Nonprofit Network Overhaul Assists Families of Ill Children
By Bill Thorsberg, PCWorld
In recent years, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Memphis has experienced its share of technological growing pains. The business staff of ten serves the families of children receiving medical treatment for cancer and other serious illnesses by providing a home away from home while the children receive treatment at the local St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.
To help visiting families keep in touch with family and friends back home during their time of need, the Ronald McDonald House desperately wanted to upgrade both its computers and its network. Executive Director Caron Byrd turned to my team at GHT Technology Group for assistance.
Before we stepped in, the charity had offered to its guests a small number of shared computers in a common area. These aging Windows 98 systems provided an essential link to loved ones via Web-based e-mail, but they performed sluggishly and required frequent maintenance. Increasingly, families had begun bringing their own laptops along, but the facility’s data network was inadequate to handle the guest PCs.
Ronald McDonald House needed a manageable way to distribute Internet connectivity across an entire campus of users so that the families of patients could take their own personal laptops anywhere in the facility and access their e-mail, chat, browse the Web-whatever they wanted to do-in a secure and dependable wireless environment. To make that happen, we focused on upgrading the heart of the charity’s network.
The facility’s existing network consisted of a Bluesocket BSC-400 Wireless Controller linked to 11 Proxim AP-700 access points through four Cisco Catalyst switches. This aging controller was an obstacle to fulfilling the client’s needs because it clearly wasn’t up to the task of securely allowing guest families to connect to the network and access the Web services they required.
We replaced the BSC-400 with a new, more powerful Bluesocket BSC-2200 Bluesecure Controller and connected it to 15 Cisco Aironet 1200 Series wireless access points, significantly improving wireless reception throughout the facility. We then redeployed the Cisco Catalyst switches to segregate the wireless network from the wired network, keeping the charity’s mission-critical internal systems safely separated from the PCs of its guests.
To further secure the network, the Bluesocket BSC-2200 allows us to create and define user roles for guests and administrative personnel, to define Internet access security, and to control the settings of all of the access points. It also permits a designated network user to manage the guest access through a simple utility on their own computer.
Finally, we scrapped the outdated Windows 98 computers in the lobby and replaced them with three Windows XP-based Dell workstations, which we connected to the wireless network. This setup allows families who do not have their own laptops to safely enjoy round-the-clock Internet access.
Parents and other relatives of the kids at the childhood cancer institute depend on their laptops and Internet connectivity to stay in contact with the family members they’ve left back home. The consolidated wireless management system that we installed provides secure and easy-to-use wireless technology to everyone who visits the Ronald McDonald House facility.
Meet the Pros
Memphis-based GHT Technology Group was founded in 2004 by three former IT managers. Partners Rozell Henderson and Bill Thorsberg worked as systems managers, network administrators, and IT directors-as well as in every sort of IT position over 20 years’ time-gaining hands-on experience in all aspects of information technology management and operations. Contact them at 901/373-4058 or via their Web site at www.ghtllc.com.
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