Golder Associates seeks Active Directory advantage

A need to support highly mobile employees in more than 80 offices worldwide has helped turn Toronto-based Golder Associates an early customer for Microsoft’s Windows

Server 2003 operating system.

Golder is a group of consulting companies specializing in ground engineering and environmental science, with more than 3,000 employees. Bryan Rawson, Golder’s chief information officer, said the company has almost completed implementation of Windows Server 2003 in North America and Europe and is on schedule to do the same in offices in Africa, South America and Australia early next year.

Golder previously used Windows NT 4.0, Rawson said. The company wanted to take advantage of Active Directory, technology in Windows 2000 and 2003 that allows users to be defined once and recognized anywhere on a worldwide network.

“”They were not able to manage it and have it as secure as they would like to,”” said Kevin Hunter, senior product manager at Microsoft Canada Co. in Mississauga, Ont.

Rawson recently returned from a trip to Italy, where he said he was able to plug his notebook into the new system, log in and see network resources such as printers and disk volumes just as if he had been in his own office.

“”It’s the single logon identity that’s really starting to make things work better for us,”” he said.

Hunter said a key piece of Active Directory is a group policies component used to define which users have access to what information. Golder employees can now have a single ID and password for access to all network resources, Rawson said, whereas in the past one user might have three or four IDs and passwords for access to different applications and resources.

The desire to upgrade the company’s Exchange e-mail system was another, said Rawson. He said Golder sees the benefit of the upgrade in improved services to users, not in a dollar return on investment.

Rawson said Golder had considered upgrading to Windows 2000, and he was initially reluctant to look at Server 2003 because the technology was so new. What convinced him was “”primarily the enthusiasm of Microsoft Canada,”” he said. Seeking a success story with a major client, the company offered consulting services and support to help Golder with the upgrade. Another factor was the feeling that by moving directly to Server 2003, Golder would get “”a solution that would work for us for a lot of years.””

One of the greatest challenges of the upgrade has been determining how best to configure Active Directory to work well across different regions and varying levels of technical support, Rawson said. He said Golder has had no problems with the software itself.

Hunter said customers buying Windows servers today must purchase licences for Windows Server 2003, but may choose to install the older 2000 version, and a substantial number still do so because they are well into projects and don’t want to change operating system versions. About 15 to 25 per cent of new servers are sold with Windows Server 2003 today, he said.

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Grant Buckler
Grant Buckler
Freelance journalist specializing in information technology, telecommunications, energy & clean tech. Theatre-lover & trainee hobby farmer.

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