The California Strawberry Commission deployed Windows Intune, along with Windows 7 Enterprise, to better manage PCs for its highly mobile workforce. Now, PC performance and employee productivity are higher, and the commission’s single IT employee saves 25 hours a week on PC management tasks. Security has also been greatly strengthened and malicious software infections are now rare.
The California Strawberry Commission (CSC) has a broad mission: although its priority focus is on food safety education, the CSC also conducts farm production and nutrition research, contributes to public policy discussions, and promotes consumer awareness of the California strawberry brand. Serving hundreds of strawberry producers requires a lot of outreach in the field, and more than half of CSC employees travel or work remotely.
“Managing all our remote laptops and providing them with software and security updates was difficult,” says Stan Massat, Information Systems Manager at the CSC. “Although I could create downloadable updates, I still had to manually install them, which was very time-consuming. It was also a challenge to work around people’s schedules. Some PCs would go a couple of months without updates.”
||We’re a small organization with an enterprise mission. We had the PC management needs of a larger business but not the IT resources to match them. Now, using Windows Intune, we’ve fully met this challenge.
Information Systems Manager, California Strawberry Commission
The lack of timely updates also contributed to security problems. “At any given time, I would have several PCs infected with malware [malicious software],” adds Massat. “Sometimes the infections were hard to clean and required reformatting the hard drive.” Finally, asset management was an issue. “We didn’t have sufficient visibility into the PC environment—a central repository listing of who had what installed on their PCs—so even tracking software licenses was difficult. Obviously, I couldn’t manage what I couldn’t see.” Solution
To address its challenges, in early 2011 the CSC worked with Microsoft Partner Network member Agile IT and decided that Windows Intune would be ideally suited to its needs. Windows Intune brings together cloud-based PC management tasks and endpoint protection along with upgrade licensing rights to the Windows 7 Enterprise operating system. “Unlike traditional on-premises approaches, Windows Intune offers extensive management features without having to make large capital expenditures,” says Massat. “The predictable subscription pricing is a great benefit.”
Massat cites the Windows 7 upgrade rights as another key reason for choosing Windows Intune: “As soon as Windows Intune became commercially available in early 2011, we obtained licenses so that we could begin upgrading all our workstations to Windows 7. I wanted all our users to have the best possible PC experience, including access to advanced security features like BitLocker encryption technology and DirectAccess connectivity.” (DirectAccess provides protected remote access to an organization’s files and applications.)
In just one week, the CSC upgraded its 30 PCs to Windows 7 and Windows Intune and reinstalled Microsoft Office Professional 2007. The CSC also replaced third-party antivirus software with Windows Intune endpoint protection, which is built on the same Microsoft Malware Protection Engine used by the Microsoft Forefront Protection Suite. The CSC and its partner Agile IT can now remotely monitor all the commission’s Internet-connected PCs through an easy-to-use console running in any Microsoft Silverlight–enabled web browser.
The CSC also plans to deploy the latest version of Windows Intune to further automate the distribution of Microsoft and third-party software and gain enhanced reporting capabilities. The CSC will also be able to remotely perform full malware scans, quick scans, and malware definition updates on connected PCs. “We look forward to taking advantage of these features, especially the software distribution and remote scanning tasks,” says Massat. “The ability to remotely update malware definitions and scan client computers will be extremely helpful.”Benefits
By deploying Windows Intune, the CSC has gained the following benefits:
More Efficient IT Processes
By using Windows Intune, Massat can spend his time more effectively. He says, “The software’s management console is very simple to use, so setting up groups based on how and when updates should be applied is quick and easy. And it’s much faster to log on and decide which updates need to be installed. I’m saving about 25 hours a week.”
Also, because any authorized person can use a web browser to manage its PCs, the commission can flexibly share these duties with its IT partner. “Being able to co-manage our environment with Agile IT is important because we want to maintain visibility there,” says Massat. “We can fully outsource the job to Agile, if needed, but we prefer to work as a team. This means that if I’m sick or on vacation, Agile can step in and take over.”
Mark Murai, President of the CSC, adds, “We can’t afford full-time staff redundancy, but knowing that we have back-up expertise available as needed, in case something happens to our IT manager, reduces risk and provides peace of mind.”
Cost-Effective Security, Better Support for Mobile Workers
Thanks to integrated endpoint protection, the CSC enjoys greatly strengthened security. Says Massat, “Mobile workers who connect to the Internet outside our corporate firewall used to get all kinds of viruses. Now, such infections are rare.” Also, the increased PC uptime and fewer technical support visits have improved worker productivity. “Mobile workers don’t have time to sit around the office waiting an hour for me to physically examine their PCs. Now, they no longer have to. I can manage them wherever they are.”
In addition, the CSC has saved U.S.$1,600 on three-year licensing costs for third-party endpoint protection. “The timing of our Windows Intune project was perfect because our renewal for virus software came up at the same time,” adds Massat.
Support for a Cloud Strategy that Lowers Hardware Costs
Based on its success with Windows Intune, the CSC now plans to virtualize many of its 15 physical servers and is preparing to move from the on-premises version to Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online. It will also upgrade from the Microsoft Business Productivity Online Standard Suite to Microsoft Office 365. In this way, deploying Windows Intune is part of the commission’s ongoing plans to move more applications to the cloud, ensuring IT scalability while minimizing IT infrastructure costs. “We chose Windows Intune not only to address an immediate IT management need, but also to cope with expected growth,” says Massat. “Within five years, we expect to reduce the number of our physical servers by 80 percent by using Microsoft Online Services.”
Murai concludes, “Before we deployed Windows Intune, I wasn’t able to have many conversations with Massat about our strategic cloud projects because he was so busy with day-to-day IT management tasks. Now, we can really focus on the next steps required to realize our strategic vision, and that’s a very positive benefit of this project.”
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