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Managed Services Provider Enables Secure Telephony for Healthcare

By Jonathan Nguyen-Duy | May 29, 2020

Fortinet Industry Perspectives

Telernet is a managed service provider (MSP) that helps organizations deploy, configure, and manage phone systems. Services range from basic telephony to custom integrations and other solutions to meet the customer’s unique needs.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Telernet went above and beyond to ensure that its customers were able to maintain “business as usual” despite the need to transition most or all of their workforces to telework. For one of their customers—a home care provider serving the elderly—business as usual meant enabling homebound customer service staff to handle seven to ten thousand calls per day.

Preparing for Secure Business Continuity

Telernet set the stage for its customers to respond to a crisis, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, long before it occurred. Rather than deploying desk phones within customer environments to only work on the internal network, all phones were configured to work from anywhere. “We don’t say that this is an internal phone and that is an external phone. Any extension can be used anywhere,” says Leiby Rubin, lead technician at Telernet.

An essential part of this capability was the use of FortiVoice voice over IP (VoIP) enterprise phone systems with FortiFone IP desk phones. Rather than traveling over a phone line, all communications with these devices travel over the encrypted network. Redundancy was built into the network configuration to provide rapid failover. “Within 90 seconds, we have the whole company back up and running, which is unbelievable,” says Rubin.

For compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accessibility Act (HIPAA), the organization needed to ensure that all telephony data was transmitted, stored, and processed securely. By taking advantage of the VM form factor of FortiVoice servers and the FortiGate next-generation firewalls (NGFWs) securing them, Telernet could ensure that data remained on-site and under the home care provider’s control, while easily deploying this backup site for business continuity.

A Rapid Transition to Telework

When shelter in place orders were announced, many of Telernet’s customers contacted them for help in adapting their phone systems to support remote workers. While many of these employees had cellular phones, the businesses wanted to provide the workers with the ability to use their office desk phones to maximize productivity.

Because Telernet had already configured its IP phones to work from anywhere, all they needed to do was help their customers’ employees to set up their remote offices. For each employee, Telernet ordered and put together “care packages” consisting of a power supply for the phone, a CAT-5 cable, and a power strip.

These kits were shipped to customers’ offices, where they were distributed alongside instructions on how to properly disconnect desk phones and reconnect them to the routers at the employees’ homes. Employees were sent home in multiple waves to set up their FortiFone phones, enabling the company to transition seamlessly to telework within a few days.

For some employees, connecting their existing FortiFone devices directly to a home router was not an option. However, Telernet had a solution for this as well. By transferring data over the employees’ home electrical system using the powerline protocol, rather than a CAT-5 cable, these employees were able to connect regardless of the distance between their home office and a home router.

Building for Business Continuity

Telernet’s customers experienced a seamless and secure transition to telework thanks to how Telernet selected and deployed Fortinet solutions. Because voice traffic is encrypted between the FortiFone and the FortiVoice server, the phones can be deployed anywhere. Telernet’s decision to take advantage of this feature paid off for them and their customers.

As COVID-19 has demonstrated, designing and deploying networks and telecommunications solutions for business continuity and disaster recovery is essential. Fortinet solutions, with full networking and security integration, enable customers to confidently work from anywhere, whether on-site or from the home office.

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