Philips Medical Systems, one of the world’s top three medical device companies, is a market leader in medical diagnostic imaging and patient monitoring systems. This equipment can be complex to maintain, yet is critical to patient care. The company’s eSupport portal known as InCenter – plays an important role in supporting the delivery of equipment and application software to thousands of customers, field engineers and service partners in almost every country around the globe.
InCenter was launched in 2004 to support the dissemination of equipment documentation and software to customers and field engineers around the world. But the company quickly discovered that its software delivery platform struggled to support document files larger than 20 MB and software files larger than 250 MB. Philips found that it sometimes took a long time for site visitors from regions like Asia and Europe to access files. The result was selective adoption of the support portal by customers and engineers who then turned to the service (call) center.
Philips support personnel had to separate large software files into sub-files, a cumbersome and expensive process. This negatively impacted the customer web experience, requiring end users to download multiple files for a single software release. In addition, some customers and engineers requested documentation on CDs, which increased Philips costs. “We understood the limitations and costs associated with distributing software and documentation via DVDs, but we were also aware of the Internet performance issues that were beyond our control,” explains Chris LaFratta, director of engineering programs for Philips Medical Systems Global Customer Services.
Philips Medical Systems needed to meet five key requirements to support its objectives:
Philips Medical Systems realized early on that it did not make sense to build its own software delivery infrastructure. “It’s impossible to predict when we’ll experience spikes in traffic and for how long. It would have been costly to expand our infrastructure and, in the end, it would have been underutilized for long periods of time. Our IT team explored a few options and strongly recommended Akamai,”explains Jerry Zolit, program manager, Online eSupport Portal Global Customer Services. With Akamai in place, Philips Medical Systems can scale to support any surge in traffic. In just over four months, Philips handled a 300% increase in site traffic, peaking at 1.2 TB served with a 91.2% download completion rate.
Philips’ InCenter offers hundreds of thousands of documentation and software files, some more than 2 GB in size. When a piece of expensive hospital equipment – such as an MRI system – is down, hospitals are unable to generate revenue and serve patients’ needs. In these situations, it’s critical that needed information or software is available as quickly and reliably as possible. Akamai offers a download manager that ensures transfer rates occur significantly faster. That means downloads occur in minutes instead of hours. “Since implementing the Akamai solution, the number of successful software downloads has grown by 50%, month over month,“ explains Zolit.
Not only does Philips provide its customers with critical documentation via the Internet, it also distributes important system patches via this channel. With hundreds of products to support, Philips distributes patches – at a minimum – on a weekly basis. “Since implementing the Akamai solution, we’ve improved site performance and download speed in Europe and Asia by 50%,” says LaFratta. “That type of performance is crucial in making sure our customers and engineers have needed information and updates. It also encourages future visits to the portal.”
The costs associated with producing and distributing documents and CDs can quickly mount. Add to that the costs of supporting customers and field engineers through the call center when they couldn’t access InCenter. The successful deployment of the InCenter eSupport portal meant that Philips Medical Systems could retire multiple legacy sites. This resulted in significant cost savings. In addition, as more people use the site, Philips savings increase.
Furthermore, Philips is able to reduce the costs associated with hard-media distribution. “As software is updated, you’re left with a warehouse of outdated CDs and DVDs. With Akamai in place, we expect to lower both our up-front production and back-end scrap costs,” explains Zolit.
Because it delivers software to support sensitive medical devices, Philips Medical Systems must track all software delivery and ensure that no software corruption occurs during downloads. Prior to Akamai, the company was forced to package its software in a unique way in order to ensure software integrity. “Akamai's Media Delivery Solutions automatically performs an integrity check upon download completion, eliminating the need for additional manufacturing steps. All download activity is reported back to Philips, enabling central tracking of software distribution and greatly improving our reporting and auditing capabilities,” says Zolit.
Philips quickly saw the promise of using the Internet to support its customers. “By incorporating Akamai into our infrastructure, we’ve been able to successfully migrate to a much more suitable business mode – we are able to quickly and reliably transfer files and our portal adoption rate has increased. All of this gives us the proof we need to see the Web as a viable channel for supporting our customers. Akamai helps us serve customers in unique ways and differentiate ourselves from the competition,” concludes LaFratta.