After years of growth, Alert Life Sciences Computing, a software solutions provider, needed to update its IT infrastructure. The company’s seven IT professionals required better tools to support the business, employees needed a way to collaborate
and communicate, and management wanted to standardize software acquisition among the subsidiaries. After signing the Microsoft Enterprise Agreement with the Enterprise Client Access License Suite option, Alert eliminated redundant software purchases, streamlined
the IT infrastructure, and gained management tools that the IT staff use to work an estimated 99 percent more efficiently, while saving US$25,000 annually by retiring third-party products. Employees use enterprise-grade communication and collaboration technologies,
helping them to connect with colleagues around the world and to build a more professional, cohesive business.
Alert Life Sciences Computing is a Portuguese software development company working in the healthcare field. Customers around the world turn to the company’s comprehensive suite of healthcare solutions, branded ALERT, to deliver patient-centric care and
improve administrative efficiencies—while transitioning to a paper-free environment.
Founded in 1999, Alert grew rapidly for the next 10 years, adding subsidiaries in Brazil, Mexico, France, the Netherlands, Singapore, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Focused on developing new software and winning customers, Alert did not
implement a corporate technology acquisition policy. The company’s head office and its subsidiaries acquired business productivity software or IT management tools on an as-needed basis. The lean IT staff of seven professionals, including one person on the
help desk in Brazil, had only a few third-party management tools to support a global environment. “When I joined the company in 2005, there were 35 employees and one IT staff,” says Filipe Pinto, now IT Manager at Alert Life Sciences Computing. “We grew 100
percent a year until 2007, and by 2009, it was getting very challenging for the IT staff to manage and support the business.”
Today, Alert has more than 250 servers, 85 percent of which run the Windows operating system. It has 550 personal computers standardized on the Windows 7 Professional operating system and Microsoft Office 2010. Approximately 60 percent of these are desktop
computers. The rest are laptops used by employees when they travel or visit customers. Mobile employees connect to the office through a corporate virtual private network. “Our goal is to support our employees so that they can work productively, no matter where
they are,” says Pinto.
Third-Party Management Tools
||Since signing the Enterprise CAL Suite, we have the tools we need to protect the network and provide better services to employees: the seven of us in IT are working 100 percent more efficiently!
|| Filipe Pinto
IT Manager, Alert Life Sciences Computing
However, Pinto and his colleagues did not have the right tools to enable a flexible work style. The company used TeamViewer to support colleagues working outside of the office, but it was not very efficient. Support staff had to ask employees to download a
client, which required an ID and passcode, and it didn’t have a voice over IP (VoIP) element. “It took 10 minutes just getting the session set up,” says Pinto.
To protect computers from malicious software, the IT department used the open source tool Anubis and deployed a Symantec antivirus solution in combination with a Linux-based firewall. This worked well until the employee count passed 400. ”Then the proxy
server on the Linux-based firewall started overwhelming the system, and I had to reboot the system all the time,” says Pinto. “Our disc-cloning software from Symantec, called Ghost, also lost its effectiveness as the number of PCs grew into the hundreds. It
was a manual process to deploy the image. To install just the basics—Windows, Windows Update, Microsoft Office, Skype, Adobe Reader, Adobe Flash, the Internet browser—would take up to seven hours per computer. Then we would have to ship the CDs to the subsidiaries.
It was becoming impossible to support the employees with these tools and manual processes.”
Poor Insight into Global Operations
As the subsidiaries grew, it was increasingly difficult for the central IT team in Portugal to keep track of global hardware and software inventories. Each subsidiary purchased software on its own; some acquired Microsoft technology through an Open Value Subscription,
while others had no licensing agreement at all. Subsidiaries also purchased hardware as needed. “This was an expensive way to acquire technology that resulted in multiple flavors of software and duplicate costs,” says Pinto. “And it impacted our ability to
control the corporate IT environment. With all those different PCs and laptops and approximately 17 images to manage, I couldn’t be sure of our inventory at any one place or time.”
Communication and Collaboration Issues
As the company grew, employees needed more robust communication and collaboration tools to span global operations. Alert did not offer an enterprisewide collaboration platform or content management capabilities beyond shared files on the network. There was
no way to collaborate on content, track document version history, or manage and run customer engagements. Employees used GoToMeeting from Citrix Online, but the company only had eight licenses and it was difficult to schedule web conferences, so people resorted
to phone calls and email messages.
Alert needed to standardize on productivity-enhancing, cost-effective technologies while simplifying global software acquisition. The company began looking for an enterprisewide technology licensing policy.
In 2009, after discussing different options with its Microsoft account representative, Alert Life Sciences Computing chose to update and standardize its IT infrastructure by signing a Microsoft Enterprise Agreement and opting for the Enterprise Client
Access License (CAL) Suite. This licensing program includes the collaboration, security, communication, and infrastructure management capabilities the company needed. The Enterprise CAL Suite comes with Software Assurance for Volume Licensing, which provides
automatic upgrades to new software versions.
“We could have purchased more disparate, third-party tools that would have forced us to learn different interfaces, but we liked the idea of standardizing on one vendor to simplify licensing and streamline IT management with a single tool set,” says Pinto.
“When we took a closer look at the Enterprise CAL Suite from Microsoft, it became clear that it was the most cost-effective way of acquiring the technologies we needed.”
||We grew 100 percent a year until 2007, and by 2009, it was getting very challenging for the IT staff to manage and support the business.
|| Filipe Pinto
IT Manager, Alert Life Sciences Computing
In addition to the Windows Server 2008 R2 operating system, the company gained Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 email messaging and collaboration software. This means IT staff can offer employees access to voice mail, email, and calendars in their inbox. Alert
acquired Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 to build a global collaboration and content management platform, and it replaced GoToMeeting with Microsoft Lync 2010 communications software, including Microsoft Lync Server 2010 and the Microsoft Lync 2010 client,
which staff can use to establish presence status and initiate instant messaging (IM) conversations and web and audio conferences. “Lync Server 2010 provides real-time desktop sharing plus VoIP capabilities, which we can use for providing remote support, so
we can retire TeamViewer,” says Pinto.
The IT staff was most excited about the suite of infrastructure management tools that it could use to protect the network and keep employees up-to-date with the latest software. IT professionals use Microsoft Forefront client security solutions to enhance
endpoint security. They retired Anubis in favor of Microsoft Forefront Online Protection for Exchange, an Internet-based service that protects inbound and outbound email from spam, viruses, phishing scams, and email policy violations. They replaced the old
proxy server with Microsoft Forefront Threat Management Gateway 2010, a network security and protection solution. They replaced Symantec with Microsoft Forefront Endpoint Protection 2010 to help strengthen endpoint security. Forefront Endpoint Protection is
built into Microsoft System Center 2012 Configuration Manager so that Alert IT staff can combine client management and security using a single console. IT staff had no software to manage its servers and desktops, but with System Center Operations Manager 2007
R2, they can centrally monitor endpoints across the organization and take steps to quickly solve issues.
“Of the System Center products, the star for us is Configuration Manager,” says Pinto. “We can retire the Ghost software distribution product. There’s no comparison between the tools. Now we have automated software deployment, both locally in Portugal and
for the global subsidiaries.
Outside of the Enterprise CAL Suite agreement, Alert also upgraded to Microsoft Project Server 2010, which is used by 55 people on the operations team to manage customer engagements, and to Microsoft Visio Professional 2010 drawing and diagramming software.
“We use Visio 2010 for designing unified modeling diagrams and for workflows and procedures,” says Luis Ribeiro, Systems Analyst at Alert Life Sciences Computing. “In other departments, we have hundreds of Visio diagrams used by Alert teams for their internal
When it entered into the Enterprise CAL Suite agreement, Alert Life Sciences Computing was a global company in need of enterprise-ready technologies. “The Enterprise CAL Suite agreement was the quickest, least-expensive way to acquire the Microsoft products
and services that were necessary to support our rapidly growing business,” says Pinto. “Today, we have the technology we need to work more productively anywhere, to make connections across global subsidiaries, and to secure the enterprise.”
Increased Efficiency 100 Percent
||We are also saving money by retiring third-party products. So far, we will be able to retire five products, saving at least €19,000 [US$25,000] a year.
|| Filipe Pinto
IT Manager, Alert Life Sciences Computing
The main incentive for Alert to enter the Enterprise CAL Suite agreement was to acquire a better set of tools for the IT staff to support the business. “Since signing the Enterprise CAL Suite, we have the tools we need to protect the network and provide better
services to employees: the seven of us in IT are working 99 percent more efficiently!”
Instead of manually deploying software to PCs, the IT staff use automated processes with System Center 2012 Configuration Manager. If employees want to upgrade to the latest version of Visio, all they have to do is open a ticket with the help desk, and the
IT staff can fulfill the request in five minutes by using Configuration Manager to download the program to their PCs. It is just as easy to deploy operating systems and applications. “With Ghost, I would have to insert the CD, start the machine, install the
image, and go to the next PC. By using Configuration Manager, I just start the machine from the network and install the image,” says Pinto. “When we upgraded to the Windows 7 operating system, it only took one hour to deploy the image, compared to the seven
hours per computer it took before.”
IT staff use Lync Server 2010 to expedite remote support for employees in the head office, on the road, or at a subsidiary on the other side of the world. Sharing desktops and initiating an audio conference is a click away, and employees can rely on IT staff
to keep their PCs and laptops working so that they can be productive anywhere. “Lync Server makes remote support seamless because everyone has the Lync 2010 client on their desktop,” says Pinto. “Since we began using this tool, we’ve eliminated at least 10
minutes at the beginning of each support call. At an average of 32 calls a day, that adds up to approximately 5 hours a day saved.”
Simplified IT Environment
Since Alert implemented a corporatewide software licensing agreement, it has standardized software acquisitions among the subsidiaries, reducing the number of images it maintains from 17 to five. “Before, we had to manage multiple desktops and images,” says
Pinto. “Now there is a lot less complexity in our environment. And thanks to Configuration Manager, what we do have, we know about, right down to the serial number on every machine.”
Increased visibility has empowered the IT staff to “take control of the park” according to Pinto. And where there is control, there is enhanced security. For example, Alert developers, all of whom have administrative rights on their PCs, were uninstalling the
antivirus software to improve PC performance, so the IT staff needed to address the problem. “We can easily see when this happens and, in minutes, re-install the software,” says Pinto. “And when Operations Manager reports that employees are surfing unprotected
websites, I can take steps to address the issue. With these tools, we can enhance our network security and provide more professional service to the business.”
Reduced IT Costs by €19,000 a Year
With a single licensing agreement that covers the entire company, Alert is no longer wasting IT budgets on duplicate software purchases among the subsidiaries. Because it simplified the IT environment and the IT staff work more efficiently with interoperable
management tools, Alert saves money on IT labor costs. “We are also saving money by retiring third-party products,” says Pinto. “So far, we will be able to retire five products, saving at least €19,000 [US$25,000] a year.”
Transformed Communication and Work Styles
Alert employees use presence information in Lync 2010 to see where their colleagues are and to choose the most appropriate communication option to reach them: PC-to-PC calls, IM, audio, or videoconferences—communication options that were not readily available
before. At the head office, most desks are shared by six people and there is just one desk phone, but with Lync 2010, everyone can make PC-to-PC calls and use their headsets. “We don’t have to pay for a license to have a soft phone because it comes with the
Enterprise CAL Suite agreement,” says Pinto. “People like to IM instead of sending an email, especially knowing that there will be a record of the IM conversation stored for future referral. I’m frequently out of the office, but people can reach me on my mobile
phone using Lync forwarding. I’m working harder and producing more.”
While Alert is only just beginning to build up a collaboration platform where employees can take advantage of document management capabilities within SharePoint Server 2010, the company has begun to automate workflows so that staff can save time on administrative
details. “Now, instead of filling out multiple paper forms and taking them around to get signed, staff can submit and process vacation requests through a SharePoint workflow,” says Pinto. “This is the beginning of a new way of working at Alert: before the
Enterprise CAL Suite, we had to work twice as hard to get half of what we wanted done: now we have all the technology we need to accomplish our goals, and we are doing it more professionally.”
Microsoft Infrastructure Optimization
With infrastructure optimization, you can build a secure, well-managed, and dynamic core IT infrastructure that can reduce overall IT costs, make better use of resources, and become a strategic asset for the business. The Infrastructure Optimization model—with
basic, standardized, rationalized, and dynamic levels—was developed by Microsoft using industry best practices and Microsoft’s own experiences with enterprise customers. The Infrastructure Optimization model provides a maturity framework that is flexible and
easily used as a benchmark for technical capability and business value.
For more information about Microsoft infrastructure optimization, go to:
For More Information
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For more information about Alert Life Sciences Computing products and services, call (351) (22) 832 89 80 or visit the website at: