The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) has chosen a secure Linux-based server solution for the bulk emailing of 6,000 GPs across the UK, after a decision not to use Windows.
Supplied by Cambridge-based reseller ee-scape, the system consists of IBM xSeries hardware running Linux with Trustix application software, which includes web-hosting of GP quality assessment programmes.
"We started off running a proof of concept of open systems for Apache web hosting with government funding," Tony Betts, IT manager at the RCGP, told vnunet.com.
"Running Apache on Windows with IIS alongside showed no improvement. When moved to Linux, the speed of response improved and emails went a lot quicker."
Sending 6,000 copies of a bulletin, which typically took days and tied up the server for the whole time, now runs in 15 to 20 minutes, according to Betts.
Equally important, the RCGP was already concerned with Microsoft security, having discovered that a hacker in France was downloading data using FTP.
This led to a security review which found, for instance, that Exchange was acting as a conduit for spam.
Having chosen Linux as the operating platform, two competitive systems were evaluated.
"We were happier with the IBM and Trustix solution for security. Many of the security features left open by default [by Exchange] were closed," said Betts.
He explained that the solution needed to be robust, scalable and configurable, criteria that the Trustix software fully met.
There are 38,000 GPs in the UK, of whom just over 20,000 have voluntarily passed the assessment to become RCGP members. A campaign is now underway to get more members to use the new system.
Currently, the majority use either NHSNet or Doctors Net, but Betts pointed out that NHS Net in particular is so slow that many members use their home email address instead.
Betts went on to confirm that the RCGP is now evaluating more open source desktop and server products.
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