School Board Finds Software Fit

Ontario’s District School Board of Niagara (DSBN), having gone through recent amalgamations, was looking for a solution that would allow it to monitor networks, deliver software and reduce repetitive activities.

Rick Hughes, network supervisor for the DSBN, said the board first looked to companies like Hewlett-Packard, but in the end chose Unicenter TNG from Computer Associates International Inc., because “it brings everything into one management view…(and) also allows for things such as software delivery and asset management.”

Hughes said the DSBN decided to implement new network management software so that its staff could be more on top of what was happening within the board’s network. The software also allowed the merging of the two recently amalgamated boards’ systems to go more smoothly, he added.

The first installation phase was in January, and Hughes is still in the process of bringing all of the management systems together and refining them. He said CA staff came to his office and installed all the ground work, and now he just has to fill in the board’s systems.

Currently, the two most-used features of the new system are the software delivery – which allows Hughes to do remote upgrades – and the remote-access help desk.

“This allows us to take over a desktop (remotely) through the technician’s help desk,” Hughes said, adding eventually this should cut down dramatically on the time technicians spend out of the office. “We predict we will handle 60 to 70 per cent of all calls without sending out technicians once everything is installed.”

Hughes added, however, that because of the constant installation process, not much time is being saved now. But he predicted that in less than six months employees would notice the efficiency.

He said most of his staff members are itching to get their hands on TNG – and as each new function is tested, the acceptance of the product grows.

“(But) there are always going to be some people who want to go out and physically work on the client’s desktop,” he added.

Tony Fernandez-Spoll, vice-president of marketing for Mississauga, Ont.-based Computer Associates Canada, said one asset of the product in this case was that it could be rolled out in pieces, in order of priority.

“In this case they needed antivirus, software delivery and some remote-control functionality, as well as the asset management portion. There are other pieces they can add on and purchase later,” Fernandez-Spoll said.

He added that Unicenter TNG is not platform-biased.

“If you have a specific application that you’ve created in-house and you need to manage it, there’s a tool in our software management portion that will allow you to create the management of that application,” he said, adding that the software will also manage databases and anything with an IP address.

The DSBN also wanted to have some predictive capabilities, which would allow it to proactively manage applications and be aware of outages and slowdowns before they occurred.

Fernandez-Spoll said to do this the board utilized Unicenter TNG Performance Neugents.

“[This functionality] allows you to look at an environment running at a certain rate, and then it can predict how that system will be running in any given amount of time, if it’s running at the same rate,” he explained.

Hughes noted his only suggestion for future changes would be to bring all functionality provided by TNG into one solution.

“A lot of the products have been purchased (separately) and then brought together. If all the products were under one umbrella it would be easier to work with,” he said. “I’m told they are working on this right now.”