The Workers’ Welfare Association (AWO) Bremerhaven, which offers social and health services to a region of Germany, needed to standardize its infrastructure to streamline IT management and increase user productivity. The organization opted to migrate to the Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 operating systems. As a result, AWO Bremerhaven has lowered its maintenance burden and established a better work environment for its employees.
The Workers’ Welfare Association (AWO) Bremerhaven operates more than 70 independent facilities that are scattered across the city of Bremerhaven and the Cuxhaven district in Germany. The organization’s 1,400 full-time employees offer services that cover all stages and conditions of life, from early childhood education to social services for migrants, substance addicts, and the elderly.
AWO Bremerhaven has experienced significant growth over the last few years. During this rapid expansion, it largely left decisions about technology to each individual facility. That practice led to a jumbled overall IT environment that included multiple operating systems, desktop applications, and vertical solutions.
With such a range of technology, it was all that the organization’s five-member IT team could do to keep the heterogeneous infrastructure up and running. “We couldn’t even think about furthering our IT services in a proactive way because we were so worried about maintenance,” says Wolfgang Boelmann, IT Division Manager for AWO Bremerhaven.
The organization wanted to break free of its IT management constraints by standardizing on a desktop operating system that would offer not only reduced management, but also full application compatibility and user friendliness.
In late 2008, AWO Bremerhaven began to evaluate various options for consolidating and improving its IT environment. The organization investigated open source solutions, and one that included the Windows 7 Professional operating system for its desktop computers and the Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise operating system for its server computers.
||With Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2, we’re ushering in a new era, where those of us in the IT division can finally offer business-critical support. We’re beginning to generate business value.
IT Division Manager, AWO Bremerhaven
The organization’s IT staff computed the total costs of ownership for the potential solutions. “Our detailed calculations showed that an open source solution offered us no cost advantage over a Windows solution,” says Boelmann. “In the professional world, open source solutions are not free, and professional support for open source is not less expensive than support for Microsoft products.”
One of the decisive factors for AWO Bremerhaven was the availability of vertical applications for its industry. “A market analysis showed that nearly all our vertical applications had been developed for a Windows environment,” notes Boelmann. “So it made sense for us to build on the Windows 7 operating system platform.”
Having made its technology decision, AWO Bremerhaven launched its deployment project, which was planned for all 70 locations. It took the organization approximately four weeks to create the master client, during which time AWO Bremerhaven tested all its applications for deployment readiness. The organization then used Windows Deployment Services to help with the desktop operating system rollout, which also included Microsoft Office Professional 2007. “As soon as a computer is connected to the network and restarted, the standard Windows 7 client is automatically installed,” explains Boelmann. “We couldn’t find any incompatibilities with hardware drivers, even though we’re using older PCs, and we experienced a trouble-free rollout.”
The organization also upgraded its servers to Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise and partially virtualized them using Hyper-V technology. AWO Bremerhaven centrally deploys vertical applications from a terminal server and conducts client access to those applications through Remote Desktop Services RemoteApp. Both Hyper-V and Remote Desktop Services are part of Windows Server 2008 R2.
By restructuring its IT landscape with Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2, AWO Bremerhaven now has a scalable, networked solution that can support the applications that the organization needs both now and in the future. The benefits of its solution include:
AWO Bremerhaven has been pleased with how easily it implemented its standardized infrastructure. “So far, everything has been running smoothly. I’m surprised—no, more like thrilled—with how well things are working,” says Boelmann. As evidence, he points to how closely the actual project timeline matched his original plan, due in part to the seamless integration between Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2.
Increased user productivity.
Many AWO Bremerhaven employees work in shifts and have no personal workspace computer, so they take advantage of the user profiles in Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2, which are integrated with Active Directory service. “With the advanced user profile functionality in Windows 7, each employee can find his or her own interface on any PC for a more personalized work environment,” relates Boelmann.
It also helps that file storage in Windows 7 is no longer oriented to the physical structure of the drives, but rather to document folders. “Windows 7 in combination with Windows Server 2008 R2 supports the concept of document-oriented file storage in a terrific way,” says Boelmann. “Users don’t have to think about whether financial records are kept on drive C, D, or anywhere else, because they know that they now can find those records in the Finances document folder.” As a result, employees will be able to save steps and be more efficient in their daily work.
Reduced IT management.
The migration at AWO Bremerhaven is still in its early stages, but the organization already has experienced reduced maintenance and support overhead because it has a more standardized environment. “We’ve freed up time that we can use for new projects,” reports Boelmann. “With Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2, we’re ushering in a new era, where those of us in the IT division can finally offer business-critical support. We’re beginning to generate business value.”
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