About Underwriters Safety and Claims
As Director of Technology for Underwriters Safety and Claims, Grant Nickle often measures IT success by the number of helpdesk calls. “The minute I know we’ve failed is when the helpdesk rings. They should never have to call us,” he says.
The upgrade of hundreds of desktops to Windows 7 in the company’s 13 offices—located in 10 different states ranging from Michigan to Florida—might have made the helpdesk staff miserable. Instead, it made them smile.
“There are few things in life that are so amazing they make you laugh,” Nickle says. “Novell ZENworks can completely provision a machine, and do it consistently, with no one-offs. It works and that’s all there is to it—50 desktops or 5,000—it doesn’t matter.”
Underwriters Safety and Claims deals with global insurance companies, financial institutions and medical organizations. As a result, their network must support diverse platforms and applications—and comply with strict regulations for security and data privacy. They’ve had a Novell network since 1996, starting with NetWare® 3.12.
“Being able to control user access, whether logged in or not, and have very granular file system rights is unique to Novell,” Nickle explains. “We have one single point of authentication and auditing. The other thing Novell brings to the table is the ability to work nicely with others. We use NetIQ® eDirectory™ as our primary authentication directory for LDAP. We then hang Windows, Solaris and AIX servers off of our network as needed for applications. We can add or remove them as needed, but Novell and its services remain the backbone.”
When it came time to upgrade the company’s 300 desktops to Windows 7, with a 50-50 mix of virtual and physical machines, the technology director did his research “We looked at several other desktop management solutions and decided to stay with Novell ZENworks. Nothing else seemed to work as well, and we wanted to manage our physical and virtual desktops with one product,” he says.
To ensure a smooth upgrade process, Nickle enlisted Novacoast, an experienced Novell Platinum PartnerSM with a Universal Image solution based on ZENworks.
“Novacoast created a universal Windows 7 image, completely tailored the way we wanted it, including all the drivers and applications for every machine, physical or virtual. It was the best IT money we’ve ever spent,” he says.
“ZENworks is smart enough to know if it’s a virtual or physical machine and customizes it accordingly. We can image a machine, put Windows on it and provision the applications for the desktop in 20 minutes. Few things in life you see that really tickle you, but ZENworks does it every time.”
The company-wide desktop upgrade took less than a month. That included the time spent setting up and testing the dozens of applications running on each desktop, and the integration with VMware.
“We’re using Domain Services for Windows for all VMware authentication. There’s no Active Directory anywhere,” he says. “It’s flawless.”
Underwriters Safety and Claims upgraded to Windows 7 without a hitch. Nickle reports that helpdesk calls dropped by 25% after the upgrade.
“The ability to build desktops in 20 minutes and manage our systems—both physical and virtual—is truly remarkable. We’ve taken desktop management to an entirely new realm with the help of Novell ZENworks 11 and our partner Novacoast.”
His favorite feature is Bundles. “Using ZENworks Bundles puts the perfect in application deployment. That’s what saves us the most time. Pushing 30+ applications onto each machine, plus print drivers, is fairly complicated. With one push of the button in ZENworks it’s done, and it’s freakin’ unbelievable to someone who did it the old way.”
Underwriters Safety and Claims also uses Novell GroupWise® and Novell iPrint. “GroupWise runs itself, basically. We’re looking forward to the new products coming from Novell next year. Our users are able to print from any location around the world from their mobile devices to a printer here in our office. They love it because they can fill out forms in the field and print from their iPads,” Nickle says.
“We keep coming back to Novell because the products are simply the best in their categories— Open Enterprise Server, GroupWise, ZENworks—there’s nothing better to this day. They are easier to install and maintain then anything else out there.”