Technology complements the academic curriculum at Brisbane Girls Grammar School, a top-ranking educational institution founded in 1875. The Australian school’s team of five IT professionals has an enormous responsibility, with mor
||Essential Support is a tremendouos aid to our IT team, providing us with the advice and tools to better plan projects, quickly solve problems, and stay informed.
||Nathan Pilgrim Director of ICT Brisbane Girls Grammar School
e than 750 desktops and 200 classroom applications to maintain, in addition to e-mail and other administrative systems. This technology infrastructure facilitates teaching and learning, so system downtime can seriously disrupt classroom activity. “A significant amount of our coursework depends on technology, so uptime is even more vital to our school than it is for some companies. We can’t ask students and teachers to log on later in the evening to complete their work,” explains Nathan Pilgrim, Director of ICT at Brisbane Girls Grammar School.
The school regularly upgrades to the latest Microsoft technology, which helps improve the administration of the school and provides teachers with more options in the classroom. The school’s IT team needs to plan and carry out these technology upgrades smoothly while continuing to maintain existing systems. The school has 18 servers that run the Windows Server® 2003 operating system. For its e-mail messaging and collaboration software, the school relies on Microsoft Exchange Server 2003, while Microsoft System Center Operations Manager provides a comprehensive view of the health of the IT environment. The school also uses Microsoft SQL Server® 2005 to reliably manage mission-critical information and confidently run its increasingly complex technology infrastructure. To support the needs of the classroom and the administrative side of operations, the school maintains 12 terabytes of hard drive storage and is in the process of upgrading from Microsoft Systems Management Server to Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager.
When dealing with version upgrades, the school’s IT team researches new technology and works with a local solution provider for implementation. In charge of day-to-day maintenance of the system, Brisbane Girls Grammar doesn’t have quick access to the specialized help that it needs if something unexpected occurs. On one occasion, the IT team encountered a problem with Exchange Server 2003 on a weekend and had to wait until the following Monday to get expert help from the local solution provider. “That incident made us aware of our need for support agreements with our technology providers. With agreements in place, we would be equipped to proactively manage our infrastructure and fix issues faster when something breaks,” says Pilgrim.
To address this need, Brisbane Girls Grammar School signed up for Microsoft Services Essential Support. “For several years now, Essential Support has proven to be well worth the investment, partly because we rely so heavily on Microsoft technology,” says Pilgrim. “The benefits we receive from Essential Support are far greater than those we receive from the support agreements that we have with our other technology suppliers.”
Essential Support provides direct priority access to Microsoft technical experts, guidance on IT system optimization, and information and training on the latest products. Now, whenever the school prepares to upgrade or deploy new technology, the IT team contacts technical account specialists from Microsoft. These technical account specialists deliver guidance that is based on the cumulative experiences of similar engagements from around the world. With direct access to the school’s customer profile, the specialists can quickly contextualize recommendations and come up with an appropriate migration or upgrade plan.
When the school encounters a technical issue, the IT team has several options made available through its Essential Support agreement. In-depth technical information from the Microsoft Services Premier Support Web site provides the school with access to exclusive Microsoft Knowledge Base articles, hotfixes, security bulletins, and critical problem alerts. If Pilgrim’s team cannot find the answer to its problem on the Web site, the school also has direct telephone access to round-the-clock technical support resources at Microsoft.
The Essential Support agreement is flexible enough that Brisbane Girls Grammar can expedite problem resolution when necessary. “It’s up to us to determine the priority of an issue. Because we’re a Microsoft shop, we use Essential Support for a wide variety of issues—everything from resolving a problem with our Internet Information Services Web server to making our principal’s Blackberry work with our Exchange Server,” notes Pilgrim.
Microsoft Services Essential Support helps Brisbane Girls Grammar School more effectively manage its IT infrastructure and meet strategic goals. “Essential Support is a tremendous aid to our IT team, providing us with the advice and tools to better plan projects, quickly solve problems, and stay informed. And you really can’t get support that’s any more solid than from the vendor that actually wrote the software,” says Pilgrim.
Excellent Return on Investment
Through Essential Support, Brisbane Girls Grammar spends less time and money on outside IT resources. The school’s IT staff has access to expertise through technical articles and online training seminars, so team members are better equipped to solve issues without having to log a support call. And when the school does make a call to Microsoft, it is less expensive than having a technician from a local service provider come in to fix the issue. “The time and resources we’ve saved through Microsoft Services Essential Support are incredible,” testifies Pilgrim. “All things considered, it has provided us with an excellent return on investment.”
Strategic Planning Support
Essential Support helps Brisbane Girls Grammar better prepare for technology migrations and upgrades by providing early access to product announcements, updates, and beta programs. For example, the school contacted Microsoft to help it sign up for the beta program for Windows Vista®. Currently, the school has several desktops running the operating system in preparation for a large-scale migration.
Technical account specialists at Microsoft also relay valuable migration and upgrade expertise to Brisbane Girls Grammar, based on the experiences of other Microsoft customers in the same industry and with similar IT environments. “With Essential Support, we’re able to make much more informed decisions about our IT strategy and determine the most prudent approach that will minimize complications,” says Pilgrim.
Brisbane Girls Grammar uses the knowledge and best practices gained from its Essential Support agreement to more effectively manage technology and prevent disruptions. Technical account specialists from Essential Support help the school review code and provide consultation about specific configurations, ensuring that all its systems continue to run smoothly.
When the school does need to contact Microsoft about a problem, it receives a quicker response than it would from local solution providers. While the school would have to wait a day or longer for a local expert to respond, Microsoft can assign resources to the issue right away and maintain the effort round-the-clock. “Microsoft Services Essential Support quite simply provides better, faster service than we could receive elsewhere,” says Pilgrim.