TRUSTED FOR NEARLY 40 YEARS
Keeping a major East Coast university with over 10,000 students humming along requires plenty of computing power, not to mention some 1,400 Windows-based desktop PCs and laptops that must be supported, maintained and upgraded by the university’s IT team.
“We're very, very high touch and take care of our people. I know some organizations are like, ‘okay, here's your new machine, here’s how to turn it on and good luck to you,’ but we’re not like that,” says a senior enterprise IT manager who has been part of the private university’s IT team in some capacity for over 30 years.
Instead, the university’s IT team makes sure each new laptop or desktop is set up exactly the way the user wants, with everything from network shares to bookmarks in place just as they were on the old device. Complicating matters, however, is the fact that all 1,400 upgrades need to be accomplished over the summer months once every four years. The university decided early on that the most equitable way to handle upgrades would be to give everyone a new computing device at the same time on a four-year cycle, thus ensuring devices are always covered under a manufacturer’s warranty.
Like many other higher education institutions, the university has a diverse user base with vastly different needs and applications. There’s no single image to span all the use cases. Instead, files, data, and settings need to be migrated from each old PC to each new PC on a case by case basis. To help make that process easier, the IT team has used a variety of migration tools over the years including something called Desktop DNA and Microsoft’s Windows Easy Transfer, both of which are no longer available. Further, both tools had limitations that made migrations more difficult than they needed to be, a problem with so many upgrades to complete in just three months. Manual migrations, which can take hours even by an IT expert, were not a realistic option either.
The need for a more fully automated and trouble-free solution for PC migrations led the university’s IT team to PCmover Enterprise from Laplink Software. The university has since used PCmover Enterprise to accomplish its last PC refresh and plans to continue on the same path for its PC refresh cycles going forward.
According to the IT manager, PCmover represented a big step forward: “Windows Easy Transfer had problems with Firefox and things of that nature. For whatever reason it wouldn't bring a lot of the settings and bookmarks over to the new PC for both Firefox and Chrome, so we had to write our own scripts. When I first saw Laplink, I remember thinking, 'Wow the bookmarks and all that other stuff came over.' Laplink is definitely the best out of all the products I’ve used before.”
To work through the large number of migrations efficiently, the IT team sets up “war rooms” in different areas of the campus where employees can drop off their laptops and retrieve them following the migration and upgrade process. Inside the war room, migrations are typically handled by technicians hired on a temporary basis using PCmover Enterprise and Laplink cables to ensure the fastest transfer speeds possible for data and settings.
To keep things from bogging down in the war rooms, IT managers pre-configure transfers to minimize decision making by the largely untrained temporary staff. “We've kind of scripted the transfer scenarios at both ends because I want the process to be what I call idiot proof and to give people as few choices as possible.”
To facilitate these smooth one-click transfers and to accommodate the university’s use of encryption and strict password protocols, the university initially enlisted the assistance of Laplink Technical Support. “We are doing some things in a non-traditional way, and the support guys were really good and able to help us get the automated scripts to work the way we wanted.”
With everything in place, the handoff to the temp technicians has been greatly simplified. To avoid problems that could occur if the network were to fail in the middle of transfer, the university performs all migrations directly using Laplink cables. “You basically get two USB flash drives, instructions, and a cable, and you’re ready to go.”
The move to PCmover Enterprise has led to across-the-board improvements for both the IT team and for individual users. The accuracy of the migrations, in particular, have played a big role in boosting user confidence and satisfaction.
“When you're in the offices with the secretaries, you know they have a picture of their kid or their grandkid on the screen. And as it's transferred, they start up and they see it on the new machine. It’s a big plus when they see that, they just love it,” the IT manager says. “They see that background pop up and they feel great because they assume all their other stuff must be there too.”
In the migrations prior to PCmover, the university’s IT team had to spend cycles tracking down missing files and settings to get users up and running fully.
“This time around with Laplink, there were very few complaints. If there was a file that didn't come over, there was usually a reason why and we could figure it out, it wasn't just a hit or miss. With Windows Easy Transfer sometimes, for whatever reason, something wouldn’t come over and we could never figure out why.”
To avoid the risk of permanent data loss in the event of a migration gone wrong, the IT team keeps old machines on hand for four weeks before wiping them clean and donating them to charity – a practice that may not be needed anymore: “This time around, the ones we had to pull off the shelf, it was a lot fewer than previous years.”
Briana is a lifelong storyteller passionate about authentic, inclusive content. As digital content and communications manager for Laplink, she fosters the human connection in tech through virtual content. Briana’s previous credits include content strategy and creation for Microsoft, Puget Sound Energy, Alaska Airlines, and other household brands. In her free time, she enjoys music, movies, and the performing arts.Read more about Briana Blythe...