For International Forest Products Ltd. (Interfor), growth over the years has meant acquiring new companies and opening new offices. The end result has been numerous disparate networks.

With sawmills and offices in Canada, the United States and Japan, Interfor wanted to consolidate and centralize its IT operations to save money and increase efficiency.

Recently, the firm upgraded its Microsoft Corp. Windows NT boxes to Windows Server 2003 and Active Directory 2003, managing to consolidate 22 servers down to 15.

“When I first started working at Interfor there was a mix of Windows NT and Unix,” said Cory Novak, systems manager at Interfor in Vancouver. “For standardization, reliability and robustness we realized early on that we wanted to become a Microsoft shop.”

Six years ago, when Interfor standardized on Microsoft Windows NT, the company was loathe to consolidate its systems because of concerns about server downtime, Novak said.

“The reliability and robustness of Windows Server 2003 really allowed us to take the next step,” he said.

Now, Interfor’s network administration time has been reduced by 20 per cent and the company estimates it will save about 16 per cent on hardware costs over the next three years.

Active Directory, Group Policy and Remote Desktop administration are three of the reasons why network administration time has been reduced, he added.

The recent upgrade began after Compugen Inc. came to Interfor with the idea to move to Windows Server 2003.

Terry Mirza, corporate account manager at Compugen, who had worked with Interfor previously, presented his idea to Novak who agreed it fit in with Interfor’s long-term strategy.

Compugen’s staff managed and conducted the upgrade for Interfor, which Novak said saved Interfor’s IT staff time and energy learning and deploying a new system.

The actual implementation of Windows Server 2003 and Active Directory took Compugen only three months to complete. Mirza credits this rapid deployment to careful planning.

“A lot of customers don’t understand that planning makes it much easier to flip the switch,” he said.

Overall, it took Compugen six weeks worth of person hours spread over three weeks to complete the planning phase. Interfor so far is very happy with Windows Server 2003 and Active Directory, Novak said.