Optimizing a Global Network

By Maria Behan Print this article Print

In its global battle against human rights abuses, International Justice Mission deploys advanced network technology.

Optimizing a Global Network

Before IJM centralized its network, its field offices and headquarters had separate e-mail servers and networks. “The communication from Chennai to our home office was more sporadic than it is now because we’ve centralized our e-mail system at headquarters,” Lax says. Under the new model, field offices such as Chennai are outfitted with a file server, a domain controller, a Riverbed Steelhead appliance and a Cisco ASA Adaptive Security Appliance firewall.

“When someone at a remote office sends a message in Microsoft Outlook, it’s routed through a Riverbed device, which concentrates it down in size,” he explains. “We’re getting about a fivefold reduction in size, which means five times more data can go through.”

The compressed e-mail is passed along to a local Cisco security device, which adds 256-bit encryption. When it arrives at IJM headquarters, the message is decrypted by an equivalent Cisco firewall device and then passed to a Steelhead appliance that restores it to its normal size. After that, it goes to IJM’s e-mail server for routing to the specified distribution list, which can include both on- and off-site recipients.

This technology also comes into play in IJM’s Microsoft SharePoint implementation. “We host SharePoint here at headquarters, and it’s available to all our field offices so they can access things like training materials,” he says. “As we implement workflows through SharePoint, Riverbed’s been working closely with us—and Microsoft—to optimize network connections.”

IJM’s enhanced network is also enabling a custom application that will pull together elements from Microsoft SQL Server and SharePoint for improved casework tracking and management. “The goal is a business intelligence system that will let us analyze all our casework,” Lax explains.

It’s the kind of project that fulfills the vision outlined for Lax when he interviewed for his position in 2007. “IJM’s founder, Gary Haugen, told me that the organization had an abundance of information but wasn’t mining that data or using it effectively to get its message across,” he recalls. Lax took the position to change that, and he finds the work immensely rewarding. “I’ve been in IT for close to 40 years, and I can honestly say that this is the best job I’ve ever had,” he says. “I go home at night with pictures in my mind of the people we’ve rescued. Despite all they’ve been through, they’re able to smile in those photographs. It is truly amazing.”

This article was originally published on 2011-01-28
Maria Behan is a freelance writer for Baseline
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