Tradebridge is the leading South African value-added transaction switch, providing solutions to enable immediate, secure and reliable messaging between organisations that support financial transactions. The company consists of three group members: Healthbridge, Sureswipe and DCM Group.
Through a powerful range of products and services that Tradebridge has pioneered, it has saved the South African healthcare industry over R1 billion ($77M) a year in operational efficiencies.
There are over 5,000 medical practitioners (GPs, dentists, optometrists, specialists and auxiliaries) on the company’s books countrywide. Through its sophisticated medical information-exchange services, it is also integrated with hospitals, pathology laboratories, radiologists and medical aids. The company processes more than R30 billion ($2B) of transactions in real time every year.
Challenge: Cloud migration affects performance
Until recently, Tradebridge relied on a traditional client-server set up, which, although fast, was unreliable. For example, the electricity supply in South Africa is not guaranteed, which can disrupt availability and if the air conditioning that is necessary for computing centres fails, it can take weeks to get fixed. This was having a pronounced impact on productivity. “We used to have a file server, Exchange server and project server all of which were dependent on the stable supply of electricity. As a result, we experienced occasional downtime,” explains Elize Neethling, Head of Group Information Security and Technology, Tradebridge. “Given the nature of our business is connecting healthcare professionals, that was unacceptable.”
Moreover, the company provides its own solutions to doctors and hospitals via the cloud, so it felt it should be setting a good example in embracing cloud platforms. This led it to migrate its 400 users in four offices to Microsoft® SharePoint and Microsoft Office 365 on Azure cloud. However, despite a smooth transition, there were implications from a performance perspective.
“With on-premises equipment, the user experience was quick, however, following the migration to the cloud, a lag in performance appeared, and users were confronted with a spinning blue wheel,” adds Neethling. “Unsurprisingly and understandably, they were quick to complain: how is slower better?”
The company evaluated the market and found that asking ISPs to solve the problem would be prohibitively expensive. Instead, it worked with local partner, Datacentrix, to find a solution. Datacentrix is an ICT solutions provider and was already providing Tradebridge with various hardware. Together, they undertook a number of PoCs and completed technical evaluations. Tradebridge found that Riverbed® SteelHead™ SaaS ticked all the right boxes.
“Having the service under my control rather than an ISP makes it less expensive,” continues Neethling. “Moreover, once we started the PoC and I saw the results on paper, it was clearly the right choice.”
Solution: Optimised applications boost productivity
SteelHead offers industry-leading secure optimisation of all applications, across hybrid networks to users everywhere so Tradebridge can leverage global resources and access applications and data from anywhere – all while reducing the cost of running the business.
SteelHead SaaS is an integrated, purpose built, end-to-end scalable solution that accelerates SaaS application delivery to and from the cloud. Tradebridge can now start optimisation for SaaS applications with a simple license activation – any physical or virtual SteelHead solution already deployed can quickly be enabled and service availability is instantly increased based on user demand.
“Riverbed worked with our local partner, Datacentrix, to deliver the project on time via detailed planning. The implementation really was surprisingly easy,” comments Neethling. “We have recently renewed our license after the first year.”
Now the issues with latency have been eliminated and, as a result, user experience has improved. The deployment is also a demonstration of how the company is embracing the cloud and enabling its employees to become engaged endorsements for the new approach.
“We are in the process of articulating our new vision of becoming a fully-digitalised cloud company and this is an example of that,” says Neethling. “Riverbed underpins that cloud platform to ensure optimal performance. When we had a problem with telephony and had to switch the Riverbed platform off, I was swamped with complaints. Now that does not happen anymore.”
Benefits: Collaboration, versatility and reliability
Tradebridge has noted numerous benefits of working with Riverbed, most importantly the increase in collaboration. Whereas previously employees would travel extensively to attend meetings, they now use SharePoint and Skype to work together remotely.
“Collaboration using Skype and SharePoint has become the norm, making us more productive and saving on travel costs,” remarks Neethling. “It’s much easier to work on the same document in real time without multiple versions being emailed to and from recipients. We also have virtual workshops and can achieve in an hour something that might previously have taken weeks. Our productivity has increased significantly as a result.”
Tradebridge has also been impressed by the versatility of the SteelHead solution and its ability to underpin multiple cloud platforms: “We are a forward-thinking company and constantly review our technology needs. It’s good to know that if we move to G-Suite, I won’t have to repurchase software or licences,” explains Neethling.
One of Tradebridge’s initial SLA requirements was zero downtime and, again, Riverbed has been up to the task. Application availability and performance during the first year have been faultless, ensuring users have access to the information, applications and services they need to do their job.
“If we want to deliver our services to clients, we have to live and breathe it ourselves in-house,” adds Neethling. “I expect the division to perform at 100% so I must deliver 100% uptime.”
The company is now working with Datacentrix to look at how to better integrate business intelligence into the cloud services but in the meantime, Tradebridge expects the use of the new platform for collaboration to continue to grow in popularity.
“We told our employees if you use similar services at home to collaborate with friends, then you can use this platform in a business environment the same way and it took off like wildfire,” concludes Neethling. “With Riverbed underpinning Office 365 and SharePoint, we enjoy premium performance, total reliability and the ability to collaborate with confidence.”