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Leading healthcare provider gets a new data centre infrastructure in four months, plus improved IP telephony
Introducing new service-enhancing applications such as digital imaging and electronic patient records used to be unthinkable at one of the leading healthcare organisations in the US. The company’s single production data centre was under such strain that instead of being an asset it actually posed a business continuity risk.
BT helped solve the problem by creating the network infrastructure to support a second data centre in California within just four months. It then set to work on the organization’s patchwork of IP telephony systems, stitching them together to provide cheap, reliable calls. So the healthcare provider’s business is looking a lot healthier.
The BT system engineers brought in to work on the early deployments of VoIP found key problems and recommended solutions that made our VoIP deployments much stronger and scalable for the future. Having BT provide guidance before a larger rollout saved us a great deal of time and rework.”
- Senior Network Engineer, Integrated US Healthcare Organisation
When eight million people depend on your organisation for their health and wellbeing, you need to ensure nothing can put your systems in jeopardy. Hence the concern at an integrated healthcare organisation running around 30 medical centres across nine US states and Washington DC.
Prior to 2007, the organisation had one production data centre in California, with two subsidiary data centres for test and development work. Not only was the 20-year-old production data centre running out of capacity, to the point where it was proving impossible to cool the growing computer and storage estate, but also the architecture was not resilient. A disaster could have brought the organisation to a halt.
The situation could only get worse, as a Senior Network Engineer at the organisation explains: “Regulatory compliance, together with advanced applications such as digital imaging and electronic patient records, are just some of the factors that are causing data processing and storage requirements to shoot through the roof. That brings the need for a sharp focus on business continuity, because today information technology is literally our lifeblood.” Plus, he adds: “We also knew that we needed to embrace IP telephony, which would allow us to introduce advanced network applications and encourage more flexible and collaborative working right across our company.”
The organisation decided to create a second production data centre at a location in California. It then selected BT for a fast-track project to create the IP-based network infrastructure the new computing and storage estate would be built on.
We compared potential suppliers against a matrix that covered technical responses and pricing, together with the availability of reference customers to prove that they had the necessary capabilities,” says the Senior Network Engineer. “Not only did BT score well but it also showed a very proactive and commercially flexible approach to the bidding process.”
BT was able to get a new data centre network infrastructure up and running within four months. Then it contributed expert knowledge to a phased implementation of IP telephony across the organisation.
There had already been some activity prior to BT’s involvement, but site-specific IP telephony implementations by a third-party vendor had met with mixed success. So the first task for BT was to troubleshoot what had gone before.
The Senior Network Engineer says: “The BT system engineers brought in to work on the early deployments of VoIP found key problems and recommended solutions that made our VoIP deployments much stronger and scalable for the future. Having BT provide guidance before a larger rollout saved us a great deal of time and rework.”
In fact, BT created a centralised reference architecture that would enable the healthcare organisation to more easily and safely introduce IP telephony at and between other sites.
The data centre network infrastructure project went live under budget and ahead of schedule, enabling the healthcare provider to start loading applications such as its electronic patient record initiative, with substantial benefits for the organisation and its patients.
Just as importantly, the organisation was for the first time able to turn its attention to a coherent business continuity and disaster recovery strategy, giving stakeholders much greater peace of mind. In addition, the BT IP telephony analytical work not only improved service to users but also closed some serious security loopholes left from previous installations.
The Senior Network Engineer concludes: “Our partnership with BT is blossoming, but here on the West Coast the company’s capabilities must be one of the industry’s best-kept secrets. With the truly rewarding experience that we are having right now in working with BT, I don’t think that situation will last much longer.”
The data centre project
Before BT got involved, the healthcare organisation had already dimensioned a Cisco-based data centre network infrastructure at a conceptual level. BT technicians worked alongside the healthcare organisation to turn those top-level plans into detailed specifications. A BT project manager partnered with the organisation’s IT team to fine tune implementation plans, develop realistic milestones and coordinate the many phases involved.
The BT offer included:
- Verifying and procuring the necessary equipment
- Staging the network at its Oakdale deployment facility
- Stress testing a subset of the data centre architecture at a BT San Francisco POP
- Implementing and configuring the Cisco hardware at the data centre
This was all achieved within a non-negotiable four-month timescale. BT’s partnership with Cisco meant equipment orders could be turned around in just two weeks. Says the Senior Network Engineer: “The BT team was fast-paced, responsive, flexible and, above all, worked in a truly collaborative fashion.”
The IP telephony project
With the data centre project substantially complete, BT and the healthcare organisation turned their attention to the IP telephony system that would run over the Cisco-based network.
In the first phase of an organisation-wide adoption of IP telephony, standalone Cisco Unified CallManager installations are being interconnected. For example, BT has deployed 130 Cisco IP Phones at the new data centre. The IP telephony functionality is provided across the network, making economical use of an existing Cisco Unified CallManager at another site.
Besides creating a central reference architecture for IP telephony, BT provided training for the healthcare organisation’s people, not only to help them spot and avoid the mistakes that had previously been made but also to understand how to properly create quality of service hierarchies in the Cisco network.
Core BT Services
- Professional Services for project management, equipment specification and procurement, network stress testing and staging, commissioning and configuration
- Professional Services for IP telephony technical consultation, trouble shooting, cross-network implementation and technical training