Case study: Windows upgrade without the pane


9 Jan 2006

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In the life of every company there comes a time when they must face the inevitable and upgrade their technology infrastructure. For Senator Windows, the upgrade wasn’t simply a matter of taking the medicine – the new IT systems have also allowed the company to become more efficient and do things differently.

“We went from a situation where we had two NT servers and a separate mail server,” says Diarmuid Dunbar, IT manager at Senator Windows, which is one of Ireland’s foremost PVCu window, door and conservatory manufacturers. In keeping with the trend towards consolidation, the company used the upgrade to reduce its servers from three to two. “It’s one less machine and a better infrastructure than we had before,” he adds. “It was something we needed to do but there were advantages to it.”

The new infrastructure comprises two HP Proliant servers with built-in redundancy for added security. These run Microsoft Small Business Server 2003 along with Microsoft Exchange and ISA server. As a result, Senator Windows can now avail of features such as remote access to email and a virtual private network, as well as improved performance from the new machines.

“We had totally run out of storage space on the server we had and were backing up data on PCs because the servers couldn’t handle the load,” says Dunbar. “All that is gone now, everything fits on the server, no problem.” The one of the new servers alone has a capacity of 140GB, a far cry from a combined 16GB on two of the earlier servers. “It’s certainly more efficient in terms of the time saved and performance from servers,” he says. “The end result is that we can function better as an organisation.”

All email is now backed up centrally to the server instead of being stored locally on individual PCs which had been the case before. This was a welcome development not least for Dunbar himself: prior the upgrade his own computer had crashed once and he ruefully recalls losing everything on the hard drive, including three years’ worth of emails.

Senator also took advantage of the server upgrade to refresh its client machines and Dunbar estimates that the company replaced close to 70pc of its desktops and laptops in order to run Windows XP, which works better with the upgraded server software. As it had done with the servers, Senator went for HP hardware. “We were happy with the performance of the machines and the spec. HPs were always good products and they came out competitive [on price],” Dunbar reports.

“The HP equipment would be very cost-effective for a small-to-medium business,” adds Edel Creely, general manager of Datapac, which is one of Senator’s main technology suppliers. For the upgrade, Datapac provided all of the hardware and software, including the Microsoft software, the Pegasus Opera accounts application as well as a HP plotter – a large format printer that Senator needs to output designs for the windows, doors or conservatories that it makes.

Plotters are most often found in companies that design products but Creely points out that in general terms, Senator’s technology experience is typical of – and an example to – many companies. “They would be progressive in terms of keeping their IT systems up to date,” she says. “It’s what every small business should aspire to – it’s giving them reliability, security and access to their systems.”

By Gordon Smith

Pictured: Diarmuid Dunbar, IT manager with Senator Windows; Pat O’Leary, account manager at Datapac and Noel Sweeney, managing director of Senator Windows