Q9 prescribes data centre solution for Medic-Alert

The Canadian MedicAlert Foundation has decided to outsource its Web site and over one million medical records of its members to a Toronto-based managed services company.

Q9 Networks Inc. is providing physical space, power and managed bandwidth services at its Toronto data centre to the foundation, which is celebrating MedicAlert Awareness Month. Q9 Networks has two other data centres in Brampton, Ont., and Calgary.

MedicAlert, which provides emergency medical information services linked to bracelets and necklets for Canadians with medical conditions such as diabetes, decided to outsource this part of its business as part of its disaster recovery plan, said company CFO Robert Ridge.

“One of the things that we’re doing in tandem with this is building our disaster recovery plan,” said Ridge. “We constantly challenge ourselves to find where we may be exposed. We constantly look to plug those holes.”

Q9 Networks was an attractive option in part because of its physical and network security features which include biometric readers at the main entrance and customer enclosure, bulletproof entrances, 24 by 7 security guards and a managed firewall service at the network level.

“People are looking at their businesses and they’re saying how can we continue our business and not expose our business to irreparable harm from disasters,” said Osama Arafat, CEO of Q9 Networks. “That’s what’s driving people to look at disaster recovery strategies.”

Darin Stahl, research lead at InfoTech Research Group in London, Ont., said many companies look to outsourcing their data centre infrastructure to fulfill their disaster recovery plan (DRP) requirements. Stahl said that 18 per cent of mid-sized enterprises outsources their data centre needs, but there are other aspects of IT that are being outsourced to a greater extent. Thirty-three per cent of mid-size companies outsource application development, for example.

“IT infrastructure is expensive,” said Stahl, who covers data centre, server and storage research for InfoTech. “The opportunity to convert your fixed IT costs into variable costs that are linked to usage is a real strong driver especially in medium-sized enterprises.”

Under the deal, MedicAlert pays a monthly fee for each one of the services. Ridge said MedicAlert considered upgrading its data centre but decided outsourcing it would be a better option.

“It would have been difficult to duplicate the degree of redundancy that Q9 has here,” said Ridge, adding that the Web site and database are co-located at MedicAlert and Q9 Networks. “There are some savings involved in having it outsourced but they weren’t the driver for making the decision.”

MedicAlert, which is located at the 404 and 401 highways in Toronto, said the location of Q9 Networks’ data centre and the fact it was a separate location were also factors in its decision.

“We could have invested in improving our own data centre but that wouldn’t have put us in a better position should the entire building become inaccessible,” he said.

InfoTech’s Stahl said the need to increase service availability without increasing IT headcount and acquire skills and resources in areas like Web skills and development are also motivators for companies to outsource their IT infrastructure.

MedicAlert, which currently supplies emergency information to first responders by a 24 by 7 hotline in California, is also exploring the possibility of handling these transactions over the Web.

“We’re going slowly,” said Ridge. “We want to ensure the data would be as available as it is now.”

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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