Firm reins in net

Canadian business law firm Stikeman Elliott LLP recently revamped its IT operations in an effort to gain control over its far-flung assets.

The operations of Stikeman Elliott, which feature more than 1,300 staff members and several offices in Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia, have been evolving towards a more centralized data infrastructure in the wake of the company’s growing IT demands.

Before changing to a centralized data infrastructure, Stikeman Elliott was not effectively dealing with remote data management. With over 60 servers, a lack of resources to track system activity and a reactive strategy to issues on the network, IT members of Stikeman Elliot began to work towards a strategy that would enable the enterprise network to work across offices and continents.

In the fall of 2005, Microsoft partner LegendCorp helped Stikeman Elliott install Microsoft Operations Manager 2005, Microsoft Internet Security and Acceleration Server 2004, and Microsoft Systems Management Server 2003 on the law firm’s internal corporate network based in Toronto. Enzo DiStefano, network services team leader for Stikeman Elliot, says the implementatio has allowed the firm to handle IT issues more easily. “The upgrade we made was based on needs in a couple of areas. The one thing was monitoring — we often found that we would be caught with our pants down with the server being low on space. We didn’t like that situation, so we wanted to be more proactive. We wanted something that would tell us, ‘You’re getting low on this volume,’ or ‘This server has been at 50 per cent or higher utilization for more than an hour,’” DiStefano says.

DiStefano also says the installation of the new software has allowed the firm to roll out patches to software and keep network applications up-to-date.

Further, Stikeman Elliot is now able to centralize the network’s maintenance and upgrades in order to retain greater security for the organization’s data.

Derick Wong, senior product manager for Security/Management Solutions at Microsoft Canada, says the Stikeman project required an affordable way to manage the organization’s IP systems at smaller, satellite offices in places as diverse as Toronto, New York City, London and Sydney, Australia.

“They needed a way to better manage their solutions.

“What they ended up doing was that they weren’t getting information from their remote offices before, things like understanding what server capacity was, understanding what CPU usage was. These are things that are pro-active in keeping the network up and running. Before, they were very reactive,” Wong says.

DiStefano says the roll-out of the new integrated network platform was done relatively easily with the assistance of LegendCorp.

“We had meetings ahead of time to plan our roll out. Montreal wasn’t included in it, but we handle all the other offices. We didn’t have political issues. It all went rather smoothly.

“When we went live, our big concern was when you have an organization like that, you don’t want to impact the users in any way. We certainly didn’t cause any slowness.”

Warren Shiau, senior associate at The Strategic Counsel, says that one of the primary benefits of the Microsoft software is the standardization of management software and IT administration.

“In day-to-day terms we’re talking about things like performance monitoring, availability monitoring, monitoring memory and disk usage, automated system tuning, process monitoring, getting alerts and reports,” Shiau says.

“Microsoft’s management software can be run from a central location or it can be run at a local office. The main drawback people are always going to bring up is the increasing potential for vendor lock-in.”

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