One of the biggest challenges for organizations running Microsoft Exchange is building a flexible and scalable directory service. Today’s distributed devices, systems and architectures further complicate the task.
At MaineHealth, a not-for-profit collection of 17 health care clinics and medical centers located in Central and Southern Maine, the task was particularly onerous. Prior to an Active Directory (AD) modernization initiative, the organization was spread across 21 AD domains encompassing 25,000 users and 18,000 mailboxes, each with its own AD directory.
“We were faced with a very challenging set of circumstances,” says Paul Caron, supervisor for information systems at Maine Medical Center. “In many cases, people couldn’t communicate easily. It was impossible for a supervisor to mail people outside the immediate group or organization, or view schedules without knowing the exact email address of the recipient. Oftentimes, they had to pick up the phone in order to make the connection.”
In addition, interfaces were aging, components from different vendors were conflicting, and meeting requirements for government compliance—particularly in regard to electronic medical records—were at risk.
The situation was unsustainable. “There were no standards, and there was a lot of chaos and confusion as a result of multiple directories and processes,” Caron explains. “The situation had become an administrative and practical nightmare.
“We had different facilities using different password and authentication methods. Some physicians and others had to remember half a dozen different passwords.”
Revamping and Migrating
As a result, MaineHealth turned to Dell’s Software Windows Migration & Management group to revamp the Active Directory infrastructure and migrate users en masse.
The goals? Allow users to create one account and one password that would work at any facility within the organization. In addition, introduce streamlined codes and systems to reduce errors and delays.
MaineHealth began the project about two years ago and has completed the migration of eight domains. The organization relied on a team of about 25 people from different internal groups to provide input and oversee the transition.
“We turned to Dell because we didn’t want to have the staff become migration experts,” Caron recalls. “We wanted to use them in more strategic and opportunistic ways.”
The initiative has transformed the organization and helped it unveil a more modern infrastructure that operates at digital speed—and with better security. In addition to employees and staff communicating faster and more efficiently, the AD consolidation has delivered other benefits that revolve around highly integrated networks.
For example, MaineHealth now has a consolidated view of licenses, storage, backups and day-to-day operations, Caron points out. That, in turn, has rippled into more efficient IT oversight and administration.
“In the past, some of the local facilities using contracted support were handling support in a very haphazard and ad hoc way,” he explains. As a result, once driving time was factored in, a call to an outside vendor for support sometimes resulted in a $40 mouse becoming a $250 session.
“That’s no longer the case,” Caron reports. “Overall, we have taken a huge step forward.”