IT at St Luke's Nursing Service in need of critical care

Linux ditched for Microsoft

Juggling a patchwork of operating systems along with various versions of software on 24 different local area networks (LANs) made IT at St Luke's Nursing Service an unmanageable and costly affair.

Not surprisingly in this environment IT was identified as the community care group's greatest organizational risk.

St Luke's had to stitch up its ITwith a technology revamp that included standardizing its hardware and software environments.

While St Luke's has more than a century of nursing experience in Queensland, rising competition for government funds and increasing compliance requirements, has made operating a successful community care organisation in Australia today serious business.

Only recently, St Luke's merged with other care organisations to form Spiritus.

The new Spiritus brings together the combined strengths of the St Luke's Nursing Service, Anglicare Southern Queensland and Anglican Care of the Aged.

With $23 million in income, 14,000 clients and 24 sites across Queensland and Sydney, St Luke's made the decision to invest $500,000 to get its IT in order.

Another factor pushing the need for a tech overhaul was St Luke's rapid growth.

In five years, staff had grown fivefold, income had multiplied sevenfold and its branch network had expanded to 23 office across two states.

St Luke's IT was a patchwork of operating systems - a mixture of Linux and Microsoft Windows - and various software versions running on 24 different local area networks.

As St Luke's IT manager, Ben Ward, points out, a local area network requires costly support.

"We had to travel to branches. It was difficult to get support for Linux and, unless staff have some training, it's difficult to teach people how to overcome Linux issues," he said.

Ward needed staff to collaborate more closely between branches and the corporate office.

"File and print-sharing were non-existent because everyone was on their own local area network," he said.

"If we ever wanted to share a document we had to e-mail it."

St Luke's chose a Microsoft Windows platform and centralised all business applications and administration of its branch network.

Ward said the organization had outgrown its ability to cope with an open source operating system and was keen to go with a single software vendor so it could put all its knowledge into one area.

"If I were going into a business that was small and needed a cheap solution for a file server, I'd deploy Linux," he said.

"But for anything more than four PCs, I'd definitely stick with Windows."

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