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Traffic control: remote monitoring and management of enterprise LANs and WANs have become priority considerations for most network managers--one whose solutions can reap significant cost savings and productivity benefits.

A year ago, Barton Malow was being buried under the process of managing 65 Windows servers and 1,300 PCs. With the proliferation of Internet viruses and worms; ensuring up-to-date software patch levels was becoming an insurmountable task.

Barton Malow is a construction-management company specializing in design, contracting and rigging services for industrial, energy, healthcare, educational and special-event facilities throughout the United States. In 2002, the company reported more than $1 billion in revenues. In addition to its Southfield, Mich., headquarters, the company has offices in Detroit, Atlanta, Baltimore, Virginia and Phoenix.

With a network of largely non-technical users extending from coast to coast, by early 2003, PC management was becoming unwieldy. All hardware and software support for the firm's nine regional offices and 50 job sites is performed by a staff of 15 IT professionals at the Southfield headquarters.

Paul Johnson, Barton Malow chief network engineer, reports that until mid-2003 even the most minor updates and repairs were often done manually. Sending IT technicians on site was consuming valuable staff time to make even menial changes, such as software updates.

"In our business, partners are continually connecting laptops to our network from job sites," says Johnson. "Before automating our IT management, we had no control over those machines. Most sessions would run without incident, but every once in a while these machines would infect our network with a virus or create other problems.

"When a new virus or software vulnerability was discovered, it used to take us several days to update our servers. Beyond that, updating all 1,300 PCs took weeks. We knew we could save time and money by automating the process."

Another pressing need for the Barton Malow IT organization was the need to track and inventory IT assets across its 50 sites. When construction projects were complete, and PCs were moved to a new location, the company had a difficult time tracking and accounting for the equipment-particularly the numerous laptops.

"It wasn't cost-effective for us to send a technician to each of the job sites," Johnson notes. "So, we were only taking an inventory once a year. It took us three months, and, even then, the checklist didn't include all of the information we would have liked to gather. As a result, our inventory was perpetually out of date, and we couldn't afford to take the risk of having to write off equipment we were unable to find."

The company wanted to automate IT management but needed to find solutions that could provide centralized management for remote, mobile and non-technical users. Knowing its key pain points were software distribution, patch management and inventory management, Barton Malow sought an IT-management software that could provide integrated solutions to address its needs.

After evaluating several alternatives, the company selected Altiris suites far client management and server provisioning. The Altiris suites include solutions for patch management, automated inventory discovery and tracking, operating system deployment and migration, software distribution, and software license and usage management. To assist with remote end-user troubleshooting and support, the company also uses remote-control software from Altiris.

Now, with the software managing the 65 Windows 2000 servers, patch management is no longer a time-consuming, manual process. The entire process-from ongoing vulnerability assessment, to downloading required patches, to patch distribution and installation takes a couple of hours to protect the entire network.

Initially, Barton Malow was able to protect 99% of its computers from the LovSan/Blaster worm. The five Barton Malow PCs disrupted by the worm were not under the Altiris management engine. Today, all of Barton Malow's PCs and servers are protected, helping Barton Malow proactively minimize virus threats to ensure maximum computing mad network availability.

With automated client and server inventory management, Barton Malow can perform a comprehensive hardware and software inventory scan in a single day. "Now we have more data than we can even use, ranging from the number of open memory slots to installations of unauthorized software," Johnson says. "And it's all real-time information."

The cost of performing an inventory check has been reduced by as much as 80%. In addition, Johnson estimates the company has saved several thousand dollars in software licensing tees due to the ability to discover and harvest unused licenses. The company also is able to forecast and budget for new equipment with the help of accurate, current data, rather than "guesstimates."

The ability to automatically deploy a new software image on servers and PCs used to take four or more hours per machine. Today, with the Altiris imaging and deployment capabilities, that time has been cut by 75% to less than one hour. In staff costs, Johnson estimates that the company's current IT team of 15 individuals would have to be doubled without this automation to accomplish the work the team is now able to do.

Beyond initial deployments, new or updated software applications can be installed automatically from a remote location. Finally, the need for onsite IT support has been reduced through the use of Carbon Copy software for remote control. IT staff members can either take over a user's PC to fix a problem or can walk the user through the fix--with the ability to see what is happening on the user's PC.

A comprehensive, integrated client-and-server management suite was essential in Barton Malow's decision to standardize on Altiris, Johnson says. Without an end-to-end solution, the company would have needed to piece together a patchwork of point solutions that would have ultimately been more complex and expensive to own and manage.

Prices for Altiris Client Management Suite start at $82 per PC. Barton Malow originally estimated one and a half years to see a return on the software investment. The products, however, have paid for themselves in half that time.

For more information from Altiris:

Continued on page 22
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Title Annotation:Special focus: testing & monitoring
Publication:Communications News
Date:Mar 1, 2004
Previous Article:A common dilemma: Indiana's state government and educational system find the answer to their network security needs, facilitating the use of...
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