Leave Healthcare Wi-Fi to the Experts

By Alex Goldman

September 14, 2004

Serving large enterprises is tough enough. When you learn about what Sharp Healthcare has to do to set up an AP, you'll be relieved that there are other industries besides healthcare that WISPs can serve.

How much does it cost you to set up an outdoor access point serving residential customers? Probably about as much as it costs Gary Jenkins, senior network engineer at San Diego-based Sharp Healthcare, to set up an indoor access point in his company's facilities.

That's because he faces some concerns that don't apply to the average WISP. You're thinking, that's right, he needs to support roaming between different APs, and he needs to deal with government regulation like HIPAA. But there are other concerns as well. "We need to not let dust out of the ceiling," he notes. That's because people in a hospital are, obviously, more vulnerable than those elsewhere.

The net cost amounts to an astonishing $3,000 per jack, if you do everything right, and Jenkins does so.

Obviously, security is of paramount concern, and Jenkins has just switched from a patchwork of network elements to the Aruba 5000 modular WLAN switching system, which handles authentication, rogue AP detection, and other security issues as well as basic, fundamental switching.

Centralizing security makes purchasing easier. "We needed to buy too many products, and we needed them to manage the network today," explains Jenkins. The company now has over 200 Aruba APs managed by a single Aruba 5000. It claims an 80 percent reduction in OPEX, which is easy to imagine because upgrading, for example, can now be done remotely. A significant part of the savings is simply from keeping well-paid techs at the NOC instead of in the car.

Jenkins says the Aruba system is so powerful that his company uses it to secure open wired ports using the device's captive portal and integrated firewall.

Now that the network is secure, the company can build one of the most advanced hospitals in the world. On August 30, 2004, the company announced that its Sharp Grossmont Hospital is about to open a state of the art Emergency and Critical Care Center, a $63 million 165,000 square foot facility designed to handle almost any type of biohazard. From ultra high tech wireless heart monitors to basic data access, the new facility will take full advantage of the company's secure, powerful Wi-Fi network.

Reprinted from ISP Planet.

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