Updated: Case Study: CompuCom saves the LifeGift Organ Donation Center money with a business continuity plan.
In the wake of hurricanes Rita and Katrina last year, CompuCom Systems found
that many of its customers were struggling, in some cases, to stay in business.
One new customer, however, was struggling to keep thousands of other people
alive and realized it needed high-powered technology to help make that possible.
That customer was Houston-based LifeGift Organ Donation Center, which turned
to CompuCom to design and implement a disaster recovery system to keep its systems
up and running, and the delicate flow of life-saving organs on track, even in
the event of a natural disaster or other catastrophe. CompuCom, based in Dallas,
took stock of LifeGifts infrastructure, as well as currently available
products, and concluded it could exceed the donation centers uptime and
recovery-time goals for only a fraction of its original budget.
"As hurricanes Rita and Katrina became a big topic here in Houston, LifeGift
realized they werent as prepared as they thought they were from an IT
perspective," said Charley Ballmer, solutions architect at CompuCom. "It
came to the forefront during Rita, when the expectation was that they could
shut down the system in Houston and transport tapes and restore data at their
Fort Worth location. They found that was not the case."
Rather than design a new system from the ground up, CompuCom worked to use
existing IT assets, including Symantec backup software, more wisely. The solution
provider also reduced the systems complexity to make management and maintenance
easier and to save money, trimming nearly $190,000 from the original projects
budget. LifeGift was so pleased with the results that it decided to concentrate
on the business of saving lives and outsource all its IT activities to CompuCom.
Making a difference
LifeGift transforms life-threatening situations into saved lives each day through
its organ donation program. One such case involved a 14-year-old boy from Austin,
Texas, whose severe cystic fibrosis left him unable to even laugh without risking
a collapsed lung. By teaming with surgeons at Texas Childrens Hospital,
in Houston, LifeGift gave the teenager a second chance at life with a historic
double lung and liver transplant in January 2004.
"My transplant did not just save my life, but gave me a quality of life
I never thought I would ever have," the teenager wrote in the 2005 LifeGift
Annual Report. "I am now back in school, I can sleep an entire night,
and I can laugh. These are all things most people take for granted. Not me!"
Nationwide, more than 92,000 people currently are on the transplant list, waiting
for a call that tells them a heart, a kidney, a liver, eyes, or any of eight
other types of tissue or organs has become available. LifeGift is one of 58
organ-procurement organizations licensed by the federal government and serves
109 counties in Texas and such cities as Houston, Fort Worth, Lubbock and Amarillo.
The 120-person organization leads families who have lost a loved one through
the process of authorizing organ donation and draws recipients from the waiting
list maintained by the United Network for Organ Sharing, a nonprofit tasked
by Congress to supervise organ distribution and allocation in the United States.
For each organ, LifeGift gathers and manages up to 30 pages of medical information
to ensure that all potentially harmful issues are caught. The center documents
hundreds of medical items for each transplant, including lab tests, X-rays,
biopsies and more. "When a patient receives an organ, his or her immune
system is purposely suppressed so the body wont reject it," said
LifeGift President and CEO Samuel Holtzman. "Any disease in that organ
can kill the recipient."
The medical information is stored in the centers DonorTrack system,
said Rudy Taylor, a CompuCom network specialist who works on-site at LifeGifts
The information must be collected and shared quickly, since a donated organ
or tissue becomes unusable in a matter of hours. "Because so many people
are waiting," Holtzman said, "an organ lost is a life lost."
Help for the helper
In August 2005, just weeks after avoiding the effects of Hurricane Katrina,
LifeGift couldnt fend off Hurricane Rita and suffered a network outage.
"The IT director found that the only recourse was to disconnect the servers
and transport them to Houston," said CompuComs Ballmer. "IT put them down for a day and a half, and when they were up, they werent at full capacity."
In the aftermath of the hurricane, LifeGift decided it needed a better way to
ensure uptime so the organization put an IT upgrade at the top of its to-do
list. The stated objective was to ensure business continuity and to enhance
data protection in case of disaster, while minimizing IT costs and overhead.
"Many organizations can afford to go down for a couple hours," Holtzman
said. "But for us, that means someones going to die."
To find a solution partner, Holtzman polled business colleagues. Based on
the companys reputation with medical community colleagues, he selected
CompuCom. "We do a lot of work in a medical center in Houston, and they
have strong relationships with other area hospital facilities and recommended
us," said Ballmer.
LifeGift initially engaged CompuCom, a Platinum Partner of security vendor
Symantec, to review its disaster preparedness plans and provide recommendations
on best-practices solutions.
"LifeGift came to us with the stated goal of having us review their existing
hardware and software infrastructure and discover how their existing infrastructure
could fit into an updated disaster recovery plan," said Ballmer. "In
the event of a disaster, they wanted to be in a failover scenario rather than
a recovery scenario. They wanted us to help them discover a path to get to that
with minimal disruption within their environment."
Symantecs Backup Exec 11d shifts the focus to disaster recovery. Click here to read more.
To achieve this, CompuCom staff spent six weeks talking with LifeGift workers
to get a feel for how they leveraged data and technology, said Ballmer. "We
talked to people in business accounting, as well as clinical personnel, administrative
staff and people performing work at the hospital," he said. "We
wanted to figure out the path of what is constantly needed; what recovery times
needed to be; and to create a matrix of which data was absolutely critical,
somewhat critical and low-priority."
Putting it in practice
I n January 2006, the donation center asked CompuCom to put its recommendations
into practice. First, the solution provider upgraded LifeGift from Symantec
Backup Exec 9, which LifeGift was using in all three of its offices, to Version
10d of the backup suite and added Symantecs Backup Exec System Recovery
for data recovery.
CompuCom had determined that four LifeGift servers in Houston needed to be recoverable within a matter of hours: the Microsoft Exchange-based server, the file server, the Microsoft SQL server and a server that runs a LifeGift in-house application. With the new system, these four key functions could be quickly switched to any of the organizations remote sites in the event of a disaster.
CompuCom also consolidated the eight servers in LifeGifts Houston headquarters
down to six. "We sent the extra equipment to the Fort Worth office to
serve as standby equipment," said Ballmer.
Backup Exec System Recovery creates hourly recovery points, which are backed
up to tape by Backup Exec, on each server. CompuCom then set up the system to
replicate the Houston offices Backup Exec 10d and Backup Exec System
Recovery files every hour over an IP connection to the organizations
Fort Worth satellite office. The files sit there ready for use when needed,
and no transportation of tapes or relocation of hardware is necessary.
"We demonstrated to them that they had the ability to access data across
any one of the locations as if it is sitting in their physical office,"
Ballmer said. "Once a system goes down, they need zero interaction with
the system for the recovery. They werent even aware that that could be
Raising the bar
With the approach CompuCom recommended, LifeGift achieved significant savings
while reducing the threshold recovery times and recovery thresholds, Ballmer
said. Although LifeGift had budgeted $320,000 for consulting services, software
and hardware, CompuCom created a plan that would cost only $130,000 by leveraging
the organizations existing technology to meet its goals. Previously,
LifeGift had been considering a plan that would have cost $80,000 to buy four
new standby servers for its Fort Worth location, in addition to $60,000 in salary
benefits for a new IT staffer to administer them.
"We determined that they had a lot of the physical hardware infrastructure
in place, and they had purchased excess hardware in many areas," said
Ballmer. "In addition, they had already made a software investment in
Symantec for backup and recovery. That allowed us to come up with a creative
CompuCom also reduced administrative staff time required for daily backup activities by 92 percent, using automated reporting capabilities.
Better still, CompuCom dramatically exceeded LifeGifts objectives in
terms of recovery time. "In LifeGifts former disaster recovery plan, the recovery time objective [or RTO] to switch the four key servers from the primary site in Houston to the satellite office in Fort Worth was one day," Ballmer said. "With the new CompuCom-Symantec solution, theyre switched and running in 26 minutes, a 98 percent improvement."
In addition, the recovery point objective was decreased by 97 percent, from
48 hours to 1 hour, Ballmer said.
"CompuCom brought a level of expertise that is really quite incomparable
to anything else Ive seen," said LifeGifts Holtzman. "It certainly is light-years ahead of our previous system."
Building a reputation
The disaster recovery project proved so successful that LifeGift put CompuCom in charge of all its IT functions. "We implemented the service desk on Oct. 5," CompuComs Taylor said. "End users can call in from any of the four sites and receive assistance with their IT needs."
LifeGift has contracted for the service desk to handle up to 250 incidents for the monthly fee, with an option for more services as needed, Taylor said. "Now, users can call 24/7 and get the attention they need," he said. "LifeGift wants someone to pick up the phone in 60 seconds, and we are averaging 6 seconds per call."
In addition, CompuCom is helping plan the security and network technology and
infrastructure for a new facility that LifeGift will open in Houston in 2007.
The relationship has grown in other creative directions. For example, CompuCom has become a Workplace for Life partner company for LifeGift. "Weve made a commitment to evangelize what LifeGift and other organ procurement organizations do," Ballmer said.
To that end, the solution provider hosted an organ donor education day at its offices, at which 800 of its 1,200 employees registered to be a donor. "In this project, we became familiar with what LifeGift really does," Ballmer said. "Our work allows LifeGift to do what they do without having to worry about the technology behind it. It allows us to be part of something bigger than ourselves."
Hailey Lynne McKeefry, a partner in Professional Ink, has been writing about technology and channel topics for more than 17 years. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Solution Provider Quick Facts
Company CompuCom Systems
Number of employees 7,100
Years in business 19
Web site www.compucom.com
The problem: A disaster or outage could bring LifeGift Organ Donation Centers
systems down for a day or more, leaving it unable to match those waiting for
tissue and organ transplants with available donors. It was literally a life-and-death
The solution: Leveraging existing IT assets, CompuCom installed Symantecs
Backup Exec 10d and Backup Exec System Recovery and added on-site IT support.
The result: The CompuCom solution improved LifeGifts key recovery metrics
by more than 90 percent, reducing in-house staff in the process and saving $140,000
over an alternative disaster recovery plan LifeGift had considered.
Planned budget: $320,000
Actual spending: $130,000
Duration: September 2005 to present
Editors Note: This story was updated to correct the number of CompuCom employees.
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