Computer Network and Intense Financial Pressure

Introduction: CareGroup was established in 1996 from a three-way merger of several hospitals in the eastern Massachusetts area. The merger was driven by the intense financial pressure and competitiveness in the healthcare community. CareGroup was the second largest hospital group in the area, and was a force to be reckoned with in the war of medical costs that included healthcare providers and employers. Problem: On Nov 13, 2002, a researcher executed an application without terminating it, which caused huge data communication traffics and led to a network crash.

The network crash could not be fixed internally and the CIO at CareGroup had to call experts from Cisco for help the next day. While Cisco engineers were fixing the problem, CareGroup employees resorted back to paper based forms as a costly and unorganized replacement to their networked computers. The network was restored five days after the crash and post-crash repairing commenced to help recovery and further potential crashes. Problem Analysis: The source of the collapse was an “out of spec” network. CareGroup integrated its multiple operating systems into a state-of-the-art IT system.

However, not well managed were the incremental changes to the network. This lack of control compromised the paths over which data flowed. That, combined with an experimental application that had been left unmonitored in a production environment, were the underlying causes for the network failure. CareGroup lacked a standardized operational flow to streamline, control, monitor, and document activities of users and researchers. There was little control and IT governance on common users to access or make changes to the network configuration.

Right after the outage, several changes were made by various users without synchronization and documenting, which worsened the outage situation. Solutions: The following are the proposed options to help solve the aforementioned problem: 1. CareGroup can implement a Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP) and Contingency Plan (CP). The DRP describes the road map through which CareGroup must deal with unpredictable, unpreventable, or potential catastrophic events. the contingency plan acts as backbone for disaster recovery and allows for a complete recovery cycle.

CP would require careful preparation and planning in order to allow CareGroup the ability to get back to a working state of affairs. 2. CareGroup should redesign the company network infrastructure to employ Virtual Private Networks (VPNs). A multi- VPN approach would enable CareGroup to maintain independency (separate virtual LANs) for their business partners. 3. Combine both options 1 and 2. 4. Outsourcing the network services. Recommendation: I recommend that CareGroup implement a disaster recovery plan, as well as adopt formal oversight of network changes and a prohibition against developers testing in a production environment.

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