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New Zealand Red Cross
With any organisation, a resilient and robust IT system is a desirable commodity. There were a number of reasons Red Cross decided to take the steps towards a transformation of their current IT systems.
There was a significant risk posed to the organisation by the Red Cross network being completely dependent on National Office when national office is 80 metres from a major earthquake fault line. All information services either were provisioned from or passed through national office. If national office went down due to a natural or man made disaster then the whole network went down.
The existing infrastructure was also overdue for replacement and was no longer adequate for existing demands.
Requirements were developed and an investigation of options including replacing existing infrastruture or move to a cloud based Infrastructure As A Service (IAAS) model. Some of the key requirements is that Red Cross information services are independent of any Red Cross office and that there is minimal physical infrastructure required to be maintained by Red Cross IT.
Discussions were held with various providers and the preferred option was an IAAS model presented by McDonalds and OneNet with Telesmart providing the WAN.
The internal IT infrastructure of Red Cross needs a complete redesign and overhaul to improve efficiency and day to day performance for their 300 plus users. The issues they are facing are as follows.
Red Cross New Zealand engaged with McDonalds IT and asked them to provide a road map for an improved IT solution.
McDonalds IT provided Red Cross with a virtualized hybrid cloud solution for the existing infrastructure to work alongside their newly implemented Office 365 platform.
Fujitsu had povided and configured a VM Ware host for Red Cross and recommended McDonald’s IT as a recommended IT provider. One of the first steps taken by McDonald’s IT were to move existing virtual machines from the SQL server to this new host. This allowed us to migrate and consolodate production servers and provide them with a stable platform.
We created a trust between the Refugee Services and Red Cross organisations and migrated the users and computers to the one common domain. A tidy up of the existing active directory domain and expired objects was carried out using Powershell scripts.
A daily backup plan was put in place using Backup Assist software that included weekend off-site couriering of backup drives to a remote location.
A network redesign with a separate private and public WLAN model in the head office using an Aruba Networks controller and Aruba 105 access points. The SSID’s were created on seperate VLAN’s from the internal Wellington network to free up DHCP addresses for local clients.
We recommended and built a System Centre Configuration Manager virtual server in the Red Cross domain with a view to it managing important Windows security updates and large computer groups. An existing SOPHOS central management server had already been implemented in Red Cross but McDonald’s IT assisted with server schedules for anti-virus rollouts.
Firewall’s at Refugee Services and Red Cross Wellington head offices were replaced and reconfigured with new higher spec Fortigate 100D model’s to handle the high traffic levels and monitoring set up for easy configuration of policies.
ISA Server removed from internet traffic flow and replaced with virtual SOPHOS UTM security applicance to manage web filtering, remote user access into the network and webserver protection.
On site Microsoft Exchange servers decomissioned to help towards the completion of the Office 365 solution already implemented at Red Cross
A private fiber WAN provided by Telesmart was installed to link remote sites and the Wellington head office to the cloud datacentre as a temporary measure until a new WAN is implemented folloIwng a Telecommunications RFP. Critical services were migrated to the cloud enviroment after carefully creating a step by step implementation plan. Once the virtual servers were moved to the cloud and the services up and running, a daily backup plan was implemented and real time monitoring initiated.
A number of benefits arose from the infrastructure and network redesign implemented by McDonald's IT including the following.
Production virtual machines that were moved onto a new dedicated host were given the resources required to run their applications at optimum level, improving user experiences and reducing performance related issues. By moving from a hardware to virtual environment the risk of physical damage to existing servers was dramatically reduced and the server room became more orderly and well-kept. There has been a significant risk reduction in terms of hardware failure and data loss due to the disaster prevention measures taken by the datacentre.
By merging the domains we made active directory more manageable for business as usual tasks and allowed us to plan security update roll outs using organizational units and device groups. Updating the schema of the domain controllers eradicated replication and synchronization errors we were receiving from the old Server 2000 DC. It also allowed us to move the Refugee Services and Red Cross data resources to one common shared environment in the cloud.
The daily on-site backup plan using Backup Assist software coupled with the monthly cloud retention backups allowed the IT team peace of mind should any important user data be accidentally deleted. With the option to take snapshots of servers on the new VM Ware host Red Cross were in a much stronger position to roll back configuration changes and recover fatal failures.
The implementation of the wireless solution using the Aruba controller and access points allowed us much more control over the WLAN and improved user experience. By creating private and public WLAN’s we could grant non Red Cross devices guest internet access while visiting the head office and allow staff members to access their internal private resources. By splitting the networks onto their own separate VLAN’s we also managed to resolve the DHCP issue where devices were running out of assignable IP addresses.
The newly configured and higher spec’d firewall’s on both sites reduced the number of network related issues and improved traffic flow and network routing. With the firewall’s not running at full disk utilization we could add the new fibre optic WAN connection as an interface and route internet traffic through the high speed link, greatly increasing the speed of browsing for users and allowing them to access cloud resources as if they were on the local network.
Removing the historical ISA 2003 server and replacing with SOPHOS UTM virtual firewall not only provided more resilience but gave us advanced network functionality and allowed us to set up remote access for users through a web portal, web filtering and web server protection. This device also gave us a new entry point into the network for external sources and as the firewall has grown business critical we are in the process of configuring a high availability solution to eliminate the single point of failure.
Decommissioning the on-site Exchange servers and moving to Office 365 not only provided the Red Cross with a more transparent email solution but allowed their users remote access from anywhere in the world with an internet connection. Alongside Office 365 the previously installed ADFS solution also allowed the users single sign-on access to applications throughout the organisation alleviating the need for multiple passwords.
Moving the critical services to a private cloud data centre had many benefits. IT processes are streamlined, servers are dedicated to individual applications improving performance and with a refresh of the aging infrastructure and simplified network a robust and reliable IT environment was created. Backup and recovery of critical systems are taken care of, unlimited storage capacity for data and quick deployment of entire servers allows fully functional systems within a matter of minutes.
Perhaps the most important benefit throughout the entire project is the creation of a resilient platform for information services leaving Red Cross staff safe in the knowledge they now have a stable IT platform to perform their day to day tasks on.
The implementation of this project was carefully planned, involved several parties and took ten months to fulfill, bearing in mind this was quite an exceptional case with many small steps taken to achieve the final goal.
McDonald's IT worked alongside the IT team in Red Cross, the private data centre engineers, the WAN providers, Microsoft software partners, bespoke software engineers and network experts to formulate the end results.
One of the first things implemented was the backup plans to ensure the user’s data was safe. This was quickly followed by the implementation of the new host VM and migration of servers to stabilize the environment. Once we were happy the platform was sustainable we moved onto migrating the Refugee Services domain into Red Cross, tidying up and restructuring active directory and moving the email platform to the cloud.
With the above in place we upgraded the firewalls on the remote sites in preparation for the new fiber WAN and configured the new virtual firewall in preparation for the traffic it would shortly receive. We then started migrating services to the cloud, removed the ISA server from the environment and configured the new virtual firewall to allow remote connections for users and external resources. The final task was to configure the wireless network controller and make sure the model could be replicated throughout the remote sites.
With such an expansive and varied project there were many obstacles along the way which were tackled with team brainstorming, expert advice from third parties, weekly project meetings with Red Cross and several late nights! The outcome is truly rewarding however and we are happy to go the extra mile for a client we truly care about.
In summary, this project was rewarding for both Red Cross and McDonald's IT, who have since become a loyalty partner with the organization.
The biggest advantage for the Red Cross IT team is peace of mind their internal infrastructure is now robust and designed to support their user’s needs. They no longer have to worry about constantly “firefighting” reoccurring daily issues and can concentrate on supporting the business needs and growth.
An additional benefit is the data centre team who as and when required can troubleshoot and assist with any issues that may arise. They also provide monitoring on all business systems and can advise when there is a potential issue in the pipe line, allowing preventative maintenance and giving the Red Cross IT team additional comfort.
Now that the Red Cross are in a position in which their internal environment is in a healthy and strong position, they can look to the future in terms of new technologies. They are already looking to do so by implementing Direct Access to truly globalize their framework with the help and guidance of McDonald's IT.
Products and Services used
The following products and services were used during this solution;
Services provided by other companies
The following external companies contributed to the solution each with their own technical expertise;