The South African government’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation’s (DIRCO) approximately 3500 computer users across the world were on the Windows XP platform. After vigorous testing of various desktop operating system platforms, the Department’s IT team was firm on deploying Windows 7 as the preferred desktop solution for their enterprise.
“With so many sites in so many countries abroad, we needed a solution that would not require expenditure on hardware upgrades, but that would help our users be as productive as possible without compromising on security,” says Victor Mbulugeni of the Department’s IT Operations.
“While we want to comply with Government’s stance on open source, we had to assess what the people we work with have done,” adds Lillian Phahla, DIRCO’s CIO.
“DIRCO is internationally based, while the majority of other government departments are local, and we had to make sure that our various sites had access to support infrastructure.
”DIRCO had an existing Premier contract with Microsoft, and when the company approached the Department in August 2009 to discuss the soon‐to‐be‐launched Windows 7, the IT Operations team was very receptive to a solution that would offer great value for money, and that would not require any hardware upgrades.
“Like many government departments, DIRCO was striving to be more efficient with limited resources and it wanted a solution through which new software and applications could be rolled out quickly and effectively, with minimum support required,” says Joel Chacko, Account Technology Strategist at Microsoft.
“They tested the beta versions of Windows 7 extensively, and also went to great lengths to investigate the stability of Office 2007. They also considered – and chose – Windows Server and Systems Centre, which they now use to deploy Windows 7 remotely to their sites across the world.”
“With DirectAccess, mobile users have seamless access to DIRCO’s network, while BranchCache significantly reduces the time that workers in our branch offices need to download files across the network,” says Mbulugeni. “Apart from improving our efficiencies in our operations, we have been able to improve our service to members of the public abroad.” Currently there are 2104 pc’s deployed, with 1396 pc’s to be deployed soon.Benefits
Microsoft Virtualization Solutions such as Windows Server 2008 R2 have a built‐in virtualisation capability that allows organisations like DIRCO to reduce the time and complexity of consolidating IT infrastructure, while providing improved service delivery. “We have seen that this built‐in approach allows CIOs to not only significantly reduce maintenance and support budgets, but capital expenditures as well,” says Ridwan Carrim, the Microsoft Account Manager who works with DIRCO.
As a player in international politics and diplomacy, DIRCO was particularly concerned about the security of its network, but DirectAccess and BitLocker addressed these concerns.
BitLocker prevents unauthorised users from accessing information who have accessed lost, stolen or improperly decommissioned computers. BitLocker To Go extends this sophisticated data protection facility to USB and other removable storage devices. Because of the remote capabilities that Windows 7 offers to administrators, DIRCO’s IT team can set the password length and complexity that users should consider when using BitLocker (from their location in South Africa), and they can require users to apply BitLocker protection to removable drives before they can write data to them.
BrancheCache, also a part of Windows 7, increases the network responsiveness for users in remote locations who would otherwise have to wait for documents to be downloaded from the Department’s central servers. “When a remote worker accesses a file from DIRCO, it is cached locally within the branch,” explains Chacko. “When another user in the same network requests that file, they get immediate access to the content, as they are only waiting for a download from the local cache, rather than from the remote one, which may be adversely affected by bandwidth constraints.”
The application can be set up to ensure that only authorised workers access files, preventing security breaches, and it always checks to make sure that it is delivering the most recent version of a document. Because it is a passive cache, BranchCache reduces bandwidth consumption between the Department’s headquarters and its various branches – a particular consideration in countries where bandwidth is of low grade or inconsistent performance.
Microsoft’s engineers evaluated the various customised applications that the Department uses, and made sure that they were compatible with Windows 7. “In the only instance where an application is not compatible, the Microsoft Consulting Services team has created a virtual Windows XP window, so that we can continue using this essential tool,” says Mbulungeni.This case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY.