’s specific needs: TELUS procures and manages the computing, storage and security layer, and ensures uptime and quality of service; while The Society maintains control of and manages the software and application layer. For The Society, this flexibility offers the best of both worlds, building on its own IT experience, especially around visualization, while leveraging TELUS’s data centre expertise and hardware behind the scenes.

Importantly, should The Society quickly need additional computing resources, such as during its annual Walk to Fight Arthritis charity drive, its infrastructure can be easily scaled up when needed or rapidly upgraded if required.

“Hosting through TELUS gives us a best-of-breed data centre, and the agility and flexibility that comes with that. We are able to draw extra resources in a crunch and can quickly upgrade technology or expand, without the capital cost of owning our own servers,” says Palacio.

Turning to a single technology provider also lets The Arthritis Society more easily implement complex IT initiatives, knowing that the technology is already standardized and will integrate seamlessly.

“We can focus our attention and investment on achieving new levels of operational efficiency, which for us will ultimately be in the cloud,” he adds. “TELUS Managed IT is giving us the flexibility to grow and think bigger.”

Top-tier tech, security and resiliency

TELUS worked closely with The Arthritis Society to transition from their former co-location environment to its data centre, where the organization can take advantage of the same best-in- class technology the provider uses for its own IT services, but without facing the capital costs that would make such technology unattainable.

“Partnering with TELUS gives us the best tools available to help our teams accomplish their mission of helping arthritis pain sufferers; it gives us access to leading-edge technology we would have been barred from due to the cost,” Palacio says. “Now we’re receiving the next generation of data centre resiliency and robustness at a reasonable cost. If you tried to replicate it yourself as a not-for-profit, you simply couldn’t pay for it.”

Given the sensitivity of The Society’s database of program participants, volunteers and donors, the high levels of security and resiliency offered by TELUS’s data centre were critical in the decision to move to the company’s Managed IT solution, according to Palacio. Their data is stored on a dedicated Tier 2 storage area network (SAN), accessible only by his IT team, and backed up for redundancy.

Having completed its first phase of work with TELUS—the move to the managed data centre and a separate consolidation of its communications services—The Arthritis Society has already seen an associated cost reduction of approximately 10 per cent. With its reduced operational costs
and complexity, the organization has started a five-year plan to incorporate cloud capabilities to achieve further IT efficiency.

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But it’s about more than just the savings and efficiencies, it’s about being able to support the fight against arthritis with the best tools available, suggests Palacio. TELUS Managed IT hosting has helped The Arthritis Society do that affordably.

“There’s an unfortunate myth in the market that access to a top-tier data centre is expensive. TELUS’s supportive team helped us recognize that it is just that: a myth.”