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Evaluating infrastructure.

Shipping firm IAL Logistics didn't have much with regards to an IT infrastructure a few months ago. But the hiring of a new CIO and an open-ended budget meant it was time to change. Ben Rossi writes.

IAL Logistics has been operating in the region for a long time -- 19 years to be exact. With its headquarters in Dubai, it also has around 20 other branches across the Middle East and in India.

Like many companies of its size in the Middle East, its IT infrastructure was not quite up to scratch.

However, with management that believe IT is "very strategic and extremely important" to the company's success, it has set out 2012 as the year to upgrade its infrastructure.

Core to this plan is the hiring of a new CIO, Ian Sparrow. Upon arriving at IAL, one of the first things Sparrow realised was the Kaspersky antivirus software it was using was too heavy on its PCs.

"We used to have Kaspersky for our antivirus software, but we found that it was inhibiting our use in that the PCs were becoming slow. The client software was becoming heavy," Sparrow says.

"I've been in other organisations with other products and have experienced similar things where they start off ok but the more you put on it the more of the PC's processing is utilised by the antivirus software, which has an adverse affect," he adds.

IAL went through a process of researching and testing other antivirus brands and, after a brief trial with eScan, decided to opt for ESET NOD32 business edition.

"Our main reason to opt for different antivirus software was to find a more lightweight product and after testing other brands we shortlisted ESET NOD32, which came out on top in the end," Sparrow says.

"When you compare antivirus software I think they're all going to achieve a similar output -- whether it be MacAfee, Norton Symantec or whoever else. I'm sure they're all going to do what they say they're going to do. But our main reasoning is the demands on the PC," he adds.

Implementation

IAL's three month implementation of EDET NOD32 began in April, so when Sparrow shared his case study in May the product had been rolled out to about a third of its user base.

"So far we are happy with it. The implementation will take about three months in total because we're not in a centralised office so with 20 plus remote offices it will take time. First we've got to uninstall, so we physically have to connect to each PC because we can't just throw out new software from a central site," he says.

"Once the NOD32 is on that machine any upgrades are automatic. But unfortunately you can only allot so much time each day to do that. That's why I'm planning a three month roll out," he adds.

When it comes to knowledge transfer, Sparrow says there is still an element of that going on and training into how to get the most out of the product.

"We're still learning the niceties of the product. As we're a central office trying to administer 350 remote PCs we can now see up to date information from that one central site, so we're learning what other features and functions we can get out of the product," he adds.

With the solution living up to IAL's expectations so far, it's only drawback came with its lack of support for the mail system that IAL uses.

"We use Lotus Domino as our mail system and ESET did not include mail antivirus software. It wasn't a requirement -- they've got it for the standard Outlook, Exchange etcetera -- but we've already got a different solution on our Lotus environment anyway," Sparrow says.

However, one thing it does have which Sparrow says IAL didn't have with Kaspersky, is a centralised monitoring system.

"So once the user are on, we can then get up to date information on what's happening. All the other antiviruses have got them as well, but it's a nice feature that we didn't have before," he says.

Revaluation

ESET NOD32 is the company's only major IT initiative in the last 18 months. Whilst the organisation employs 350 staff across its offices, only three form the IT team.

"We have a central site hosted in Etisalat, where all our servers are. All of our offices are connected via VPN to the central sight. Some offices may have just two to five users in, whilst some may have 50 to 60 users in, so it depends on the size of the operations," Sparrow says.

He adds that they get by with such a small team because of the products they use.

"We use Lotus Notes and Domino as our business application and because we've got a centralised server-base it's really just remote PC support that we need to do. Having said that, we do have one person in the server-base that looks after the bigger offices," he says.

The recent arrival of Sparrow led to a revaluation on the technology side of IAL.

"I'm basically transforming the whole IT infrastructure. By engaging someone like me who is going to have a different look at what the current infrastructure is, it's just the start of what is being planned." Sparrow says.

Once the upgrade of the PCs is complete, the two projects that Sparrow says will lead the agenda in this transformation are virtualisation and desktop video conferencing.

"Our main priority is to change our physical servers into a virtualisation environment. We have got a few servers in the branches at the moment, so we've got to centralise them as well," he says.

"Then desktop video conferencing will really help the communication aspect because we do have a lot of disparate offices and therefore communication is a key factor. We travel a lot to these offices and also rely on having to communicate over the phone. Desktop video conferencing should minimise the cost and travel factor of communications," he adds.

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Publication:Computer News Middle East
Date:Jun 21, 2012
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