Saving systems administrator

Network administrators tend to be quite fond of technology, but are inclined to lose their enthusiasm in direct proportion to how far they have to walk to go repair it.

Novell’s ZENworks for Desktops 3 and Single Sign-on 2.0 are part of the company’s offerings to reduce the wear and tear on network administrator’s shoes and time as the applications offer the ability to deploy and manage workstation profiles from any location within an organization.

When that organization is Anna-Laberge Hospital Centre in Chateauguay, Que., distance is everything. The newest addition to Quebec’s medical establishment is laid out over an area covering the size of seven football fields.

“The need was to be able to support users without having to walk around the hospital,” said Monique St-Jean, MIS director at the hospital.

She said the options were either hire more staff, a difficult choice in today’s fiscally-tight healthcare world, or find a solution that allowed system administrators to work remotely.

“They wanted to be able to control, at a distance, certain problems and solve certain problems without having to actually physically leave the computer department and go the station itself,” said Serge Michelin, director of professional services for Montreal-based MediSolutions, the project’s system integrator.

It also gives system administrators the ability to solve problems more quickly and efficiently. “The user won’t have the delay in response,” St-Jean said. “ZENworks will allow the end user to be helped immediately and not have to wait for a tech person to come and help them.”

Prior to the ZENworks implementation, administrators could take 10 or 15 minutes to actually get to a problem computer.

Yves Morin, Novell’s Quebec City-based executive director of the public sector in Quebec, said that though the technology is designed to really help the system administrator, the end user also sees advantages in quicker response times and a smoother running system.

Morin also likes that a network administrator can either take charge of a PC remotely to fix a given problem or show end users how to do it themselves.

choosing a solution

Five potential solutions were reviewed in terms of quality, cost and ease of implementation, St-Jean, said.

The hospital staff reviewed help desk requests made over the past two years and also looked at future centralized and standardized application deployments that will be part of the province’s healthcare system, she added. The decision was then made to go with the Novell solution.

Currently the 250-bed hospital has 300 PCs and will be adding 200 more in the next two years. The workstations are used by a staff of about 1,200 including doctors, nurses and a variety of administrators.

Given the diversity of users, it was not too surprising that Anna-Laberge Hospital has decided to include another Novell solution, Single Sign-on, along with ZENworks.

For the end users, passwords were always a bone of contention.

“Everyone was saying, ‘God, I forgot my password, we have so many passwords,’…this was a common problem mentioned by users in every office,” St-Jean said.

“Now with Single Sign-on, there will be one sign on and it [will sit] in the background,” St-Jean said.

Previously, users had to use a different password for each application, so they might have had one for financials, another for the Internet and a third for payroll, she added.

“When you identify yourself (now), you do it one time and then you have access to all services,” Morin explained. Each person’s password will limit them to the applications deemed necessary for their job.

Since multiple users often work at one PC, various security measures can also be installed. The amount of time a PC sits idle before access is denied can be set for specific applications or for a specific PC based on its location. For example, a unit sitting inside an administrators office is obviously more secure than one placed on a desk in the emergency room.

The decision was made to install the two Novell solutions separately so each deployment could be separately monitored. Also, this would not overwhelm end users with too much change at once, St-Jean explained.

In all the installation took about three weeks. So far everything is running smoothly. St-Jean’s lone beef: “It doesn’t have a wheel,” she joked.

The Single Sign-on solution will be fully implemented by June.

“It is an open system, so you can use it in all aspects of business,” Novell’s Morin said.

He said a business case can often be made for installing ZENworks when there are as few as 50 PCs, but that 250 and above is more common. He said one client has 25,000 PCs connected.

ZENworks for Desktops 3 can be implemented on NetWare 4.11 or higher, or Windows 2000/NT networks with Windows 2000, Windows NT or Windows 95/98 workstations.

Single Sign-on requires a Pentium (or equivalent) processor with 32MB of RAM, 30MB of storage space and an SVGA monitor. It requires either NetWare 5.x (with NDS eDirectory, NDS 8 or NDS 7) or Windows 2000/NT (with NDS eDirectory). The first release was in English and additional languages are being added.