Mountain resort hits new high with management suites

Managing the network system at Blue Mountain Resorts has become easier for Mike Nancekivell since he started using the Altiris Client Management and Asset Management Suites.

According to John Gowers, IT director for Blue Mountain Resorts Ltd., Altiris has helped his department keep pace with the company’s 400 per cent growth rate.

Blue Mountain Resorts, near Collingwood, Ont., offers skiing and snowboarding in winter and operates the Monterra golf course in summer, along with water sports, an indoor tennis centre, conference facilities, four condominium clusters and the Blue Mountain Inn.

“A lot has changed here in the past four to five years,” said Gowers. “With the Altiris lifecycle management and asset tracking software suites, we’ve been able to support that growth and maintain an increasing number of computers, servers and applications.

“Our IT system has grown to about 40 servers and 400 computers, operating core applications that support retail, restaurants, rentals and lodging. While the company continues to expand, our IT department hasn’t grown in five years,” Gowers said.

Nancekivell, Blue Mountain’s network manager, is able to deploy new workstations and easily integrate the computers into the network, configuring the PCs by driving down “personality images” that contain the operating systems and core applications.

“As well, whenever upgrades or patches need to be installed, this maintenance and support is all done remotely from a Web-based console, with Altiris Client Management,” said Nancekivell. “And that’s a lot better than having to do it manually, across 2.5 kilometres of terrain.”

A team of six, including Gowers and Nancekivell, looks after the IT needs of 1,800 peak seasonal staff – more than 25 different programs in hospitality-based systems, such as food and beverage points of sale, retail, daycare, season pass, ski school and property management.

Nancekivell says Blue Mountain recently signed a Microsoft enterprise agreement and he is preparing for a major upgrade to the Windows XP operating system.

“We have approximately a 50-50 mix between Windows 2000 and Windows XP, so one of our focuses will be to reload all of our machines and bring them up to Windows XP SP2 and Office 2003,” said Nancekivell.

“We have chosen to reload the existing XP machines as well, to help keep them clean and start fresh with a unified image. So basically we will be upgrading 400 PCs to the latest version of Windows and Office (and installing common programs such as Adobe Reader),” he said.

“We are also deploying 89 new machines into the mix, as well as replacing (hardware refresh) 10 servers this year. For this, we’ll be using Altiris Deployment Solution,” he said.

Within a four-year span, says Nancekivell, Blue Mountain has grown from 200 accommodation units to 750. “And we expect that by completion of development we will have around 1,300.

“Everything has been expanding. We have also added, in the past couple of months, another 40,000 square-foot conference facility (to our existing 19,000 square feet, spread throughout the property) and another 50,000 will be added a few years down the road,” said Nancekivell.

“I’m expecting we’ll be operating on at least 800 PCs and 60 to 70 servers by then,” added Gowers. “It’s useful to be able to track every piece of software and hardware, to know that it’s all compliant with licensing and to be able to measure exactly how much we’re using that software, or whether it can be more effectively deployed in another area.”