Established in Choueifat, Lebanon, in 1886, SABIS has 75 schools in 15 countries that provide a high-quality educational system and services to around 56,000 students. It has two corporate offices—one in Lebanon and one in the U.S.
With a large network operating in different time zones, the company’s 4,500 employees need trustworthy communications tools. But, until recently, e-mail was unreliable, with around 10 per cent of messages failing to reach recipients. This was due to the fact that the e-mail servers located at different sites were not integrated or equipped to manage increased volumes of message traffic. Serge Bakhos, Vice President, Information Technology, Creative Designs, and Books Publishing at SABIS Group, says: “The lack of connectivity meant that some messages would fail to reach inboxes, and we could never be completely sure if employees were receiving important messages.”
As part of the organisation’s processes, local IT employees had to provide an inventory of all hardware and software in use. But the decentralised network made these audits extremely time-consuming, requiring the IT team at headquarters to connect remotely to servers and manually retrieve information. “It took employees several days to collect the data we needed,” says Bakhos. “Then we’d have to consolidate this information at headquarters. It took a minimum of one week to audit around 100 desktop computers and 10 servers.”
Because it took so long, inventories were only carried out once or twice a year. A site’s hardware and software could change between reports, making it difficult for the IT team to gain an accurate view of the entire IT infrastructure. “This affected troubleshooting,” says Bakhos. “If a server went down, it took us a lot of time to track the problem.”
In 2007, SABIS worked with Microsoft Gold Certified Partner PROCOMIX to centralise and streamline its network infrastructure. Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 was rolled out to provide a flexible, reliable e-mail messaging system. In addition, Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager 2007 and Microsoft System Center Operations Manager 2007 were deployed to give the IT team greater control over the global network.
Bakhos says: “We considered a number of solutions, including Virtual Network Computing for remote assistance, System Hound 2009 for software inventory, and Remote Software Installation Utility 2008 for automated software deployment. We chose Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager because it combines all these features into a single, easy-to-use console.”
PROCOMIX established a hosted site for the school’s critical applications—including third-party applications used to determine school and student performance—to enhance their availability, performance, and security.
The solution’s features include:
- Exchange Server 2007—all SABIS users can access the Microsoft Office Outlook messaging and collaboration client, including their e-mail messages, calendars, and tasks, from a variety of devices and from any location with Internet access.
- System Center Configuration Manager 2007—SABIS has a real-time map of its hardware across the entire business. Computers missing software or updates are automatically identified, so that employees can deliver upgrades where necessary.
- System Center Operations Manager 2007—the SABIS IT team can view performance data from mission-critical servers at any time. Servers are also proactively monitored, and if a potential fault is detected, key employees receive short message service (SMS) alerts.
- Microsoft Identity Lifecycle Manager 2007—this integrated solution manages user identities and permissions. User profiles are stored in each site’s Active Directory services and are automatically synchronised to the central Active Directory at headquarters. SABIS and PROCOMIX created a unified credentials system, giving users access to all their applications, including third-party software, with one user name and password.
Users are now confident their e-mail messages are always delivered and less junk mail is received. The IT team no longer spends weeks auditing servers and troubleshooting because it has access to a real-time view of the hardware and software installed at each site. Bakhos says: “The solution makes it easy for us to get an accurate assessment of the IT infrastructure in SABIS schools and proactively manage the network, while supporting faster decision-making.” Mohammed Helal, Education Account Manager for Lebanon and Jordan, Microsoft, says: “E-mail is reliable, collaboration is easier, and employees need significantly less support from the IT department to do their jobs.”
- E-mail is available 99.99 per cent of the time. All messages sent are delivered to recipients. Elie Bou Issa, IT Infrastructure Manager at SABIS, says: “We haven’t had any problems with our e-mail system for more than two years now. And by integrating Barracuda—a third-party antispam solution—we’ve removed spam and junk mail.”
- Remote software deployment is easier. With System Center Configuration Manager, product and update deployment is a simple process. “Recently, the Microsoft Office 2007 suite was remotely deployed to a collection of computers without encountering any problems,” says Bakhos.
- Auditing takes a few seconds instead of weeks. System audits are no longer treated as projects. “System audits can be completed in seconds, freeing the IT team to focus on other critical tasks,” says Bakhos.
- IT support is easier across time zones. “It used to take us 15 minutes just to find a problem when it happened,” says Bakhos. “Now, System Center Operations Manager notifies us of events to deal with before they become problematic. Even if it’s in the middle of the night at headquarters, someone will be alerted before we have any downtime.”
- Single password for all applications increases efficiency. Employees only need one user name and password to access their business applications. They spend less time phoning the help desk to retrieve forgotten logons.
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