The economic downturn and subsequent loss of tax revenues are forcing municipalities around the world to make some hard choices. In Ontario, the City of Stratford expects IT to contribute its share of efficiencies even as its responsibilities are expanding and its budgets are shrinking.
For Ron Roy, manager of Information Technology Services for the city, that means finding ways to streamline the management of distributed systems. As with any local government, Stratford’s 230 workstations and 25 servers are spread across the city and are accessed by hundreds of full-time and part-time users. Remote access and remote control are critical to proactively monitoring, updating and securing these systems. The thinking is that preventative maintenance ensures performance and availability at a much better price point than running around putting out fires.
However, an efficient IT management strategy is only as successful as the tools administrators and technicians use to maintain systems. Stratford deployed six best-of-breed management solutions that provided adequate remote capabilities and created IT efficiencies. Unfortunately, management functions were spread across multiple tools, meaning that operations were not centralized or integrated. According to Roy, technicians often had to log in and out of several management tools to resolve a single help desk request, adding complexity to the IT environment and slowing remediation times.
“Juggling back and forth between management tools is not an efficient service delivery model,” Roy said. “We were getting the job done, but it was taking us too long and we weren’t assured of consistency between the solutions. The pressure to reduce costs was mounting, so we had to get more efficient.”
Single management framework
Recognizing that the city’s ad hoc management tools were not creating the efficiencies the department needed, Roy deployed a remote and automated IT systems management solution from Kaseya that consolidated all management functions in a single Web-based platform. Now, Stratford’s administrators are able to remotely monitor, maintain, backup and secure the city’s more than 250 systems on a single pane of glass regardless of the physical location, type or platform of the managed machine. The new technology allows administrators to view, take control of and make changes to any system logged into the network, even machines behind departmental firewalls.
Roy said, “IT operations are much more efficient and integrated, allowing us to accomplish more over the course of the day. I feel confident that we can support any business system that the municipality throws at us without affecting our budget or existing capabilities.”
Once the solution was operational, Roy was able to see how automation, built directly into the IT automation framework, made systems management more efficient. Regular maintenance such as issuing a patch, defragging a hard drive or running a security scan can be applied to groups of machines at the push of a button, eliminating much of the repetition normally associated with managing large groups of machines.
More efficient and less expensive
The efficiencies provided by the new solution enable Stratford to continue providing high-quality IT services to distributed users without affecting the budget. Systems continue to be managed in the same manner as before, but operations are more efficient, enabling the IT department to “do more with less.”
Before consolidating management functions, Roy would have had to make a choice in the face of growing workloads: ask his staff to work longer hours, hire an additional network technician at a $52,000 salary level or drop service levels. He now has the option of choosing none of the above by streamlining regular maintenance through powerful remote capabilities, a central knowledge base and automation.
Operational expenses were not the only savings. According to Roy, the ability to replace the city’s previous six management tools saves the city $6,500 per year in licensing, support and maintenance. Most important, however, the savings come at no expense to service levels, something that politicians, users and taxpayers all appreciate.
Steve Ridout is Kaseya’ country manager for Canada, responsible for new business generation, services and operations.