The Indiana Office of Technology had run the Microsoft Internet Explorer 6 browser on most of the state’s computers for many years. The agency decided to upgrade to Windows Internet Explorer 8 as part of a move to the Windows 7 operating system. Using Internet Explorer 8 offers the state enhanced security, tighter control over its environment, and a great user experience, all of which help it provide excellent service to the citizens of Indiana.
The Indiana Office of Technology supports more than 31,000 state employees as they further citizens’ economic prosperity and quality of life. The agency aims to provide the up-to-date technology tools that state employees need to deliver accurate, timely, effective, and secure information to the more than 6 million citizens of Indiana.
Until recently, employees relied on 28,000 desktop and portable computers that ran the Windows XP operating system and Microsoft Internet Explorer 6 browser. However, with a project underway to upgrade the state’s computers to the Windows 7 operating system, the agency wanted to roll out a browser that kept pace. “More and more commercially available software applications demanded a newer browser version,” says Dewand Neely, Manager of Tier 3 Support for the Indiana Office of Technology. For example, all state employees use a web-based PeopleSoft application for such tasks as entering work hours, approving employees’ hours, and monitoring purchase orders, and PeopleSoft was developing improvements that required an up-to-date browser.
Nearly every state agency has developed its own web-based application either for internal operations or for dealings with the public, from beach monitoring to checking on child support status. “About 80 percent of our web use is for line-of-business applications, and just 20 percent is for research,” says Neely.
Because state employees rely so heavily on web-based applications, it’s critical that their browser has the latest security features. “We take security seriously,” comments Neely. “We do all that we can to add layers of security without hampering the employee experience.”Solution
The Indiana Office of Technology decided to upgrade most of the state’s computers to Windows Internet Explorer 8. To prepare, the agency used the Microsoft Application Compatibility Toolkit, which helped systems administrators evaluate the readiness of at least 30 critical applications. “Our compatibility expectations were low because the agencies’ custom applications use a lot of older technologies,” says Neely. “But we got help from Microsoft in the form of suggestions for workarounds, information about available upgrades, the use of Compatibility View, and, as a last resort, virtualization. And we were able to adjust Internet Explorer 8 settings to get the majority of commercial applications to work just fine on the new browser, such as the PeopleSoft web application.”
||With the degree to which the State of Indiana employees use the web, we feel good about the extra layer of security that Internet Explorer 8 provides the state’s 28,000 computers.
Manager of Tier 3 Support, Indiana Office of Technology
The agency also checked for any website compatibility issues by using the Internet Explorer Compatibility Test Tool to identify potential compatibility issues with Internet Explorer 8.
For the deployment, the agency took advantage of the Internet Explorer Administration Kit 8, which helped with browser customizations, such as silencing initial prompts, turning off some plug-in applications by default, and locking down particular site zones. “We also used Group Policy preferences to ensure that all Internet sites run in Compatibility View by default and to manage the advanced check boxes inside the browser,” says Neely. “It was a real time-saver to be able to establish those settings just once and have them apply to everyone.”
The agency did not anticipate any problems with user readiness, but it created some training materials as a resource for employees. “We found that the browser is intuitive, as it should be,” says Neely. “We’ve only received Internet Explorer 8–related support calls when a particular website isn’t working properly.”
As of August 2010, more than 600 state computers run Internet Explorer 8, about 85 percent of which run Windows 7 Enterprise. About 15 percent of them are used by employees who still have Windows XP but who specifically requested the browser upgrade. The agency expects to have 6,000 computers running Internet Explorer 8 by the end of 2010, and it will continue the upgrade process as part of the normal refresh cycle.Benefits
The Indiana Office of Technology believes that the browser upgrade project further safeguards the state’s computers while creating an environment that is easier to manage and that provides a range of productivity features for employees, which ultimately helps the state better serve its constituents. “Using Internet Explorer 8 helps keep users from inadvertently harming their systems,” explains Neely. “The agencies need this upgrade, because most of their computers have been on Internet Explorer 6 for such a long time.” Benefits include:
Enhanced security. The agency welcomed the security features in Internet Explorer 8, such as the SmartScreen Filter and the Cross Site Scripting Filter. “With the degree to which the State of Indiana employees use the web, we feel good about the extra layer of security that Internet Explorer 8 provides for the state’s 28,000 computers,” says Neely.
Better management. The agency’s system administrators take advantage of the more-detailed management capabilities that are built into the browser. “We heavily use Group Policy settings to give employees a positive, uniform experience,” says Neely. “Also, upgrading means we’ll have only one set of policies to manage, and we can direct new application development toward Internet Explorer 8.”
Ease of use. State workers enjoy the browser’s productivity features. “Most employees were using Internet Explorer 6, so they hadn’t experienced tabbed browsing capabilities,” says Neely. “They also really like how the Accelerators speed the pace of their research.”
Long-term support. The agency appreciates that Microsoft offers long-term support for browsers. “Many agencies receive funding to develop applications through grants, so funds often aren’t available later to upgrade those applications,” says Neely. “We’ll be able to use applications based on Internet Explorer 8 for a longer period of time because of ongoing browser support from Microsoft.”
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