Global NGO Goes All-In with Azure
IntraHealth International is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving global health by strengthening the capacity of health workers and health systems in underserved communities. Their mission revolves around the belief that well-trained and supported health workers are essential to delivering quality healthcare and achieving positive health outcomes worldwide.
The organization works tirelessly to provide essential services, uplift communities, and drive change where it’s needed the most. Technology simply cannot get in the way.
In 2017, IntraHealth realized that securing and managing a global infrastructure of servers and networks was untenable. They turned to Microsoft Azure, and nearly seven years later, that decision continues to pay dividends. Since eliminating the burden of tactical IT tasks, IntraHealth has spent its valuable time innovating and supporting the vision and mission of the organization.
Azure has enabled IntraHealth to provide modern services in support of their international mission. By extension, it’s enabling its governmental and private donors to better respond to health crises. Read on, or listen in, as we learn more about their journey in this case study with IntraHealth’s Senior IT Executive, Jojo Almario.
Almario explains IntraHealth’s mission and how his team supports it:
Disrupting the Status Quo
Jojo, the Senior IT Manager of the firm, is a driving force behind the transformation. The pivotal decision to shift from traditional data centers to cloud computing brought several advantages, including ransomware protection, immutable backups, and streamlined system management.
The move to a virtual data center in Azure also alleviated the difficulties and expenses associated with managing physical servers globally, enabling IntraHealth to focus more on their core mission.
Almario discusses the Benefits of Using Azure:
Azure: IntraHealth’s Virtual Data Center
Currently, IntraHealth uses a diverse set of Azure services, including 10-15 virtual machines, two app services, a data factory, storage accounts for backups, and recently containers for serverless compute.
Azure’s role in ensuring data resilience for IntraHealth International cannot be overstated. Jojo outlined their use of Azure Backup to safeguard virtual machines, databases, and files, emphasizing the importance of system and state backups, as well as file and database backups. “Also, for any site or VM that we have in Azure,” Jojo outlined, “we always put a Domain Controller just so that we can replicate back and forth on-premises and to Entra ID.”
Jojo summarizes IntraHealth’s services in Azure:
The Migration Weekend
Almario shared the ease of the migration to Azure. Assisted by eGroup | Enabling Technologies, the team created Azure Site Recovery (ASR) instances, which mirrored production servers on-premises.
“ASR was not the only resource we could use for migrating from on-prem to Azure, but it was probably the most seamless way,” outlined Almario. “You first set up Azure as a disaster recovery environment and set all servers to take constant backups to Azure. I could choose the time to throw the switch, and I knew I have the freshest, most available copy to run production in Azure. It all occurred on a night where after everybody went home, I flipped the switch. Once I did, our stakeholders and clients never saw any difference.”
Thorough planning and design made the cutover a non-issue:
Economics Were Immediately Apparent
Immediately, Almario began to see his team’s time being spent on more strategic initiatives. “It took a lot of those day-to-day duties and worries out of our hands,” Almario said. “You actually have to go into the numbers. Time is money, and when we compared all the time we spent on these on-prem systems, hour-to-hour, it was definitely cheaper to go on cloud infrastructure.”
Almario discusses the economies of cloud-scale computing:
Platform Services Further Simplify Administration
Knowing that Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) is still a relatively expensive variant of cloud computing, Almario’s driving his team to lower cost and improve time to market and resiliency. His team has begun to leverage Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) like Azure App Services, and is starting to use containers for serverless computing. “Not only do we not have to worry about hardware, but now migrating to Platform-as-a-Service helps us get rid of operating systems and just tune the environment,” explained Almario. “All we have to worry about are the essentials of it.”
Almario discusses the journey to PaaS:
Data Factory Provides a “True Picture” to Donors
IntraHealth collaborates with governments, non-governmental organizations, and local partners to build the skills and capacity of healthcare workers, promote gender equity in the health workforce, and enhance health systems to improve health outcomes and greater health equity.
Because its work is so vast, IntraHealth often needs to homogenize data from various sources. Azure Data Factory has proven to be a solid service to do so. “Our data factory provides a true picture to the donors and stakeholders of the success we’re having with the missions and foundations out in the field,” he said. Power BI enables non-technical associates to work with the data, and has enabled the hiring of data scientists instead of system admins, “We can focus less on backend systems and more on what the data tells us,” Jojo said, as he highlighted eGroup | Enabling Technologies’ role in translating and cleaning up the data.
Azure Backup Provides Resiliency Against Ransomware
IntraHealth uses Azure Backup to provide resilience of VMs, databases, and files. “We have other tools that we could do back up with,” Almario stated, “but in Azure Backup you have the ability to do both system and state backup. We also use Azure Backup to back up our on-premises domain controllers and print servers, so we can get copies off site also as part of our security policy.”
Having immutable backups and protection from ransomware were key drivers for IntraHealth. “The immutable backup rule is that I will always have at least one backup that has not changed,” Almario explained. “We use a staggered backup architecture and I have great confidence from the fact that the backups can’t be touched by anything else once they are backed up.”
Jojo discusses the backup techniques in use:
Security + Having a Trusted Partner
As a healthcare NGO, the world’s eyes are on IntraHealth. Jojo knows security issues will arise. “Always assume it’s going to happen to you if it hasn’t already,” Almario advised. “This is where having a partner involved helps, and this is also where we have used eGroup | Enabling Technologies. When we’re getting ready to do a formal scope of work, I always ask, ‘What am I missing here?’ and eGroup | Enabling points out vulnerabilities and alternatives.”
Jojo shared insights into IntraHealth’s security concerns and achievements.
Conclusion: A Transformative Journey
IntraHealth International’s partnership with Microsoft Azure and eGroup | Enabling Technologies is a testament to how technology can empower NGOs to achieve their noble missions. From data resilience to data factories and unified reporting, this NGO’s journey is an example of the positive impact that Azure can have on organizations dedicated to making the world a better place.
Jojo underscored the importance of collaborative decision-making when considering a move to Azure. Consulting with a team is crucial to justify investments in professional services and additional spending.
Almario offers some final advice:
eGroup | Enabling Technologies is proud to support the mission of IntraHealth International. Its Azure-powered digital transformation serves as an inspiring example for others in the nonprofit sector. Technology, when harnessed effectively, can be a powerful tool for good.
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