To manage and control

29 Jul 2004

Nationwide estate agent chain Sherry FitzGerald has invested approximately €500,000 with Dell this year to consolidate its IT infrastructure. It has deployed a storage area network and 29 Dell PowerEdge servers that enable it to centrally manage email, databases and file storage for its 17 locations around the country. As part of that deal it is rolling out more than 200 Latitude notebooks and OptiPlex desktops.

According to IT manager, Brian Dooley, the bulk of the existing client machines were about three to four years old and were running either Windows 98 or ME. “It would have been a natural step to upgrade them regardless of what we were doing at the back end,” says Dooley. “But a lot of things we were adding at the back end, such as Active Directory, we wouldn’t have seen the benefit if we hadn’t upgraded the front end.”

Laptop units were purchased for 35 users within the company – primarily those who travel between Sherry FitzGerald’s various offices around the country or have a requirement to work from home. Dooley opted for machines based on Intel Centrino technology with 1.6GHz Pentium M processors and 512MB of RAM. “We always purchase new technology with an eye on the future,” Dooley says. “The battery life is impressive and it’s good to have the latest technology going forward, particularly with wireless.”

Dooley has also attempted to future-proof his desktop investment by going for a high spec machine profile – P4 2.83GHz, with 512MB of RAM and 80GB hard drive, complete with flat screen monitor. The 180 machines are being rolled out to users on a phased basis and each machine is pre-loaded with a standard ghosted image depending on whether the user works on the commercial or residential side of the business.

Field marketing specialists CPM also has a requirement to put mobile computing power in the hands of its staff but with more than 600 permanent employees, laptops were not an option. Instead CPM has teamed up with local Palm developer Wasp Technologies to put PDAs into the hands of its workforce. Staff members who work on retail, business-to-business and residential campaigns on behalf of customers use the PDA and a mobile phone to send back data captured in the field to CPM’s headquarters in Harolds Cross, Dublin. This real-time data can then be made available to clients using CPM’s web-based reporting tool, Prism. “Silently PDAs have had a massive impact on data capture in the field in Ireland,” says CPM managing director, Joe Gavin. “It’s mostly invisible to the consumer but it has had a huge impact on our processes.”

Approximately 50pc of staff who are based around the country and work varied hours each week currently have Palms but Gavin hopes to extend this to the entire workforce over the next year.

Although obviously an enthusiastic believer in the power of PDAs, Gavin gives three main reasons why the time is right for such a wide deployment. The price point of PDAs, at just over €100 a unit, makes it economical to roll them out to such a large field workforce, the memory capacity makes them practical for capturing large amounts of data and the ability to connect back to the office via mobile phone means clients can get useful real-time data.

Increasingly many organisations are looking to get a fix on their printing costs by purchasing their hardware, supplies and maintenance as a managed service. Probably the biggest such deal to have been completed in Ireland has just been signed between Esat BT and Xerox. The deal covers hardware, services and support staff and Esat BT’s Irish CEO Bill Murphy values the contract at in excess of €5m over its five-year life span. Although this may sound like a significant sum, Murphy says it represents a significant saving over what it would have spent if it did not go with a managed service.

The deal covers both multifunction devices and printers and, according to Murphy, one of the key differentiators of Xerox was that it could offer consultancy services so Esat BT could re-assess its printing and imaging processes and has the breadth of technology experience to ensure this is integrated into its IT systems.

“We had a mish-mash of technology in place that wasn’t joined up,” says Murphy. “Printers are very personal things – people want to have their own printers. But this deal means we are taking control and properly integrating it into our IT systems.”

Another important fact for Murphy was that Xerox was able to deliver an all-Ireland contract. Esat BT itself operates on an all-Ireland basis and wherever possible it engages with suppliers that are able to operate on this basis.

Datapac’s Printpac service is another managed service print package and Davys Stockbrokers recently deployed it to reduce costs and streamline its printing process.

“We have more than 90 networked printers at our Dublin location,” explains Pat Phelan, director of information systems at the stockbroking firm. “We were finding it difficult to control our printing service as many of our printers were giving us problems and people were continually frustrated when printers were not working properly.

“Printpac allows us to manage and control this administrative nightmare as we have one contract against which we can draw down HP consumables, schedule preventive maintenance as well as corrective maintenance.”

In advance of rolling out the service, Datapac sent in its consultants to carry out an audit and review of Davy’s printing needs. Printers were repaired or replaced to bring them up to the required standard for the service. As a result printer problems are much less frequent as Davy Stockbrokers can be proactive in terms of tackling problems before they occur. According to Phelan, that means the stockbrokers not only save money but a lot of pain and frustration as well.

By John Collins