United Church Homes Migrates to Office 365 for Enterprise Collaboration and Utilizes Windows Azure for Office 365 Sign-On

Cloud Solution Overview

Products and Services

  • Microsoft Azure
  • Azure Site Recovery
  • Windows Server



Organization Size

Large (1000-9999 Employees)


United States

Rob Weisbrodt

Vice President of IT Services

"We developed an overall IT strategy to move as much of our IT as possible to a cloud model, and Office 365 was a core part of that strategy and decision."

Client Profile: United Church Homes

Since its inception in 1916, when the organization received a donation of 168 acres in Holland, Ohio, to build a “fair haven” for seniors, United Church Homes has been dedicated to its mission “to transform aging by building a culture of community, wholeness, and peace.”

United Church Homes now owns or manages a variety of residential living, assisted living, and skilled nursing communities in 13 states, which provide affordable housing and offer hospitality to all, regardless of faith, gender expression, or sexuality.

Learn more about United Church Homes.

Struggling With Compliance, Legacy Systems, and IT Staff Bandwidth

When the Affordable Care Act created massive changes in the U.S. healthcare market, United Church Homes had to update their business model almost overnight. They also had an opportunity to expand into additional long-term care and assisted-care business models to supplement their current assisted living facility footprint.

In order to support these changes, the IT leadership team completed an assessment of their current IT infrastructure and their existing IT staffing model. They quickly realized that their IT infrastructure (Windows Server 2003 and Exchange Server 2003) needed a significant refresh — both at the headquarters and at the remote communities — to support these business model changes. They also realized that the up-front capital expense necessary for this implementation posed a major obstacle.

Finally, with their electronic medical record (EMR) provider moving to a pure cloud-based model, the IT team realized that their already overextended staff would need to spend additional time with the patient care team answering questions and resolving issues.

Stratus Innovations Group’s Custom Cloud-Based Solution

United Church Homes initially engaged Stratus Innovations Group to perform a cloud assessment that covered both the technical and financial risks and opportunities. From that point, we developed a deployment roadmap for providing Office 365 collaboration and communication tools to the entire organization as well as a plan to migrate the legacy Windows Server 2003 platform.

In the process, we discovered a major security issue that involved the organization’s HIPAA requirements. To support UCH's HIPAA compliance, the organization required a single sign-on to Office 365, but the current IT infrastructure did not support the ability to implement a load-balanced, highly-available Active Directory Federation Service environment.

To fix this, we first designed and implemented an Active Directory Federation Service environment in Windows Azure via a Windows Azure Virtual Network and Azure virtual machines. This ensured that all Office 365 federation authentication and authorization communication stayed within the Microsoft cloud data centers. This provided the additional benefit of preventing the organization’s Office 365 access from being affected by a company-wide area network outage or an internal Active Directory access issue.

Finally, we developed a plan to migrate from Exchange 2003 to Exchange Online. Within a few months, UCH had their organization up and running in Office 365.

Results: A More Effective IT Team, New Functionality, and Increased Security

The biggest benefit that this solution provided UCH was freeing up their IT system administrators and helpdesk, allowing them to focus on strategic issues and urgent EMR customer support issues rather than on fighting fires with their legacy Exchange 2003 environment. Because of this, UCH was able to deploy additional collaboration tools to their mobile patient care staff that they couldn't provide previously.

Additionally, with the internet-facing access model of Office 365, UCH was able to quickly provide email and other corporate communications access to third-party locations that they managed under a fee-based service model. This allowed them to easily and quickly integrate other external third-party providers into the corporate umbrella, providing a much faster and more efficient business model for corporate mergers and acquisitions activities.

Finally, UCH now has a highly available Active Directory Federation Service environment for single sign-on to Office 365. All federation authentication and authorization remains within the Microsoft cloud services data center environment. This greatly reduces the chance of a potential security breach caused by "man-in-the-middle" network attacks.

Struggling With Legacy Systems and Overworked IT Staff? Stratus Innovations Can Help!

Our singular focus and purpose is helping your business be more profitable and efficient. Whether you need a thorough assessment of your current IT infrastructure or a complete overhaul, we’re here to provide custom cloud-based solutions that are tailored to your unique needs. Contact us today!

8000 Walton Parkway
Suite 200 New Albany, OH 43054




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