IT Strategic Plan Starts With a Data Center

When David Walsh joined Catholic Charities of Boston four years ago, the former associate CIO of Children's Hospital Boston knew it would take more than a miracle to upgrade the nonprofit's ailing data center. With a "mishmash" of rack servers, local storage, limited file server access or air conditioning, the data center served only the most basic of applications; most of the 40 locations serving 140 charitable programs were still operating using only paper-based systems. It was "worse than inefficient," says Walsh. "Money was put into the programs first, not the infrastructure."

With the urgent backing of new senior management (and a mandate by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to implement a pandemic plan), Walsh and his team built a five-year IT strategic plan. It called for a range of new hardware and software, such as replacing Compaq and Hewlett-Packard ML and DL servers with 25 HP BL 460c blades and 10 VMware virtual infrastructure CPU licenses; deploying a storage area network; and installing air conditioning units. The plan also involved a rollout of Citrix thin clients to give some 400 employees access to internal services and new applications, such as one for a child care program.

Two years into the plan, Walsh is grateful for a higher IT budget -- about 2% of the nonprofit's $39 million budget, or $780,000. (Capital investment was used to update the data center.) "We went from being starved to being able to fix problems," he says. Now, "we do things that agency workers never imagined." Problem solved.

This was first published in October 2007

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