Law Firm Finds Easier Desktop Application Management

Covington and Burling (www.cov.com) had a problem common to IT departments at most large companies, no matter what kind of business the company is in: managing desktop applications and operating systems.

The Washington, D.C.-based law firm, found that simple software upgrades took an average of 15 minutes per desktop.

Stewart Franklin, the firm’s IT manager, calculated that for 1,000 desktops, a small patch consumed 250 hours of an administrators time. Based on a 40-hour work week, upgrading the firm’s 1,100 desktops would take one administrator nearly two months. At that rate, half a dozen small patches are enough to keep an administrator busy for almost a year.

To solve its problem, Covington and Burling originally looked at traditional snaphsot products, which would enable Franklin’s team to deploy these patches from a central server.

The company found, however, that snapshot products were not the most efficient means of solving its problem. Lacking Plug-and-Play support, it would be time consuming keeping track of all the desktop configuration changes in the company. Administrators could keep a log of such configurations, but as soon as software or hardware is added to a desktop, the record is obsolete.

"The snapshot software we looked at was like copying a piece of paper," Franklin says. "If the paper you are trying to copy is flawed or not updated, the copy will be too."

Instead of settling for a plain old snapshot product, Covington and Burling also tested a unique technology found in ON Command Comprehensive Client Manager (CCM) from ON Technology Corp. (www.on.com), and shortly thereafter decided to stick with it.

ON Command CCM can take control of a PC from a central location at the point of initial power-on regardless of its state -- whether there is a corrupted hard disk, misconfigured boot files or no Network Operating System loaded. The product can install an operating system, patches or upgrades on unattended PCs.

With ON Command CCM, administrators can customize installations by simply selecting parameter settings. In contrast, conventional snapshot approaches require the creation of a separate set of binary files for each customized installation.

In addition, ON Command CCM only stores a single copy of the vendor source files in its Software Depot, which minimizes storage requirements and facilitates the task of managing a large number of applications.

The biggest benefit for Covington and Burling was not having to send a technician around to every desktop to install a new patch. "We don’t have to worry about the software getting tired or making mistakes like we do with a person," Franklin says.

Instead, Franklin claims that in four or five mouse clicks, an administrator can install an entire operating system complete with the updates the company’s users need.

Installation of ON Command CCM took about a month at Covington and Burling, and was not without difficulties.

"Our problems were primarily related to training and a lack of scripting knowledge for the application," Franklin adds.

Customers can be trained by On Technology, an option Franklin didn’t exercise at first. "If I had it to do all over again, I’d take the training during the pilot or at least before the final roll out," he says.

Although Franklin wouldn’t disclose financial specifics, he confirmed that using ON Command CCM is worthwhile. "The return on investment is definitely significant," he says.