The University of Georgia’s “Ah-ha!” moment

Everyone loves a good Ah-ha! moment – especially in IT. For the University of Georgia (UGA), theirs came in 2009 as they were involved in significant upgrades across the school’s user base. Making campus-wide system upgrades can create significant challenges for the IT staff at any education institution. The ever-growing number of computers in school libraries, classrooms and faculty offices must support many users with diverse abilities and a range of workloads.

The IT manpower and cost to invoke system-wide updates to these sometimes disparate endpoints can be a cumbersome task. When you work in the IT department at UGA, those challenges are magnified due to the sheer size and scope of the user base. One of the areas UGA was struggling with was how to simultaneously deploy and maintain system upgrades for both Windows 7 and XP in an efficient way.

The Challenge

The primary challenge for UGA: execute system upgrades campus wide. With XP, creating separate images were required to carry out the standard upgrades. Therefore, the decision was made to move to Windows 7 in the hopes of leveraging better driver integration. But this still left Aaron Lines, the principal IT head for UGA, with the task of finding a way to support a monolithic image across multiple models versus creating separate images for each device – a necessary part of the migration process.

Maybe you’re thinking, “So what?” Well then consider that a massive migration of thousands of endpoints with a campus environment is a daunting task for any IT department. The creation of separate images requires significant time and manpower consumption; something campus IT administrators (and budget) have little of.

Evaluating Options; Visible Results for UGA IT

To meet the initial migration requirements, UGA initially turned to Symantec Ghost. However, Lines and his team quickly found it necessitated the creation of multiple images for each variation of XP or Win7 throughout the deployment, something that was difficult to manage. Additionally Lines’ team found existing and some of the new Microsoft tools difficult to work with. What UGA needed was a solution that enabled hardware independence so that a single image could be deployed to any device (to serve the campus’ various endpoints effectively), alleviated driver problems, and fit within the campus’ IT budget. Seeking a better solution, UGA discovered SmartDeploy could meet all of these requirements.

Almost immediately, it offered a more flexible and efficient migration process that allowed integration with other services and applications. In addition SmartDeploy optimized cost-efficiency and application compatibility that allowed integration with all services on existing hardware. Other migration tools simply couldn’t offer that range of capability.

From a training perspective, the brief learning curve for SmartDeploy was ideal for the campus setting, where there are many employees and student workers with finite IT knowledge. And since it’s a wizard-driven product, IT workers were able to perform all deployment functions with little to no upfront training.

Solving the Windows Migration Dilemma for large Universities

SmartDeploy’s hardware–independent technology and imaging process helped UGA streamline and focus the effort and expertise required for a Windows rollout across the campus. The school’s experience is a great example of the hidden challenges of OS upgrades many higher education institutions face. It also shows how simple yet efficient technology solutions can make a potentially cumbersome project so much more successful and manageable.