The Deployment, Step by Step

By Mike Miller Print this article Print

Upgrading an outdated network and installing a VOIP telephony system helps Samaritan Regional Health System save money and reduce frustration for professionals and patients.

The deployment was relatively painless because Siemens’ engineering and support team led us step by step through each phase of the deployment and empowered us to take ownership of the network once the install was finished.

The switches we chose to serve as the backbone of the net-
work provide scalable, wire-rate support for environments like ours, which require complete multilayer switching capabilities. Support for high-density 10/100/1000 Ethernet ports,

10 Gigabit Ethernet ports and dynamic routing capabilities was essential. With so many medical devices touching our network, we needed the ability to push GbE to the ports that needed them.

We also saw great value in the flow-based policy built into the switches. For the first time, our network has complete visibility. The IT staff has total control of individual users and can set up role-based access to all the voice/video/data applications.

The next step involved wireless and telephony. The wireless component was a crucial ingredient because it would drive both the wireless patient zone and the hospital’s Internet connection for visitors. We chose HiPath Wireless controllers and access points for remote connectivity.

With wireless, caregivers can securely check on a patient’s progress, regulate medication or add patient notes anywhere, anytime. The wireless software, controllers and access points gave us a cost-effective way to deploy 802.11a/b/g across the hospital, delivering wired/wireless integration, while supporting mobile voice, data and location-based applications.

For the telephony portion of the upgrade, we chose the HiPath 4000 VOIP solution. It united the previously fragmented phone system and has already reduced the cost of interdepartmental phone calls between the hospital’s facilities.

To manage the data, wireless and telephony infrastructure, we use NMS Policy Manager. This software allows my staff to automatically centralize all role-based access policies for users, applications, protocols, virtual LANs, ports and data flows.

A final piece of our network puzzle is the Plixer Scrutinizer. So far, this tool has worked seamlessly with our Siemens hardware and software. Scrutinizer conducts sFlow and NetFlow traffic analysis to tell us which users are demanding the most bandwidth and to help us remove any latency to improve VOIP voice quality. We can also receive trending reports and set up alarms on any high-risk activity, such as internal network SYN, NULL, FIN, XMAS Scans, RST/ACK worms, P2P, ICMP Unreach-able, illegal IP addresses, excessive Multicast traffic or known compromised Internet hosts.

Reduced Frustration, Higher ROI

Since implementing the Siemens Enterprise Communications solution, we have seen a significant increase in network efficiency, coupled with a decrease in help desk tickets throughout the hospital. While the troubleshooting versus proactive-planning ratio was once about 80 percent to 20 percent, we have completely flipped that ratio.

Instead of spending most of the day answering phone calls and responding to issues, we can plan for future processes, technologies and applications. As a result, our hospital user-satisfaction rate increased in the last year.

It wasn’t until the VOIP solution was up and running that we realized the sheer number of interdepartmental phone calls that occur each day—and the thousands of dollars per month the hospital is now saving with our new system. In addition to the modern VOIP features, the staff likes being able to call anyone within the hospital network by just pushing a button, instead of having to memorize a list of phone numbers. For the VOIP telephony segment of the deployment, we expect a full ROI in less than five years, which pleases the hospital’s administration.

And because of NMS and Plixer’s Scrutinizer, we now have unprecedented visibility into the network, which has enabled us to create and enforce compliance policies that are crucial in the health care industry. We’ve also seen a decrease in the costs associated with the hospital’s energy consumption, tech support and maintenance. Another bonus: Enterasys switches come with a lifetime warranty, so we don’t have to allocate funds to replace failed switches.

It’s been fairly easy to implement, configure and manage the network. Today, my staff of two administrators can focus on helping our caregivers in the hospital instead of troubleshooting the network. We no longer hear the phrase, “That’s a network issue.” 

Mike Miller, network administrator for Samaritan Hospital, has 13 years of IT experience and manages the network infrastructure.

This article was originally published on 2010-08-17
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