Thomas Jefferson University needed to find a replacement for an expensive on-site email-only messaging system. After looking at several cloud solutions, the University chose Microsoft Exchange Online as part of Microsoft Office 365. The University
now has improved messaging functionality and integration, and it saved over US$500,000 in hardware refresh costs, on top of significant annual maintenance fees.
Thomas Jefferson University (TJU) in Philadelphia is one of the oldest academic medical centers in the United States. It includes Jefferson Medical College and colleges for graduate studies and health sciences. Jefferson Medical College was founded in
1824 and has more living graduates than any medical school in the nation.
TJU has approximately 5,335 faculty and staff, including 900 practicing clinicians. The combination of research, teaching, and clinical staff presents unique challenges for Jefferson Information Technologies, the University's IT group. "Because we have physicians
who need to send email containing confidential health information, there are specific security and privacy requirements we must follow," explains Doug Herrick, Chief Information Officer for Jefferson Information Technologies at Thomas Jefferson University.
“This includes a requirement for domestic-only data storage and adherence to various American privacy laws including the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).”
In 2006, the University installed an on-premise Mirapoint email appliance for the school's 8,000 mailboxes, including faculty, staff, and affiliated personnel. After five successful years with Mirapoint, TJU had to make a decision whether to upgrade the
appliance hardware or try a different email product. Although there were no major problems with Mirapoint, the school wanted something more flexible, full-featured, and affordable.
"Mirapoint is an email-only service, so it doesn't integrate with other features, like calendaring or collaboration," says Herrick. "And we wanted to better serve the increasingly mobile nature of our user base. Plus we were facing a cost of [US]$500,000
to refresh our Mirapoint infrastructure, plus $80,000 per year in maintenance fees."
Thomas Jefferson University began examining alternate email systems in 2010. The University saw the increasing viability and advantages of cloud-based technology in business and education, and it looked to cloud-based alternatives as Mirapoint replacements.
||An established company like Microsoft that understands the enterprise, and a feature-rich email platform like Exchange were the perfect match for our academic medical center.
| Doug Herrick
Chief Information Officer, Jefferson Information Technologies,
Thomas Jefferson University
The University found a solution in Microsoft Exchange Online, which is part of Microsoft Office 365. Because of the unique HIPAA requirements at TJU, a key deciding factor was that Office 365 is already HIPAA compliant, while Google was not able to give the
school assurance as to where its data would be stored.
Another advantage was that TJU users were already familiar and comfortable with Microsoft products, including the Microsoft Office productivity suite, and many used Microsoft Outlook messaging software and Outlook Web App with the Mirapoint email system.
"An established company like Microsoft that understands the enterprise, and a feature-rich email platform like Exchange were the perfect match for our academic medical center," says Herrick. “And they were able to meet our needs regarding privacy and patient
data storage and security.”
TJU worked closely with Microsoft to develop a business associate agreement (BAA) guaranteeing the Exchange Online solution would meet the university's HIPAA requirements. Once the BAA was complete, the transition to the new system went quickly. The IT group
began migrating users one department at a time starting in December 2011. Each user was upgraded to Microsoft Office 2010 and Exchange Online email, and nearly all users were converted by March 2012.
"The response has been very positive," notes Herrick. "We've had no outages or problems, and our users love the features, the integration with familiar Microsoft Office products, and the extra storage they get. And mobile users have access from anywhere
with an Internet connection. Our next steps are to roll out calendaring and integration with Microsoft SharePoint Server, which we have adopted as our collaboration platform."
By moving from an on-premise, email-only messaging solution, Thomas Jefferson University achieved substantial cost savings and provided users with a full-featured email system that interoperates with the University's other software and satisfies HIPAA
More Than $500,000 in Savings
Choosing hosted, cloud-based email has saved the University more than a half-million dollars. "We still have some administrative duties, such as provisioning mailboxes, but at a time when budgets are tight, we avoided $500,000 in system refresh costs
plus $80,000 annual maintenance," says Herrick. "Initially, we thought a cloud solution might increase bandwidth costs, but it turns out there's been no increase at all. The price of this system is definitely right!"
Improved Functionality and Mobility
Users and IT staff have been very happy with Exchange Online. "We now have the best unified communications and messaging environment out there at a cost that can't be beat," says Herrick. "I've worked with Exchange for years, and it keeps getting better
and better. Our users were familiar with Microsoft products, so the transition was very easy, with very little support or training required. In an era when people increasingly use their web browser for email access, we have the robust benefits of Outlook Web
App. We're intrigued by the Office 365 roadmap, and we're excited to see how far we can go with the cloud."
Thomas Jefferson is the first and largest university with an associated hospital to use Exchange Online with a HIPAA BAA. "The fact that Office 365 is built from the ground up to be HIPAA compliant was a key to our choice," explains Herrick. "And the
assistance we received from our Microsoft representative in crafting the BAA was a tremendous help. It confirmed our confidence in choosing a Microsoft solution."
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