Abilene Christian University Moves Student Services to the Cloud
Michael Barera, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Abilene Christian University Moves Student Health and Counseling Services to the Cloud with Inuvika

Abilene Christian University (ACU) is a privately-accredited higher education institution in the Southwest United States. Founded in 1906 and based three hours west of Dallas in Abeline, Texas, ACU offers 160 undergraduate studies programs and 39 graduate degree programs.  ACU has 270 full-time faculty staff serving more than 3400 undergraduate and 1800 graduate students.

Like most universities, ACU provides important support services to students. ACU’s Medical and Counseling department provides critical physical and mental health services and operates much like conventional health services clinics. Health and counseling staff within the department use a specialized Electronic Medical Records (EMR) system to manage student health records, appointment scheduling, and billing. The client-server application is hosted on-premises on a Microsoft Windows Server environment and requires Windows 10 or later PC to access the system using a Windows native client.

The Challenge

When the department migrated their Windows desktops over to Apple macOS devices, they needed to find a solution to address the EMR’s lack of a native client for Mac.

Alex Ferguson is ACU’s Windows Server Administrator and is responsible for many of the university’s IT systems.

Alex and the team decided early on to migrate the EMR over to VMware Horizon, which would allow departmental staff to access the EMR on non-Windows devices using a Windows virtual desktop delivered to the user.

However, the decision wasn’t without its own problems:

“The new delivery method introduced periodic instabilities into the system. The department’s counseling staff reported an average of three to four application crashes per day.”

The instability represented a significant issue for the team. The Counseling team sees an average of 45 appointments every day. When the application crashes, it creates delays in accessing or managing patient information. The problem is compounded further if data entered into the system is lost. In that case, staff would have to re-enter the data, creating additional delays and backlogs.

The Solution

Around the same time, ACU was working with an Inuvika Reseller partner on an unrelated project. When ACU’s Horizon support plan came up for renewal, the Inuvika partner introduced Alex to OVD Enterprise and recommended a proof of concept to test the department’s application workload.

The Results

The results were very positive, so the team decided to move to full production.

The stability issues were resolved. Staff who had previously experienced regular downtime due to crashes were now able to work through their shifts without a single outage:

“Everything worked! The apps run reliably, and it’s a seamless experience for our users.”

In the event that a connection is lost, OVD maintains all active sessions. When the user reconnects, they simply continue working from where they left off, so work is never lost.

The staff now access the EMR using Inuvika’s Enterprise Desktop Client for macOS in App Mode. App Mode seamlessly integrates applications delivered by OVD into the user’s local desktop. The apps look and behave as though they were installed locally on the Mac desktop and launch by simply clicking on the application icon.

The IT team considered other options in addition to OVD Enterprise, most notably Azure Virtual Desktops. However, a combination of factors favored OVD Enterprise, including a lower overall cost of ownership. Azure Virtual Desktops ended up costing significantly more per user than initially estimated, while their existing Horizon environment already cost 50% more per user compared to Inuvika.

Inuvika’s Enterprise Secure Gateway (ESG) was also very easy for the team to implement. Once enabled, staff could safely access patient information from anywhere, including off-campus or even from home.

“The ESG was so easy to implement compared to other similar products. We had it up and running quickly and without a problem.”

The Importance of Security

Dealing with highly sensitive information like student health records introduces a greater emphasis on the need for security and privacy. In addition to the encrypted remote connections managed by the ESG, OVD secures the EMR application and its accompanying data within ACU’s private cloud datacenter. No patient information ever resides on physical devices, and the IT team can carefully control how the data is managed. For example, restricting the downloading, printing, or copy-pasting of information eliminates the possibility of data leakage and theft.

Finally, Inuvika backed up the entire process from POC to final production with reliable pre and post-sales support. The Inuvika pre-sales team carefully assessed the integration requirements and identified the critical factors that ultimately deliver success. Since OVD Enterprise is designed to work with today’s leading enterprise IT standards, integration with ACU’s existing Hypervisor and Active Directory and back end was straightforward.

Looking Forward

Given the success that Alex and his team experienced in the Medical and Counseling department, other departments are now evaluating OVD for use in their teaching programs. In the meantime, ACU continues to deliver the reliable health and counseling services that the ACU student community requires.


Image courtesy of Michael Barera, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons


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