When the Boston law firm Morrison, Mahoney & Miller LLP decided to upgrade its PC platforms, it wasnt a simple matter of grabbing a few new systems from the local Best Buy or CompUSA store. More than 300 PCs needed replacement across regional offices in Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York.
Not only would hardware need to be replaced, but existing applications, data and system configurations would need to be preserved and transferred to the new systems—all significant issues for general businesses but critical ones for law firms.
For MM&M, the problem was performance. It was time to consider upgrading their desktop and notebook platforms from 1999 to meet the firms current and future computing needs.
Compounding the situation was that all of MM&Ms systems were leased.
“We had three objectives: improve our user performance, return the old PCs on time to our leasing company [and], finally, minimize the impact to the employees caused by rolling out so many new computers,” said Frank Norton, MM&Ms assistant IT director.
But the logistical challenge of a massive PC upgrade was daunting for the firms in-house IT team. So in 2003, MM&M looked to its longtime support provider, CBE Technologies Inc., also of Boston. As one of the largest independent service providers in New England, CBE offers a wide range of services and support—focusing on the needs of small and midsize businesses, along with the state government and education markets.
“CBE and MM&M have enjoyed a support relationship for many years. The desktop rollout fell into our core competencies,” said Bill Willett, vice president of operations at CBE. That core competency led to more than 4,500 PCs deployed last year alone for CBE.
But it wasnt only CBEs PC prowess that intrigued MM&M. What sealed the deal for Norton were CBEs turnkey solutions.
“CBE offered a complete package for us,” Norton said. “They worked the hardware vendors to get us the best price and performance, along with a complete plan to order, inventory, image, deploy and return the old PCs back to the leasing company.”
Specifically, CBE ordered and leased MM&Ms new PCs and had them shipped to the companys warehouse, where the firms image was loaded on each. CBE then repackaged and distributed the PCs to MM&Ms multiple locations, where CBE installed each system, ensured connectivity to the network and verified that applications were running.
As a Hewlett-Packard Co. Networking Partner and Premier Service Provider, CBE found the use of HP Compaq platforms an easy choice and turned to Compaq Evo d530 desktops and Evo n800c notebooks for the project. However, other aspects of the four-month, 500-labor-hour project proved a bit more complicated.
For example, imaging was a key element, and each new PC had to receive MM&Ms corresponding software image before delivery and deployment. Symantec Corp.s Ghost 8.0 was the tool of choice for imaging tasks.
Another key challenge was timing or, more specifically, efficiency. The massive installation had to be accomplished with as little disruption to the firm as possible. Due to the detailed configuration requirements of each PC, CBE put together a group of approximately seven engineers to manage deployment.
“The majority of the installs had to be done outside of normal business hours as to not disrupt the daily activities of the users at MM&Ms various locations,” Willett said.
The firms multiple locations made the challenge even more daunting. To meet the projects tight deadlines and requirements, CBE made day trips to each MM&M site in Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York, often leaving the Bay State in the wee hours of the morning.
Ultimately, Willett said, the real added value was in the time and effort saved in imaging and deploying PCs. “When a customer attempts to complete this themselves, they sacrifice the tasks that the employee does every day,” he said.
Still, the payoff for such detailed efforts is a happy customer. “It would have been near impossible for me to complete this task with my own staff in the time it took CBE to deliver,” said MM&Ms Norton.
Stephen J. Bigelow is a former electrical engineer. He now works as a technical author specializing in PC and networking topics. His e-mail address is [email protected].