When Ontario Systems sought an important data security certification, it needed a more efficient way to update its PCs and provide verifiable reporting without increasing its IT infrastructure costs. In 2011, the company evaluated the latest version of Windows Intune, a cloud-based PC management service. By adopting Windows Intune, Ontario Systems can take control of its PC environment, comply with new security standards, and limit its IT costs. Business Needs
Ontario Systems delivers revenue management software and services to customers in the healthcare and debt collection industries. Based in Muncie, Indiana, the company serves many of the largest collection agencies and health systems in the United States, and Ontario Systems solutions are used by more than 50,000 account representatives every day.
The company runs the Windows Server 2008 R2 operating system in its server infrastructure, and it manages 350 employee PCs—including portable computers for 60 remote employees—running the Windows 7 operating system and Microsoft Office Professional Plus 2010 productivity software. It also uses Microsoft Forefront Endpoint Protection 2010 to safeguard PCs from malware (malicious software).
Even with a comprehensive IT infrastructure, the company had difficulty delivering software and security updates to PCs when mobile employees worked outside the Ontario Systems network, or when firewall settings blocked both remote and on-site PCs from receiving updates. Ontario Systems used Windows Server Update Services to deliver updates from Microsoft, and it distributed packages of third-party updates with Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager 2007 R3. But working with two separate solutions was time-consuming and made it difficult for the IT staff to generate clear reports about software and security updates.
||We can use Windows Intune to monitor our PC environment, streamline PC management, and provide tighter security—all without increasing hardware or IT management costs
Manager of Technical Services, Ontario Systems
When the company decided to seek Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standard certification, it needed a better way to keep its PCs regularly updated and to provide clear, verifiable reporting. “We wanted a more efficient way to update computers,” says Justin Hughes, Desktop Administrator at Ontario Systems. “And we had no good way to export reports to auditors or let our security officer see what he needed without teaching him an entirely new console.”
While it needed to manage its PCs more effectively, Ontario Systems also wanted to simplify its server environment and reduce its IT costs. “Between training the IT engineers, provisioning hardware, and configuring the software, the staff costs of adding and managing servers are huge,” says Brett Silverthorn, Manager of Technical Services at Ontario Systems.Solution
Ontario Systems was already exploring the use of cloud technology—remote computing resources delivered as services over the Internet—and in 2011, the company participated in a Microsoft technology adoption program (TAP) for the latest version of Windows Intune, a cloud-based PC management and security service. Because Windows Intune is delivered as a service, Ontario Systems could adopt the technology without having to configure new servers. “It was very appealing to let Microsoft manage the server side of Windows Intune, so that I could concentrate on managing our PC environment,” says Hughes.
Ontario Systems used features in Windows Intune to manage 27 PCs. Administrators at Ontario Systems can monitor employee PCs and distribute software and updates from the web-based Windows Intune administration console anytime that the PCs are online with an Internet browser running Microsoft Silverlight. By using a simple wizard, administrators can publish and deploy update packages to selected PCs or groups of PCs, and the installation begins automatically the next time the PC is online. They can also perform remote tasks on selected PCs, such as a full malware scan, without disturbing employees.
Most importantly, the IT department at Ontario Systems can use enhanced reporting features in Windows Intune to generate clear, detailed reports about specific areas, such as software inventory or updates, and export the information into Microsoft Excel spreadsheets. “If I need a security update report quickly, I don’t have to go to a special reports console,” says Hughes. “I am already in a reports console every time I open Windows Intune.”
Silverthorn expects that by 2012, Ontario Systems will adopt Windows Intune to manage all of its desktop and portable PCs. “We can use Windows Intune to monitor our PC environment, streamline PC management, and provide tighter security—all without increasing hardware or IT management costs,” he says.
- More control, better insight. With the ability to monitor PCs, distribute software and updates, and perform remote tasks from a single console, Ontario Systems has more control and better insight into its PC environment. The IT department will save up to an hour each time it delivers the software updates that employees need to work productively and securely. “Being able to use Windows Intune to issue a security update or remotely initiate a malware scan without interrupting our employees’ workday saves time for the IT staff and helps avoid hours of PC down time,” says Hughes.
- Better security compliance. By using Windows Intune to quickly produce detailed reports or grant security officers and outside auditors read-only access to the Windows Intune console, Ontario Systems will find it easier to comply with PCI data security standards. “We can produce security reports in minutes instead of half a day,” says Silverthorn. “And with read-only access to Windows Intune, auditors can run the reports they need by themselves, without tying up our IT staff for days at a time.”
- Low IT costs. Ontario Systems will avoid additional infrastructure costs by using Windows Intune to manage its PC environment while it also streamlines and reduces its IT management burden. “By relying on Windows Intune in the cloud, we can manage our PCs without purchasing a single piece of new hardware to maintain,” says Silverthorn. “In five minutes, we can create an image and set up an update for distribution with Windows Intune,” adds Hughes. “For larger updates and deployments, we are saving at least a day.”
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