Migrating to a new and better computer system

The Client

ITSP were approached by an international development organisation committed to improving the quality of life of persons with disabilities in the poorest countries of the world. They act upon the needs and rights of people with disabilities and support the provision of more than 900 projects in more than 90 countries. The UK branch, based in Cambridge, has over 30 members of staff, some of whom travel extensively.

The client had an office based computer system that was based on the Microsoft Windows NT server platform with a mixture of Windows 95, Windows 2000 and Windows XP on the desktops. Users were experiencing slow system response and significant downtime. Although remote users could connect into the main office, functionality was limited. An updated infrastructure was needed that would serve the needs of both office based and mobile users.

The Process

Our starting point as always was to look at the business processes in operation across the organisation. We looked at the working information and how it was processed and stored; this included database systems and accounting. We analysed the individual user requirements in terms of applications, communication, security and mobility. This helped us to form an overall picture of the commercial needs of the organisation.

Once the business needs were established we performed an extensive audit of equipment, networks and software.

With computers systems we believe that evolution is better than revolution and so in our design process we tried to incorporate the existing systems where they were still fit for purpose; this helps to maintain the client’s investment and hopefully extend the lifecycle of the equipment. In this case we recommended new server hardware and the Microsoft Small Business Server. This product allows expansion of up to 75 users and provides file sharing, email and remote access as standard. At the desktop we proposed memory upgrades for PCs that were still viable as user workstations and identified any that were beyond their useful life. All workstations would run Windows XP professional and become part of a new domain. Group policies will be used to centrally control the configuration of each workstation.

The new infrastructure provided:

  • Centralised user account management and login
  • A secure common file space
  • Reliable database platform
  • Microsoft Exchange email, shared calendars and public folders
  • Centralised printer control
  • Secure Remote Access
  • Webmail
  • Backups

The work was carried out and completed over a weekend and the technical staff were onsite on Monday to assist users with any minor problems and queries that arose as they were introduced to the new system.

The Result

With the newly upgraded computer systems in place the client began to enjoy more reliable and functional technologies. Server downtime was significantly decreased and users found office applications more responsive. Communication also improved with the introduction of Microsoft Exchange and the Sharepoint based Intranet system that comes as standard with the Microsoft Small Business Server.

Mobile users had much better access to the internal data systems through the in-built virtual private network (VPN) system. As well as direct access to Exchange, remote users could also access their email via the web interface from anywhere in the world.