St Laurence's makes a KACE for simplified support

The school's IT manager needed a system to manage the thousands of applications which are administered and managed daily

Plagued with budget restraints and constant limits on available skill sets, St Laurence’s College IT manager, Anthony Kennedy, was forced to look for a simplified systems management solution to replace the vast majority of the school's IT support infrastructure.

The Brisbane school has 1500 students from years five to 12 using around 1500 devices, 200 of which are Apple notebooks and the rest Dell PCs. The school has thousands of applications to administer, manage and maintain which Kennedy told Computerworld Australia made it impossible to have a specialist in each area.

“The [Digital Education Revolution] funding introduced by the Rudd Government meant our goal posts were about to move. When I started at the school four years ago they had 500 devices to look after; with the funding for the Digital Education Revolution I was going to have about 1500 devices to look after over the next four years so I needed to find a systems management solution that could help us,” Kennedy said.

“School budgets mean we’ve got to be smart in what we do, you’ve got to do more with less and the IT department is no exception to that. It’s very hard to have specific skill sets for specific applications in schools,” Kennedy said.

At the time, the school was using Altiris software but couldn’t cover the costs of an onsite expert which Kennedy said required his five-strong IT team to “wear Altiris hats from time to time". Added the additional skills required to administer the SharePoint-based helpdesk and lack of remote access to the Apple devices, Kennedy began looking for other solutions.

After considering a remote and systems management option from Kaseya - and nearly signing a contract with the Sydney-based company - Kennedy instead opted for Dell's KACE hardware solution at “half the price” of the Kaseya contract.

"I think I had a half-hour conversation [with Dell], found out a bit about KACE and in the next two hours my network manager had downloaded the software and we installed it on our virtual environment and within a couple of hours, we’d pushed out a few agents and were pulling out statistics from the device.”

The school's IT team deployed the physical product as an inventory system, replacing ageing Excel spreadsheets, to monitor device statistics. KACE also replaced the school's helpdesk and ticketing system which automatically generates tickets for any support queries sent to a specified address.

“I haven’t had to educate any of our users on how to use it... this is just like email, so that’s been a godsend,” he said.

The ability to remote control all devices, according to Kennedy, also made a significant difference as has software license monitoring which allowed the team to recoup some costs.

“We can actually sit at our desk and fix the machine on the spot remotely, we can re-image it, redeploy it and we’ve set up self service where users can set up their own applications because we’ve packaged them up.”

According to Kennedy, all training for the system was done post-install and was a "non-event" with the online trainers only needing to assist the team in a question-and-answer style session.

“If you were to take [Dell KACE] off me now it’d be like chopping off my left arm, we’re in the application everyday and for me whenever I get a helpdesk call I’m moving their mouse remotely before they even realise I’m fixing it,” he said.

As reported by Computerworld Australia, Dell acquired KACE back in February 2010 as part of its quest to become an IT solutions provider as opposed to simply a hardware provider.

Queensland-based Presbyterian aged care provider PresCare also recently deployed the KACE solution as part of an overhaul of its IT infrastructure.

Follow Chloe Herrick on Twitter: @chloe_CW

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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