When I joined one company, the network and systems were in
total disarray, and the company was having significant amounts of downtime. It
was also outsourcing all of its desktop and network
support services. Bottom line: It was a very bad situation with lots of
opportunity.

I used Information
Engineering, Inc.
, a Dynetics network security and network
management services company in Huntsville, AL,
to help me address several things very quickly. At the same time, I brought in
an existing employee who had the right skills and experience but was being
underutilized in one of the company’s small divisions. I set him up to
ultimately take responsibility for our infrastructure. The combination allowed
us to clean up our technology act fast, while giving my employee the exposure
and additional training to provide internal continuity in managing our
infrastructure. The plan was to clean up the obvious issues quickly, build an
infrastructure strategy that my infrastructure manager could then use to lead
our efforts, and provide him with support and assistance as needed through the
contracting company, Information Engineering (IE).

Here are the highlights and the approach we used and how IE
fit into the scheme of things.

Situation

Going into the situation, we faced a number of problems.

  • Data
    center problems—server downtime, an unsecured computer center with too
    much traffic, junk piled everywhere with lots of dust created by two large
    printers, and data backup concerns
  • No e-mail
    service in most of the company (and this was 1999)
  • No
    firewall protecting the servers and no policy on Internet usage; use of
    third-party e-mail services, etc.
  • Wide
    area network service problems—too expensive, unreliable, and poor service
    (i.e., lots of connectivity problems and remote office downtime with long
    timeframes to fix the problem)
  • No
    main server connectivity redundancy in the network; loss of all 60 remote
    offices if the main connection was last
  • Desktop
    support—one to two days in getting response from the outside service
  • Spending
    30 percent more for PCs that were inferior products with short mean time
    to breakage
  • No
    internal network management skill or experience tied to the corporate
    network, although there was one person with solid skills supporting a
    small division of the company

Plan summary

The plan we developed outlined four areas of concentration.

1. Bring in an
outside group to help assess our situation and help develop and implement a
plan to do the following:

  • Clean
    up the computer center, secure it from unauthorized traffic, and formalize
    a backup process that included verifying that the backups were working
    properly.
  • Migrate
    our WAN service to a less expensive and stronger telecom company and,
    while doing so, standardize our remote office connectivity equipment and
    configurations to improve remote office supportability.
  • Implement
    a network monitoring program to help us improve remote connectivity uptime
    significantly.
  • Implement
    e-mail services company-wide as quickly as possible.
  • Secure
    our infrastructure from the outside (i.e., firewalls, processes, policies,
    etc.).
  • Design
    a network architecture that provides stability and scalability and is cost
    effective for us.
  • Add
    redundancy to our corporate center connectivity to the main servers.

2. Immediately
replace the outside desktop support group that also was selling us homemade PCs
at a premium cost.

3. Put my
employee in charge of the corporate network and give him the training and IE
support necessary to manage the responsibility. Initially we looked to IE for
most of our infrastructure analysis and direction, with a clear strategy of
getting our IT employee to the point of managing it. He had excellent
credentials and capability that had low risk in moving him into this role.

4. Set up a Help
Desk to capture IT issues, to ensure response, and to track issues trends so we
find out where to emphasize preventive action.

IE was instrumental in this turnaround and helped my IT team
become heroes in a company where there was very little IT credibility before.
The significant uptime improvement and the quick implementation of e-mail
services were real winners, as I knew they would be, for the primary body of
users. The fact that the cost savings in the WAN telecom migration initiative more
than paid for both IE’s involvement and its ongoing network monitoring services
was a hit for the CFO and CEO (my boss). This positive beginning made it very
easy for me to get funding for projects that needed to be done later and to add
necessary IT staff to do a better job for the company.

The results

At the end of the project, we were able to realize the
following results:

  • Much
    stronger systems stability
  • Much more
    stable remote office connectivity
  • E-mail
    service throughout the company
  • Secured
    systems and network environment
  • A
    defined network architecture and change management process that helped us
    grow incrementally, which is more cost effective and stable
  • Proactive
    network monitoring service (IE’s service) that prevented downtime and
    responded to any downtime faster
  • Standard
    PC footprint with Dell that allowed us to drop ship PCs to the needed
    location at 30 percent less cost, with no setup requirement or shipping
    cost—plus the Dell PCs were much more reliable (a winner in every way you
    can think of)
  • Quicker
    response to user problems and a tracking system that gave us trends of
    occurrence so we were more proactive in addressing the cause of issues,
    rather simply responding to them (preventing fires versus fighting them)