From its headquarters in Mansfield, Ohio, the MedCentral Information Services (IS) Department is responsible for the difficult task of maintaining a reliable computer network of nearly 2,000 computers covering a dozen facilities scattered over an entire county.
A significant and time-consuming task for the MedCentral IS department is deploying new systems and keeping those systems up-to-date with the latest security patches, software updates, and application improvements. That substantial task rests squarely on the capable shoulders of MedCentral Desktop Support Specialist Ron Stephens.
Initially, MedCentral only utilized Altiris Deployment Solution to capture and deploy images for each of their 15 different models of computers. As adept as Altiris was in many ways, it was not capable of creating images with all the necessary device drivers. As a result, the MedCentral IS team was forced to manually collect all the necessary drivers, image each individual system, and store the image for possible future use. As the number of different computer platforms expanded, so did the time and expense of managing and storing those images.
The Deployment Solution
The process changed dramatically when MedCentral tested and began using the Universal Imaging Utility (UIU) driver management and pre-deployment tool in 2007. Using a combination of Altiris Deployment Solution and the UIU, MedCentral re-tooled the way its desktops, laptops, and tablets are managed.
Before the UIU, MedCentral maintained an average of six images in their library, a number that would be over a dozen today if it were not for the UIU. It works alongside popular cloning software packages such as Ghost, Acronis, Altiris, SCCM, and others, to deploy a single hardware-independent hard drive image to any laptop or desktop, regardless of the manufacturer.
Why it works
The value of the UIU is not lost on Stephens. “Our users do not have administrative rights, so fixing problems and maintaining updates is one of our jobs,” explains Stephens. “Because system deployments and the time spent maintaining our image library is a fraction of what it could be, we are more productive and able to stay ahead.”
Stephens cites five reasons why MedCentral relies on the UIU:
- Simple to maintain images. With the hardware-independent capabilities of the UIU, disparate computer platforms are irrelevant when creating and deploying an image. The image origin and destination do not matter since the UIU is compatible with any system.
- More time to complete other projects. By reducing the image library from six to two (by choice, one for tablets and another for desktops and laptops), MedCentral has reduced their labor expense by two-thirds. The improved efficiency allows them to take on and complete projects sooner than before.
- No longer maintain a library of device drivers. This is a significant feature for MedCentral, according to Stephens. A surprising bonus is that new drivers are handled efficiently, and new driver libraries are downloaded directly from Big Bang. On the rare occasion where a driver is not included, a phone call to support quickly solves the issue.
- Images are more up-to-date. Master images are maintained on a regular schedule now, something that was not possible before. Stephens attributes that to two factors: The task doesn’t take as long as before, and it is something that is no longer dreaded.
- Freedom to buy from any computer manufacturer. The UIU allows MedCentral to select hardware vendors based on their changing needs. They are now able to select the best PC at the best price without concern for hardware similarity.
Administrative tasks will always be part of the responsibilities of MedCentral’s IS department. But now Stephens can make sure those tasks are taken care of and keep IS productive and focused on bigger projects.