Non-profits dump Novell for Microsoft

For years, Lutherwood Child and Family Foundation tried to make its IT systems work by fitting a round peg in a square hole, and for years, its IT staff spent much of its time running from site to site taking care of fires.

Those fires were put out, says Ian Collins, the non-profit’s Waterloo, Ont.-based IT co-ordinator, when the health-care provider switched from Novell products to Microsoft products so that it could better accommodate some of its applications, which were built to run Windows.

Like many non-profits, Lutherwood uses Raiser’s Edge and Financial Edge to manage its donations and accounting – but the applications were optimized for Windows.

“(This) created the same problems over and over again – locked files on the Novell server,” Collins says.

The company went to a consultant – Toronto-based LegendCorp – for some advice and after a security audit, the Microsoft Gold Certified Partner recommended that Lutherwood switch to a homogenous Microsoft environment. So, it moved from Novell NetWare 5.1 server, Red Hat 9.1 Enterprise Linux server and Novell GroupWise 6.5 to Microsoft Windows Server 2003 and Microsoft Exchange Server 2003.

“We had a good relationship with Novell. They were good at helping us troubleshoot, but they weren’t in the position to help us with certain proprietary software,” Collins says.

As a result of the change, there has been a 35 per cent drop in help-desk calls, Collins says. The organization was also able to save more than $30,000 a year.

His organization wasn’t the only one to make a change.

Keeping operating costs at a minimum is an important goal for most organizations – but for charities such as Osteoporosis Canada (OC), it’s absolutely critical. If a charity spends too much to keep itself running, donors give it a pass. That’s why the organization was pleased it could cut a full-time network administrator – who was paid a salary of $35,000 a year – from its staff as a result of a switch from Novell products to Microsoft.

The not-for-profit organization recently migrated from Novell GroupWise 5.5 and NetWare to Microsoft Windows Server, Exchange Server and Outlook.

The move was prompted by a number of factors, says Karen Ormerod, the president and CEO of the Toronto-based non-profit.

First, there was her personal preference. She came from an organization that had a Windows environment, and preferred it to Novell’s.

“I don’t like Novell GroupWise. I don’t find it terribly effective,” she says.

And beyond her dislike, the system was unfamiliar to new staff, most of whom had worked with Microsoft. “It was a challenge to train staff on GroupWise.”

Also, Ormerod wanted to be able to access her e-mail when she was out of the office, and this wasn’t possible with the older system, though she adds that part of the reason for this could have been its age.

Osteoporosis Canada had also outsourced its database a number of years ago and as a result, anytime it needed information, it had to pay the outsourcing company to do a search. It decided to bring its donation data in-house and move to Raiser’s Edge as well as Financial Edge. OC would have had to install a Windows server for the applications – which would have meant contending with a heterogeneous environment.

The Novell system was also clunky, Ormerod says, and needed a full-time sys admin to look after it. There were many calls to the help desk.

Like Lutherwood, Ormerod called LegendCorp, with whom she had worked with in the past, and it did an assessment of the organization’s needs. It recommended OC consolidate its systems onto Windows.

“It makes it easier to maintain it moving forward,” says LegendCorp’s president, Andy Papadopoulos, in Toronto.

Avoiding mixed environments
Osteoporosis Canada also set up a virtual private network, giving Ormerod and her staff the ability to work from home and when on the road. “So more business is being done, and where it’s far more effective,” she says.

The number of help calls dropped off and the IT systems no longer needed constant attention, allowing OC to save on its operating cost by reducing its staff.

But Novell contends that neither Lutherwood nor Osteoporosis Canada would have faced the problems they did if they had kept their systems current. They were three or four versions behind, says Ross Chevalier, the CTO and CIO of Novell Canada. “This is hardly even apples and oranges – these are apples and cans of peaches. We’re not even talking the same species.”

Chevalier also questions the advice that Lutherwood and OC were given since the consultant they went to – LegendCorp – seems to deal with only one supplier.

“It seems a little spurious to me,” he says, adding that the non-profits didn’t receive all of the information they needed to make a proper decision.

“You need to have skill in a number of different places. The vast majority of our partners do solutions for more than just Novell. They have greater scope, greater experience.” The organizations may still have made the same decision, but at least they would have been better informed, he says.

Chevalier also questions the necessity of having a one-stop shop and says most large organizations like to pick the right tool for the right job.

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