Canadian Liver Foundation takes IT off site

With no in-house IT staff and a growing number of outdated servers and software, the Canadian Liver Foundation decided to upgrade its IT infrastructure to meet the demands of its employees and end users.

Instead of retrofitting its Toronto-based office to handle the new servers, though, the CLF opted to take its IT off-site – despite some serious reservations.

“Generally you want your servers where you can eyeball them,” Sandra Taylor, vice-president of health promotion at the CLF, said. “It’s the backbone of our business. It’s all our data, all our donor information and all our financial information. We really needed to have that secure.” Simply adding new technology to its current location, she said, was ruled out early on in the upgrade process. “Quite frankly, the room we were in wasn’t suitable in terms of cooling,” she added. “The power supply is not always the most reliable, either.”

After realizing that moving its IT off-site was the best option, the CLF contracted Fusepoint Managed Services Inc. earlier this year to help make the switch. The managed service provider – which has operations in Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, and Quebec City – provided the non-profit with services including collocation, bandwidth, tape backup, monitoring, and firewall protection.

Fusepoint President and CEO George Kerns said that just like any other major client it has, maintaining the security, availability and performance of CLF’s servers was a top priority.

“A non-profit is a challenge, really like any smaller business, because they have the same needs that larger companies do, but there are not a lot of resources there,” Kerns said. “Especially in this case, they have to keep track of volunteers, solicit donations, and maintain security around all that data. Using a third-party like ourselves makes sense because they couldn’t afford to do this themselves.”

To address the non-profit’s “server hugger” mentality, Kerns said demonstrating Fusepoint’s commitment to security and reliability was crucial. “Just from a physical standpoint, you have to go through a security desk and there are lots of card key access points,” he added. “We also run network intrusion detection software to make sure hackers are kept away and have security specialists on staff 24/7. Some of that may exist in an office environment, but it usually doesn’t.”

A few months into the agreement, Taylor agrees, saying that her organization’s IT infrastructure is far safer with Fusepoint than it ever was at its own headquarters.

“I’m more worried about the desktops and laptops we have floating around our offices now, as something could go wrong much more easily with them,” she said. “I have piece of mind having the servers actually out of this environment.”

For non-profits or smaller shops in a similar situation, Taylor advised that they take into consideration the long-term cost benefits and how an off-site service provider can fit into its budget. “If you are a smaller company, you can really benefit from putting your IT infrastructure into a secure location,” she added. “If we didn’t need to spend and arm and leg to retrofit our environment thing might have been different, but for now it’s a piece of the business that we don’t have to worry about.”

While neither party could disclose the financial details of the agreement, Kerns said that a single cabinet set-up at Fusepoint’s data centre – similar to what the CLF was using – would set a customer back about $1,500 to $2,000 per month.

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