Operating system upgrading made easy

Headquartered in Edmonton, Alberta, AltaSteel is a scrap-based, mini-mill operation, which produces over 350,000 tons of steel billets per year that are rolled into bar products. It supplies grinding media to the mining industry throughout North America. When the decision was made to roll out Microsoft Office 2000 to 90 of AltaSteel’s administration staff, systems supervisor Mark Burrough faced spending half an hour to 45 minutes on each computer.

Burrough recalls that while the decision to go to Office 2000 was made very quickly, he lacked the resources within his department to visit each computer and install it locally. Another problem was that there was a mix of different applications on the workstations, including Office 97 and WordPerfect for DOS.

Another consideration was logistics. The 90 workstations were spread out over a large area and not every one was equipped with a CD-ROM drive.

He turned to Viaticam Ltd., an Edmonton-based Novell Gold Authorized channel reseller, who helped implement Novell’s ZENworks for Desktops 3.0. ZEN is an acronym for Zero Effort Networking. ZENworks is described by Novell as automating desktop management by using the power of Novell Directory Services (NDS) to provide application, workstation and remote management.

In less than a month of after its installation, all 90 workstations at AltaSteel were running Office 2000. The product was installed over a three to four week period to incorporate Office 2000 orientation and training.

The only way we could get this installation done quickly was to use ZENworks for Desktops, Burrough says. It distributed Office 2000 across the network and allowed the users to install it themselves.

Using the Microsoft Installer for Office 2000 in conjunction with ZENworks for Desktops 3.0, Burrough installed Office 2000 onto the server. He then specified customized options he wanted for immediate installation and, to save disk space, specified what options end users could install at a later date.

He says they installed Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel right away, but because not everybody was going to use PowerPoint, they only put the PowerPoint icon in the program menu. It didn’t actually install the application on the local system until the users clicked on the icon. Once they clicked on the icon, it went through the network and installed PowerPoint. The procedure was maintenance free.

After the Office 2000 icon was put on the users’ desktops via the network, e-mail was sent to users explaining how double-clicking on the icon would install Office 2000 onto their desktops.

Burrough reports that the end users were empowered to install Office 2000 themselves and found the installation process easy and surprisingly trouble-free for IT support. He says he didn’t get a single call asking for assistance. There was also no training required. Moreover, he calculates that given the worth of his time and other IT staff’s time to visit each workstation and install Office 2000, it paid for itself in less than one month.

Burrough found Novell’s Cool Solutions Web site helped with tips on how to use the products and good information on how to use it to roll out Office 2000. According to Novell, the company plans to use ZENworks for Desktops to roll out other applications to end-users, including its own legacy applications. Burrough sums up the benefits as decreased administration duties, fast and easy installation, plus ease of use for employees.