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Channel Success: ZENworks in a Small Business World

Novell Cool Solutions: Trench

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Posted: 7 Nov 2003

It began simply enough, a local credit union needed a network assessment of their hard-working Novell NetWare 4.11 server. After the assessment was completed, we had a new Novell Small Business Suite installation to perform - complete with ZENworks. This is a small operation with only one office and a total of 17 workstations, however there is no on-site IT person and they needed to be as self-sufficient as possible.

A new Compaq Proliant server was installed, along with all new Compaq workstations. Luckily for us they had some very distinct user profiles for workstation images. Using the ZENworks for Desktops imaging solution, we were able to create a complete image of Windows XP, running Office XP and their custom applications for two distinct configurations. Creating the image was simple; we just followed the quick start instructions and tested the image on two different workstations.

We act as their IT department and using the imaging solution allows our engineers to quickly replace a workstation for any given user and give them back their familiar desktop in a matter of minutes. There is no need for special training as our engineers are already familiar with the ZEN products. This saves us time and, more importantly, saves our customer money. The cost savings is two-fold, lost productivity is kept to a minimum, and the service call cost is lower than with a manual rebuild.

And the speed is amazing! We can download a complete image in approximately 30 minutes on a network that has only 10/100 hubs and no switches. The same image using a competitor's product has been known to take over an hour on a more robust infrastructure. The new interface helps as well and is easy to follow.

Snapshots were also created within ZENworks so that users can quickly self-heal any of the applications without having to call for assistance. Users can also quickly locate their applications if the shortcuts are moved off of the desktop. And ZENworks is ready at a moments' notice to deploy anti-virus, application, and operating system patches to all workstations with a minimum of setup time required.

A few policies were created as well, but were kept to a bare minimum. This is a casual work environment and the staff is granted quite a bit of leeway. Policies were created to help minimize any accidental modification of the workstations that could cause the operating system to no longer function.

While there is not a current need to perform hardware or software inventories, the workstation information has already been imported into the eDirectory tree. This allows us to quickly implement an inventorying solution should the need arise.

Our "big secret": we started with a pilot project. Proper planning and a good test environment go a long way toward keeping our customers happy and the projects on target for time and budget. We started with a one-week pilot for ZENworks to iron out any bugs we may have had with the Windows XP installation and their custom applications. We were fortunate that new workstation hardware had been purchased, so we had solid test hardware, in the configuration that was going live, to work with.

Another big plus we had was technical training. As a Platinum Partner we have the added benefit of attending ATT courses for free, and we take advantage of these courses whenever possible. The engineer assigned to take on the ZENworks pilot had recently returned from an ATT course on ZENworks for Desktops and was able to immediately use what was learned. This course was crucial in the rapid deployment and testing of the new imaging features included in ZENworks for Desktops 4.

We had scheduled the "go-live" to happen over the course of a day as we were replacing all of the hardware. With ZENworks in place, our training time was minimized and we were able to finish more quickly than originally planned. Our pilot project helped us identify the more common issues with the custom applications, and we had only two applications that had to be specially configured for three users. Once the fix was found, a new snapshot was created, allowing us to push the fix to the remaining workstations without requiring human intervention.

The entire installation went more smoothly than hoped for. As always, Novell's products worked as expected. We even finished on time and under budget.

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