To differentiate itself from other institutions, Prospect Education's Charter College system promises students more than an education in relevant skill sets. It also commits to providing access to cutting-edge technologies on 11 campuses on the West Coast and in Alaska. When Prospect's legacy anti-virus system began failing at its duties, the organization's ability to keep those promises was hindered. For the IT department, that meant it was time for a change.
"Student, faculty and administrative machines were becoming infected, requiring us to take them down," CIO Eric Miller says. "This restricted student access to machines."
Insufficiently protected staff computers also potentially put data at risk, including student information, Miller says.
Another problem was growing, however: the need to frequently refresh student desktop operating systems and applications at Prospect's widespread Charter College locations.
"Because our colleges operate on the module system, our remote technicians re-image over 1,000 student computers every five weeks," Miller says. "This created challenges with ensuring each client device was properly updated after every module. Plus, it's very labor intensive."
What happened next went well beyond gaining a new anti-malware tool. Miller and Prospect IT Manager Russel Davies' teams agreed to participate in a 60-day trial of a leading software product, as well as a demonstration of the Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) and an accompanying anti-virus module, Microsoft System Center Endpoint Protection, all arranged by Prospect's CDW•G account manager and CDW•G Microsoft services team.
By leveraging CDW•G's expertise to properly scope a project, provide a solution and perform the onsite integration, Prospect ultimately netted a powerful, feature-rich enterprise systems management solution that solved a range of organizational challenges. Further, it was a cost-effective choice that simultaneously reduced burdens to Prospect's lean IT staff.
A Smooth Transition
SCCM supplies the ability to centralize the imaging and management of distant devices, including remote deployment of operating systems and applications. And while the other anti-virus solution Prospect's IT staff tested was solid, SCCM's comprehensive and robust features made the decision a no-brainer, Davies says: "Given what Microsoft offered, there was no comparison."
Prospect's evaluation of anti-virus options included a trial installation of SCCM. The complexity of Prospect's particular environment, which includes Citrix and VMware, required a subject matter expert to complete the install, Davies says. CDW•G's Microsoft delivery team was able to furnish an installation specialist as well as a project manager. After Prospect finished engineering the infrastructure to house SCCM, CDW•G Installation Specialist Mike Brown arrived at the organization's Reno, Nev., headquarters. Prospect granted Brown access to its IT systems, permitting him to assess the organization's environment and design the best method for migrating to SCCM and deploying Endpoint Protection.
Once SCCM was installed, Prospect tested it by using the solution to push out Endpoint Protection to the client machines physically located at its headquarters facility. Brown continued to provide remote support for two weeks, during which time Prospect deployed Endpoint Protection campus by campus, rolling out "a new campus every few days," Davies says. "It went so smoothly that it was transparent to end users."
Prospect's file servers and Exchange server were added to the SCCM environment just a few weeks later.
Results in Minutes
Prospect began to see benefits immediately after Endpoint Protection was switched on. "During the first few minutes, we received results that showed us we'd made the right decision," Davies says.
Today, remote technicians no longer use third-party anti-malware tools in an effort to keep machines up and running. Instead, SCCM unifies processes, enabling timely anti-virus updates, Davies says. Windows updates also are pushed out and applied universally, eliminating previous unevenness.
"Everything is under one umbrella," Davies says. "We can log in from wherever we are and manage any computer in our system."
The resulting efficiencies and reliability led to satisfied end users, who experience less down time. The new solution also improved morale for the technicians at each Charter College campus. "They are excited that students are having a better experience," Miller says.
Prospect is now leveraging more of SCCM's capabilities as it implements further features and functions.
"We're replacing an existing operating system and application deployment tool," Miller says, which will allow in-place deployments or upgrades without having to touch the client machines.
Those deployments "will be transparent to end users, because we can restore each individual's desktop in the process," Miller says.
The deployment of the SCCM and Endpoint Protection combination makes for a more hassle-free environment, Davies says: "One of the biggest benefits is that the system just works."