Northwestel adds handhelds to GroupWise upgrade

A Canadian telecommunications company serving the largest operating area in the Western hemisphere has upgraded the messaging platform connecting its roving employees.

Northwestel Monday said it was about to begin the second

phase of its implementation of Novell Canada’s GroupWise, a project which began early this year. The company, which provides telephone and Internet service to a population of 110,000 northern Canadians in 96 communities scattered throughout the Yukon, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and northern British Columbia, has been a Novell customer for close to 10 years.

Novell Canada said Northwestel upgraded to NetWare and deployed Novell Cluster Services late last year, including its eDirectory component, to create a company-wide address book available on each employee’s workstation or laptop. In February, Northwestel conducted a desktop upgrade across its five covering four time zones and 3,300 kilometres in four weeks using Novell ZenWorks for Desktop.

Northwestel system architect Mike Cottrell-Tribes said the next step is to synchronize GroupWise with the approximately 100 Palm handhelds the company provides executives.

“”We want to get the calendaring functions synched up,”” he said. “”With some of these people, they’re so busy, it can be next to impossible to book a meeting.””

Novell Canada director of technology Ross Chevalier said the desktop phase was completed quickly because GroupWise automatically enforces rules and policies so that IT departments don’t have to visit workstations or get users to log into servers or run an executable to get a piece of messaging code.

“”It provides you a very holistic management model,”” he said. “”You can make it as centralized or decentralized as you choose.””

Northwestel is running GroupWise WebAccess on Apache to allow access through any browser. Cottrell-Tribes said the telco’s employees will also be taking advantage of the Remote feature that allows road warriors to use low-speed dialup from any remote arctic location.

“”We were on such an old version — there were plenty of reasons to upgrade,”” he said, adding the mobility of employees was a strong motivator. “”Especially with senior executives, they’re always on the go.””

Chevalier said customers typically choose GroupWise because it reduces the help desk experience for the user. “”Whether they’re connecting from a Northwestel office or if they’re in a hotel room on a dialup line, they’ve got the capability to address that,”” he said. “”The customer can facilitate those changes very quickly.””

Cottrell-Tribes agreed, but said total cost of ownership and security are the real drivers.

“”Recently there was a virus — I can’t remember what it was — but it brought down the Yukon government, and we were still up and running,”” he said. “”When we looked at Outlook, there seemed to be so many problems with that, and the fact that the RCMP seemed to support GroupWise was a pretty strong factor.””

Chevalier said Northwestel is also using iPrint to find and install a printer and securely print through a Web browser.

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