Sudbury uses remote management for IT amalgamation

When the federal government told several municipalities to consolidate their IT departments, Sudbury found itself in the position of having to amalgamate six municipalities with different IT infrastructures.

To top it off, there were only five people in the IT department to get the job

done. Those five people were responsible for managing more than 75 key locations that included libraries, water treatment plants and transportation centres, some of which were 30 miles apart.

The amalgamated city provides services for 156,000 residents across 3,400 sq. km. with 1,400 workstations. The city had already been using Novell NetWare, which comes with a ZENworks Starter Kit. “It became obvious the full-blown suite would be that much more beneficial to us,” said Jim Dolson, manager of network and operations support with the City of Greater Sudbury, Ont.

Some outlying areas had small Windows servers that had to be migrated to the city’s NetWare environment. The migration was straightforward, but took six months from start to finish because of minimal IT staff, Dolson said. With Novell ZENworks Desktop Management, a small team is able to centrally manage multiple locations, providing tools for application distribution, imaging, inventory, remote control support and policy management.

“Remote control was a godsend because we are spread across a huge area,” said Dolson. It also provides an imaging capability that allows the city to set up rules and re-image machines as necessary. The ability to re-image was key in standardizing the network, he said.

Users were divided into one of three groups: the majority, about 90 per cent, cannot download material except from pre-determined sites. The remaining users are either restricted “power” users or administrators with full access to the system.

“We’re still wrestling with change management,” said Dolson. “It was very difficult to make people understand why we had to start restricting users.” But people are starting to understand: Policy management is helping to prevent unauthorized Internet access or downloads, particularly in public places like libraries, where users can unknowingly bring spyware or adware into the system. “We’re protecting them from what they don’t know can hurt them,” he said.

With policy management, a large organization might have a requirement that everyone standardize on a particular anti-virus tool, for example. “ZENworks allows you to manage that policy,” said Don Chapman, vice-president and general manager of Novell Inc. and president of Novell Canada Ltd.

It provides the same level of software and functionality to users, he said, based on their role within the organization. Imaging rules evaluate new hardware and configure workstations with the correct image in five to seven minutes. With multi-casting, IT staff can re-image all of the city’s PCs in the time it takes to image one machine.

One of the benefits of the system, he said, is the ability to reduce risk: of viruses, failures and downtime. Other benefits are reduced costs and a 90-day ROI.

The city estimates it has reduced administration time by 70 per cent and travel time and associated costs, such as vehicle maintenance, by 80 per cent following the rollout. In the past, delivering a software update meant traveling to each individual location, a process which sometimes took months. Now it takes a few hours. Dolson said the software paid for itself in a couple of months and IT staff can now manage 80 applications from one location.

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Vawn Himmelsbach
Vawn Himmelsbach
Is a Toronto-based journalist and regular contributor to IT World Canada's publications.

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