Improve the Delivery of Behavioral Health Services Using a Hybrid Cloud Solution
A Call for Intervention
Managing calls and communications effectively was all-important to a leading provider of telephony crisis assessment and intervention behavioral health services. To maintain their competitive edge in the marketplace, the provider recognized that they needed to make substantial improvements to their phone and IT systems.
Their goals included leveraging Microsoft Azure for their development and operations (DevOps) practices and moving away from their current remote data center in order to consolidate their phone and IT systems closer to their headquarters. A key driver for the change was to better support their rapid growth by scaling their systems: the combination of their in-house servers and the systems they had deployed with a colocation partner were simply not delivering the needed performance or reliability.
As an added challenge, their entire environment needs to be compliant with federal regulations since they process Protected Health Information (PHI). With an eye to the future, they were seeking an environment which allows them to comply with the Health Information Trust Alliance (HITRUST) Common Security Framework (CSF).
The health service provider wanted a better solution architected, deployed, and operated. They initially intended to move everything to the public cloud, and therefore contacted Atmosera. James Drake, Project Management at Atmosera, explained, “They needed a partner who could build a solution leveraging Azure. As we engaged with their team, we identified that their environment required a hybrid deployment using Azure, private cloud, and colocation deployed as one seamless solution.”
To maintain their competitive edge in the marketplace, a leading provider of behavioral health services recognized that they needed to make substantial improvements to their phone and IT systems.
The hybrid cloud solution combined Microsoft Azure and Virtual Machines (VMs) in a compliant multi-tenant environment based on the Microsoft Cloud Platform along with a number of storage, backup, and secure networking products. The provider’s telephony server and core databases were also moved to an Atmosera colocation environment and seamlessly integrated with the public and private cloud deployments.
Count on high availability, reliability, and scalability
Achieve HITRUST compliance and enterprise-grade InfoSec
Realize monetary savings from shared storage and compute resources
Maximize DevOps capabilities
Monitor and manage the complete environment
A Seamless Hybrid Environment
Atmosera’s architects collaborated extensively with the health service provider’s IT staff to determine the optimal environment. Many of their applications would have to be re-written to take advantage of Azure, it was determined that a combination of a private cloud and a public cloud offered the best compromise to meet their budget and timeline. The final solution entailed fourteen instances in Azure and nine Virtual Machines (VMs) in a compliant multi-tenant environment based on the Microsoft Cloud Platform. The provider’s telephony server and some of their core databases were also moved to an Atmosera colocation facility.
Colocation of the phone system with Atmosera guaranteed the health service provider high availability, constant monitoring, and enterprise-grade power with backup. “The core of their business revolves around their telephony,” stated Jeremiah Reinmiller, Senior Systems Engineer at Atmosera. “Having that never go down is crucial to them. That’s probably the biggest advantage they have realized: simply not having to worry.”
The multi-tenant cloud environment was designed with a dedicated firewall so that any activity within the networking space would remain secure and private to the health service provider. Such a hardened environment was critical to maintain HITRUST compliance. Resources such as storage and compute, however, would be deployed as shared resources. This lowered the overall cost while simultaneously delivering affordable scalability.
Atmosera also stood up the Azure infrastructure and integrated the colocation and Azure environments, enabling the health service provider to fully roll out their DevOps initiatives and deliver performance improvements for their internally-developed applications.
Atmosera’s involvement did not stop with architecting and deploying the environment. The health service provider’s internal IT resources were limited, which created a bottleneck for their growth. Atmosera assumed the ongoing management and maintenance of the hybrid environment, including managing the firewalls and switches. Clayton Siemens, Azure Architect at Atmosera, affirmed, “In addition to hosting the customer’s products and platforms, we act as their IT support shop. They can rely on us for design recommendations, issue remediation, and advice on best practices.”
Compliance at Every Step
Compliance was a critical matter in the design of the hybrid solution. HITRUST compliance requirements all had to be met – not just in the final hybrid IT environment, but throughout the deployment and installation. Trey Pautsch, Senior Enterprise Architect at Atmosera, confirmed, “We had to work within a secure bubble at all times to maintain the environment’s integrity.”
Information Security (InfoSec) was the responsibility of a team of experts at Atmosera. Pautsch stated, “Compliance is not always a black-and-white matter. Interpretation does play a key role. By having multiple people on our team, we were able to share approaches and best practices, and had internal checks and balances to ensure the best deliverable for the customer.”
Throughout the deployment, the team kept detailed documentation of what was done so the customer would be able to produce the necessary paperwork in the event of an audit. In the live environment, change management processes are carefully followed to maintain the integrity of every component of the solution and network at all times.
Support and Satisfaction
Atmosera’s support model was highly valuable during the design and deployment of the hybrid IT solution and remains a major ongoing benefit for the health service provider, delivering:
Whereas “big box” IT service providers may have a plethora of “off-the-shelf” products and services, they typically do not provide tailored solutions to meet a customer’s unique needs. Atmosera architected a specialized solution for the health service provider, drawing upon a multitude of products and services to deliver optimal results.
What a customer contracts for and what they actually end up needing may be two very different things. While many IT services providers will not deviate from the letter of their contract, Atmosera is comfortable having a project evolve over time, as occurred with the health service provider. The progression of events is as an integral part of delivering the best solution for the customer. The key is to excel at communicating clearly when changes should be considered, and documenting them when they are approved by the customer.
In many IT service organizations, one team designs and another team deploys. Such siloes delay implementation because, when problems are identified, they have to be shuffled back and forth between the design and deployment teams. At Atmosera, engineers are skilled in both design and development so that changes can be made ‘on the fly’ during the deployment process, as happened more than once with the health service provider’s solution.
The IT staff at the health service provider frequently contacts Atmosera to discuss matters pertaining to their hybrid cloud environment, and to verify industry best practices. Atmosera has earned the right to be a trusted advisor.
An Ongoing Partnership
Through the hybrid cloud solution, the health service provider has achieved all the goals set out initially, including mission-critical scalability, reliability, availability, and meeting compliance mandates. The ongoing partnership between the health service provider and Atmosera is one of trust and respect. As the health service provider’s IT needs continue to evolve and expand, Atmosera stands ready to help them realize their business objectives and deliver outstanding service for the many people who rely on their services.
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