Automating the Management of PCs and Servers at Resco Products
There were times when John Verbosky wished he had a doppelganger.
Verbosky is the helpdesk coordinator at Resco Products, Inc., a medium sized manufacturer that makes refractory products for industries that manufacture and process materials at high temperatures and severe conditions. In their products, Resco’s customers use glass, cement, pulp and paper, various metals ranging from iron and steel to nickel and copper, and a wide range of minerals and ceramics.
The company has been on a growth binge, tripling its size over the past several years. Headquarted in Pittsburgh, Penn., Resco has 570 employees and 17 manufacturing locations, including plants in Canada and the U.K. It sells its refractory products all over the world.
Verbosky is part of a four man IT team – a small shop for a fast growing business. The team manages more than 300 end points and 30 servers, and applications that range from a complex ERP system to software from Microsoft, Adobe and a mix of other vendors.
A major component of Verbosky’s job is to manage this unprecedented growth of PCs and servers brought about by the company’s numerous acquisitions. Which is why, not too long ago, he was wishing that there were two of him to handle the escalating workload.
Compounding the typical problems associated with merger and acquisition activity, Verbosky was working with a variety of manual tools to manage the company’s IT environment. To track patching, inventory and service desk requests, he used spreadsheets imported from a standalone patching application; a standalone inventory utility; and other manually updated spreadsheets. It was time, Verbosky realized, to move away from these cobbled together, outdated systems and implement a fully integrated systems management solution.
In a case study posted on the Dell KACE web site this past June, Verbosky commented, “Our criteria were relatively simple. We needed a comprehensive solution that could address patch and inventory management as well as the service desk – and make all of the data relatable. Additionally, our IT budget has been historically low, so the new solution had to be affordable.”
After evaluating several systems management solutions, Resco selected Dell KACE, a set of appliances that provided the functionality he needed at a price the company could afford.
Said Verbosky, “During our evaluation process we found that most of the solutions lacked flexibility, integration and customizable functionality – and on top of that, they were just too expensive. We chose the Dell KACE K1000 Management Appliance because it was cost effective and provided the right blend of integration and customization features we needed to meet the demands of a growing company. I love the fact that the KACE Appliances are integrated with Dell support databases. Now I can generate machine age and warranty reports for my manager, and that simply wasn’t something I could do before Dell KACE.”
Resco implemented both the KACE K1000 Management Appliance and the KACE K2000 Deployment Appliance. The management appliance provided Verbosky with a veritable Swiss Army knife set of tools including device discovery and inventory, software distribution, configuration and policy management, patch management, security audit and enforcement, asset management, service desk, power management, remote control and reporting.
The Dell deployment appliance is similarly well equipped featuring computer inventory scanning and assessment, network OS install, disk imaging, user state migration, remote site management, and system repair and recovery.
(To learn more about Resco and its use of the Dell KACE solution, you can access the full case study by going to http://www.kace.com/customers/by-region/north-america and scrolling down to the Resco logo.)
Some of the benefits realized by Resco included: a reduction of service desk costs by 60 percent; efficient scripted installs on its existing Windows XP machines; and a roll out of Windows 7 on other new PCs. Freed from performing a host of manual, repetitive tasks, Resco’s IT now has time to work on more strategic projects such as replacing the company’s aging ERP system and rolling the company’s servers into a virtualized stack.
Best of all, he no longer feels the need to clone himself.
We asked Verbosky to share with us some of the lessons he has learned now that he has some substantial experience with Dell KACE under his belt.
Although he is a very happy Dell KACE customer, Verbosky recommends that you test drive the Dell product and see if it fits your needs. (The test drive is available here.)
Let’s assume Dell KACE appears to meet your needs and you make the purchase. At this point, the journey is just beginning.
Verbosky says the most important first step is to determine the state of your IT environment, establish a baseline and then decide how you are going to proceed. For example, are you going to address server sprawl, or the problems associated with a highly distributed organization that includes numerous overseas locations? Does the network need your immediate attention, or is the service desk higher on your list of priorities?
He stresses the need to carefully plan your approach to implementing the appliances. You will also want to document every step of the way so everything is on the record and the process can be shared with others in your organization. He also notes that the up front work can be quite time consuming, but once all the information on your IT environment is in the appliances, deployment and decision making quickly follow.
“With these appliances, you have a lot of tools at your disposal – how you use them depends on understanding your environment in order to choose which tools to use and what path to take,” Verbosky says. “For example, the service desk was one of our top priorities.”
The Dell appliances are easy to use, he comments, but they do provide a wide range of options, which can be somewhat daunting. “When you have a lot screens to work with, there are times when you’re not sure which way to go.” In this case, real world examples and support are a “huge help.”
Verbosky recommends the Dell KACE ITNinja site, which is rich in resources such as instructional videos, case studies, white papers and the members of a highly responsive community who are quick to provide answers to your specific problems based on their experience.
Finally he emphasizes that you should test your implementation thoroughly before allowing the appliances to start working their magic in the world. “Have a test box,” Verbosky says, “Make sure it’s going to behave the way you thought it should before rolling it out.”
Implementing the Dell KACE Appliances has allowed Resco to automate repetitive set up tasks, saving enormous amounts of time and freeing Resco’s IT to tackle more high level projects such as the virtualization effort and the extensive network upgrades engendered by the company’s aggressive acquisition strategy.
Concludes Verbosky, “Needless to say, I’m very happy with the KACE – I’d happily recommend it to all of my IT colleagues.”