Cloud Project of the Year
Benenden Health offers high quality, private healthcare at the same affordable cost for everyone. This includes round the clock care such as 24/7 GP and mental health helplines, plus speedy access to services such as physiotherapy and medical treatment. As a not-for-profit organisation, Benenden Health’s focus is to offer support to its 800,000+ members at the same affordable cost per person per month. Benenden Health enlisted Node4’s cloud services to help it deliver 24/7 GP support throughout the pandemic, embark on an ambitious digital transformation project and redesign its IT infrastructure to enable it to scale rapidly.
What was the driving force behind the project – what business or technology challenge needed to be addressed?
As a market-leading private healthcare provider, IT applications underpin Benenden Health’s business. The core applications and the data that sits behind them are a vital aspect of the day to day running of the business - data informs everything from caseload management, capacity planning and decision-planning.
Benenden Health is a growing organisation and its IT infrastructure platform was no longer able to keep pace with this growth. Additionally, there were long lead times involved in provisioning new capabilities. With this in mind, Benenden Health decided to take a step back, embarking on a complete digital transformation, redesigning the IT infrastructure into a rapidly scalable and highly available solution to support Benenden Health’s growth for the future. However, due to different licensing models that were already in place, moving the IT infrastructure to a hybrid cloud was the only option. Benenden Health reviewed 10 different suppliers before finding Node4, checking its data centres as well as meeting the vendors’ IT teams.
How did the solution address the challenges and were there any particularly innovative aspects that made it stand out?
Node4 is an industry-leading cloud infrastructure provider with a CMSP (Cisco Master Services Provider) accreditation and one of only nine UK organisations to be awarded Microsoft Azure Expert MSP status. Node4’s cloud virtualisation, storage and backup platform have been purpose-built in-house to deliver enterprise-grade resiliency. Node4’s hybrid cloud offerings provide a cost-effective model that balances ongoing usage and peaks in project demand while helping organisations reduce capital expenditure.
Benenden Health selected Node4’s hybrid cloud and disaster recovery (DR) solution to form the basis of an upgraded cloud-first, DR supported architecture, which has enabled Benenden Health to keep sensitive member data secure and allow for rapid scalability and flexibility. This followed the adoption of cloud-based technologies such as migrating to Microsoft Azure and Office 365.
By working with Node4, Benenden Health now has a resilient cloud environment, 24/7 tailored support and a scalable roadmap that will grow with its digital needs. An important aspect of its switch to Node4 was to ensure its critical infrastructure was DR capable. Handling sensitive patient data means that working with a highly accredited and fully secure provider such as Node4 was imperative.
“The first stage in our journey was to take a step back and look at exactly what was available to us. Node4 gave us a stable platform, which helped us to focus on other areas of the business first. After solidifying where we were internally, we were then able to look at the long-term strategy for providing key services to our members,” commented Chris Mullins, Head of IT at Benenden Health.
“It was important to us that we gain a partner that works as an extension of our core IT team, and that is what we have found in Node4. As we move into a cloud-driven approach, it is reassuring to know that we have a fully scalable platform that will support our digital transformation initiatives, ensuring that our members are provided with a modernised and always-on experience.”
What major challenges were faced during the project and how were they overcome?
Transitioning from old IT infrastructure to new is often challenging. However, during the main transition weekend, Node4 excelled in its customer service, and its engineers showed high levels of communication, reacting quickly to ensure Benenden Health’s process ran smoothly.
Then, the Covid-19 pandemic hit. As a healthcare organisation this put significant pressure on Benenden Health and meant it was absolutely critical that the services it could continue running were uninterrupted, all while deploying remote working. The pandemic impacted some of the services Benenden Health provides to its members, with private hospitals delaying treatment to help the NHS with the pandemic. This meant that access to treatment was delayed for Benenden Health members, so it was really important that other available services, such as its 24/7 GP and mental health helplines, were able to support members to get help quickly if they needed it.
Node4 was able to scale Benenden Health’s solutions to support its move to remote working. Its website relies on Node4 hosted applications. Having the continued backend applications supported by Node4 meant that Benenden Health did not have to deploy IT staff into the office, removing the risk of being unable to get suppliers to attend the site in the face of an issue occurring. Node4’s MPLS was also able to ensure continued connectivity between Benenden Hospital and Society.
What tangible benefits has the organisation seen as a result of the project's implementation?
As a result of choosing Node4’s solutions, Benenden Health has embarked on the beginning of its digital transformation journey. Before, the company operated on-premises solutions and was inwardly focused. Now, Benenden Health is cloud-first, meaning it can adopt the latest technologies as and when required.
When Benenden Health first started looking into its cloud-first journey, it realised it would need a large CapEx to support the uptime, capability and capacity its business requires. Now, Node4 has taken away Benenden Health’s CapEx worries by delivering all cloud services.
The initial DR failover tests conducted by Benenden Health and Node4 have offered a major step-change in capability compared to its previous provider. It has shown the failover can take less than five minutes to the Northampton DR site, with Node4 looking to reduce this further as the solution is refined.
“Thanks to Node4, we are now on the ‘front foot’, rather than being reactive. When the business wants us to move in a different direction, we are able to do it without a challenge. The risks involved were definitely worth taking,” said Chris Mullins, Head of IT at Benenden Health.
“We no longer have to worry about trivial things such as whether there is enough RAM. It’s all taken out of our hands - Node4 looks after it all. The biggest benefit though, is that our users haven’t noticed a difference. The migration took place over a weekend and when everyone came back in on Monday, everything was normal and worked as normal. No one was aware anything had even happened,” explained Chris.