Egypt-based mobile services provider Etisalat Misr wanted to upgrade its operating system from Windows XP to reduce maintenance costs, cut downtime, and improve productivity. In 2010, the company decided to deploy the Windows 7 Enterprise operating system to its entire workforce supported by Microsoft Gold Partner OMS. The IT team deployed Windows 7 using zero-touch installation and ensured business continuity for all users. With almost 70 per cent of staff converted to the new operating system, productivity has increased, while the burden on the IT team has been reduced by 15 per cent. IT technicians no longer need to remove unauthorized software, which is now blocked automatically by Windows 7. Etisalat Misr expects to save money on network bandwidth due to the Windows 7 Branch Cache feature.Situation
Etisalat Misr, a subsidiary of the United Arab Emirates telecommunications services provider Etisalat, delivers 2G and 3G mobile telecommunications services to 14 million subscribers in Egypt. It offers voice, messaging, and data services and is the sole 3.75G network in Egypt, making video calling, mobile TV, and mobile broadband Internet faster and easier. The Cairo-based firm was established in 2007. Its parent company Etisalat—based in Abu Dhabi— operates in 18 countries across Asia, the Middle East, and Africa, serving more than 100 million customers.
As the market leader in mobile phone technology in Egypt, Etisalat Misr prides itself on making use of cutting-edge technology for its customers, and its 3,000 staff, who need to manage a growing amount of data on their desktops. In addition, Etisalat Misr operates nationwide with employees dispersed across multiple sites, including retail outlets, so mobility is an important consideration. Network security and computer performance are major issues that affect staff productivity, especially with the ever-present threat of malware and viruses.
Ibrahim Sokkar, Desktop Support Manager, Etisalat Misr, says: “When we started looking at upgrading our desktops from Windows XP, we identified a number of challenges. First, we needed a straightforward path for migrating our numerous business applications. We also saw a critical requirement for improving protection against malicious software at the operating-system level and in the browser. Plus, the solution needed to offer tools for increasing productivity with easier navigation, faster logon and remote access, and better device compatibility.”
||We wanted to give our IT staff the tools to control user actions so they could spend more time on strategic tasks that support the core business. Our priority was to reduce downtime and support our employees to work more productively.
Desktop Support Manager
Etisalat Misr IT staff were spending a significant amount of technical resource time on desktop issues, including troubleshooting problems, removing unauthorized software from user systems, and reacting to emergencies. Sokkar says: “We wanted to give our IT staff the tools to control user actions so they could spend more time on strategic tasks that support the core business. Our priority was to reduce downtime and support our employees to work more productively.”
IT employees also spent a lot of time helping remote users connect to corporate systems using a virtual private network (VPN)—they wanted an easy, secure way for users to work remotely.
Sokkar says: “We needed advice on how to capture and configure computer images, and as soon as we deployed the software we wanted our staff to get up and running, with minimal impact on productivity.” Solution
When Windows 7 was announced, Etisalat Misr was immediately interested. It knew that the software performed well on a wide range of hardware, and offered stability and desktop management improvements. Microsoft Egypt recommended engagement with Microsoft Gold Partner OMS.
The Windows 7 design produced by OMS and implemented by Etisalat Misr Egypt included using Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager 2007 with the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit 2010 to support zero-touch installation on users’ computers. System Center Configuration Manager 2007 automates image creation and network configuration tasks.
OMS used the Microsoft Application Compatibility Toolkit—a lifecycle management tool—to evaluate and mitigate application compatibility issues before the deployment of Windows 7. Hazem A. Moneim, Technical Leader, Infrastructure Solutions at OMS, says: “With zero-touch installation, we can deploy components without physical interaction with the desktop.” Etisalat Misr wanted to take advantage of several productivity gains from different features of Windows 7. Moneim says: “Users don’t need to configure systems to connect to their office when on the move. They simply connect to the Internet through Windows 7.”
In addition, Direct Access helps mobile users connect easily to corporate systems when out of the office, and Branch Cache speeds up access to files and websites for users at remote sites. The Windows 7 AppLocker feature stops users from running unauthorized applications, while BitLocker offers data protection. IT staff now have better control over the desktop environment. They enforce BitLocker Drive Encryption using Advanced Group Policy management, which helps them change Group Policy Objects without affecting employee desktops.
Sokkar is proud of the role his IT team played in delivering the progress so far—it has taken just five months to roll out Windows 7 to 70 per cent of users. The rest of the staff, principally in finance and retail, require adjustments to some applications, including the Oracle and retail store software. This is scheduled to happen by the end of 2011. “We deployed Windows 7 without needing outside support from a Microsoft partner. Our in-house team produced the standard desktop master image to deliver to workstations,” he says.Benefits
The Windows 7 operating system will boost employee productivity, helping them to manage increasing quantities of data on their desktops. Etisalat Misr will save time and resources previously dedicated to desktop management and troubleshooting through greater automation of maintenance. The operating system introduces new security features, reducing bandwidth costs and licensing fees.
User Productivity Improves Throughout the Business
Sokkar reports that Etisalat Misr employees have given positive feedback about the new operating system and experienced a surge in productivity. This enhanced efficiency has boosted revenue for Etisalat Misr because employees have fewer distractions and more time to spend with customers and prospective clients.
||We’ve made significant savings through less downtime and quicker operating system boot times. Running any Office application is faster and our employees say Windows 7 is a positive experience for them.
Desktop Support Manager
From a user-perspective, it’s easier to switch between windows. And, with the extended search capability in Windows 7, employees can locate business-critical information faster. Sokkar says: “We’ve made significant savings through less downtime and quicker operating system boot times. Running any Office application is faster and our employees say Windows 7 is a positive experience for them.”
The VPN Reconnect function in Windows 7 also means it’s faster to connect to the VPN. If a connection fails, VPN Reconnect automatically re-establishes the link without any intervention by the user.
Windows 7 Makes Management Easier and Bolsters Security
From an IT management perspective, Windows 7 has been a major success for Etisalat Misr. Image management is completed in-house, making deployment of upgraded desktops easier and less time consuming. Technicians can use Direct Access to manage users’ systems remotely throughout the highly dispersed business. They can connect to computers and solve issues remotely without travelling to various locations around Egypt.
Sokkar says: “Calls to the service desk have dropped by up to 35 per cent for desktops running Windows 7. As a result, the burden on IT resources has been reduced by 15 per cent, freeing staff for higher value work.”
Windows 7 with AppLocker and User Account Control has enhanced security and greatly decreased the risks of staff running unauthorized software. With BitLocker Drive Encryption as standard on mobile storage devices, the operating system is more secure than Windows XP and avoids the need for licensing of third-party software.
Zero-Touch Installation Speeds Up Operating System Migration
The zero-touch installation support from System Center Configuration Manager 2007 has helped ensure that the IT team at Etisalat Misr is in full control of the rollout, without the need for external contractors. Sokkar says: “The main achievement for us was the zero-touch installation and the ability to deal with software installation outside working hours, thus not affecting business continuity.”
Etisalat Misr Cuts Network Bandwidth Costs
With the Branch Cache feature in Windows 7, employees will be able to store content and web pages locally, helping the company cut network bandwidth costs significantly. In Egypt, there’s rarely enough bandwidth, especially for an enterprise that operates nationwide. Moneim says: “Branch Cache is a way for Etisalat Misr offices to increase information exchanges without having to spend money on additional bandwidth.”
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