St Giles Society IT put to test during power outage

Combination of on-premise and cloud delivers for not-for-profit organisation

Staff at Tasmanian not-for-profit, St Giles Society, were able to keep working through a power outage by accessing cloud-hosted emails.

In August, Northern Tasmania was hit by a severe storm and power was cut to the organisation's Launceston office.

St Giles Society IT manager Jim Sullivan said IT contacted staff and clients to let them know the service was closed and to make alternative appointments.

“At that stage, we expected to be fully operational within eight hours or so. It turned out to be much longer.”

The power outage lasted three days.

“We were challenged by contact details being stored on our powered down system. Email was a key to us being able to mitigate the impact,” he said.

The organisation uses Microsoft Exchange for email, but also employs Mimecast's cloud-based email management platform.

Support staff from Mimecast, helped Sullivan to import each user’s passwords. This allowed staff to access their emails via an online portal.

“This enabled all of our users to have access to incoming email and to be able to send email. Researching the archive was also very important to get contact details from past email,” he said.

“We learnt much from this outage, and if it were to happen again we would be better prepared. I guess everyone makes this assessment after an incident like this.”

St Giles Society also uses Mimecast for email archiving. Staff can access emails dating back five years without having to search through other documents.

“Some would be inclined to say that we should adopt a complete cloud solution but St Giles is a not-for-profit organisation that simply cannot invest in this, because our funds are better spent providing the services that we exist for,” said Sullivan.

Using a mix of cloud computing and on-premises IT is the key to St Giles having a sound information and application system, he added.

Read more: In brief: Government boosts cloud services panel

“We have Microsoft Lync and we’re getting the staff to adopt that. We see that as an opportunity for our therapists to connect to clients who are in remote areas and have video conversations.”

Sullivan has set up a domain called St Giles which will be used by the society’s clients.

Now that the technology has been introduced, the next step is to get user adoption, he said.

Lync is currently being used by staff in the organisation’s Hobart and Launceston offices to communicate internally.

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

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