On December 7, 1887, Bar Harbor Banking and Trust Company opened for business in the old Mt. Desert Block of Bar Harbor, Maine. The Bank began with a safe, six chairs, and a tin bread box for a check case. Today, over 100 years later, the Bank remains an independent community bank serving eastern Maine with twelve full-service commercial banking offices. The Bank's tin bread box has been replaced by approximately 300 PCs operating under the Windows NT directory.
When Network Administrator John Vreeland started his new job at Bar Harbor Bank in December, 1998, he had no idea that one of his first projects would be the kind of monstrous task that strikes fear into the hearts of even the most seasoned I.T. professionals.
"The Bank had just purchased 300 brand-new PCs, and it was my job to install about 6 separate applications on every single PC," remembers Vreeland.
"To get that software manually installed and tested, it would have taken me about 3-4 hours for every PC. That's about 1,100 hours of labor, working a 40-hour week, it would have taken me 6 months to get those PCs on the floor and up to speed."
Vreeland knew that there were tools available to help him with this project. Over recent years a family of products known as "software distribution utilities" has appeared on the market. These Windows-based utilities prepare and electronically "package" software so that it can be distributed to multiple PCs all at the same time. When the distribution package reaches the target PC, it "un-packages" itself, allowing the software to be installed in a fraction of the time.
The Bank's desktop management suite of choice at the time was Microsoft's SMS, which includes a software distribution tool called the Windows Installer. However, Vreeland's previous experience with the SMS Installer led him to believe it wasn't the right solution. "It's slow, and it takes forever to set up the software." Vreeland also wanted to "pull" the software from the company intranet for each PC, and, he explains, "SMS doesn't give you that "self-serve" option."
Vreeland decided to look outside the SMS box for a different solution that would allow him to automatically install the software more quickly, more accurately, and with the desirable "self-serve" option. What Vreeland chose to meet his needs was a software distribution product from Lanovation (based in Minneapolis, Minnesota) called PictureTaker (Prism Deploy) Enterprise Edition.
Using PictureTaker (Prism Deploy), Vreeland spent just a few hours creating one-time packages for each application; he then posted those packages on the Bank's intranet. Finally, he plugged in the first new PC. "It would maybe take me 1-2 minutes to browse to the right intranet page, but then I would just click on each package icon and the software would install itself in just a few seconds. So, it maybe took me 5 minutes to get each PC properly configured and ready to go."
5 minutes? "Tops. And it was accurate every time."
Using PictureTaker (Prism Deploy), Vreeland was able to slash the time this project demanded (1,100 hours) by 98%, spending only 25 hours configuring 300 PCs for the entire Bank staff.
Since then, "PictureTaker (Prism Deploy) has allowed us to develop an entirely new software distribution model," says Vreeland. "With PictureTaker (Prism Deploy), you build your distribution package, you test it, you send it out or post it on the intranet, and you're done." Employees at any of the twelve branch locations can then either receive software packages via e-mail, or simply visit the Bank's intranet to "shop" for software, read the names of descriptions of each package, and click the appropriate icon at will to install the software they need.
The thing to remember, says Vreeland, is that the distribution package needs to "un-package" itself once it reaches its target PC, and that's where the problems with other distribution utilities usually begin.
"In just about every other instance, end users have to answer questions or follow specific directions for the installation to work," he explains. "And they have to wait. People get impatient. They reboot their workstation in the middle of the process. Then you have a serious problem: a half-installed application that can take hours to fix."
Vreeland again points to PictureTaker (Prism Deploy) as his solution of choice. "With PictureTaker (Prism Deploy), the installation happens invisibly, there's no downtime, the end user can't mess it up, and it only takes a few seconds. And if something does go wrong, PictureTaker (Prism Deploy) just rolls back the install on its own so that the PC looks exactly the way it did before."
How often does Bar Harbor Banking & Trust need to update or roll out software to its employees? "Well, before, we would do it only when absolutely necessary, because we didn't trust SMS," says Vreeland. "Even then it would take us days to get anything ready to go, because we had to make personal visits to every target PC, prepare the software, test it, roll it out, and then clean up afterwards."
"Now we can send stuff out as often as we need, two, three times a week." And what do they send? "Besides wanting new software, people need printer drivers, registry updates, or quick desktop fixes all the time. It's just really easy."
Within the next few months, Bar Harbor Banking & Trust will be abandoning the Microsoft SMS suite altogether and moving on to another, more comprehensive management solution. "It's going to be a long haul," says Vreeland. "Believe me, we'll be using PictureTaker (Prism Deploy) before, during and after the entire thing."
With the days of six chairs and a tin bread box long behind them, Bar Harbor Banking & Trust continues to choose their resources wisely. Lanovation's PictureTaker (Prism Deploy) helps the Bank invest its time and money in the things that matter most, like putting the latest technology at their employees fingertips to ensure great customer service, and happy network administrators.