After more than two years, a former and much loved non-profit client called for some help in sorting out their donor database. That’s another story which may be worth telling, but I was interested in seeing how they have weathered the economic downturn, and how some of the networking decisions that we took some years ago have held up. They have a main office and several field offices scattered among three counties. They have about 55 employees.
- By the time I had left, most of field offices had a broadband connection. That work was completed, and each office now has a DSL broadband connection, either from a local ISP, or from Fairpoint (the company who bought the Verizon landline and consumer data service in the three northern N.E. states). After working with it for a couple days, I’d say performance is OK.. although today, curiously, there was a twenty minute outage.
- With broadband available, they how have remote access software going to EVERY computer in EVERY office, as well as their central file server. Much desktop maintenance that required an on-site visit, can now be accomplished over the wire.
- Electronic mail accounts are hosted by the local internet service provider. People use Outlook or Outlook Express as their desktop eMail client….and access their eMail account when away from the office via webmail.
- They refreshed their desktop hardware with Dell Optiplexes that were donated by a local large employer. Although the machines are hand-me-downs, they are more than adequate for eMail, web browsing, and running the database application. The donor also gave them several laser printers that were only a few years old. Everyone is running XP, with Office 2007. (Without prompting, they said that Office 2007 is fine.) They have Norton Anti-Virus which is managed from the file server. No less than three of the staff said, in casual conversation… “well, I do have a Mac at home”. I nodded toward my Macbook, running Parallels, wondering if this turns out to be a longer term gig, if I will need to get a new Windows laptop.
- Their Dell file server is probably going on five years; but it is built like a tank, with RAID drives, and the original HP backup tape system. They have HP Procurve 2124 ethernet switches, and HP continues to keep replacing them under a lifetime warranty, when the fans go bad. I think we’ve replaced two or three switches with this client, and a couple of them with other clients. It takes one phone call.
- Several old battles were, well, old, if not forgotten. They have made their peace with a state-mandated performance data application which gave us all fits for years. The Executive Director attributes this success to attentive support from the state agency which mandated the system.
- If there is one especially popular non-business application being used by the staff, it is streaming audio. In fact, today, the first indication that there was a glitch in the internet connection was when a staff member came in and asked why her “radio” wasn’t working.
In short, it Just Works. I think this is attributable to the existing staff who have educated themselves over the years, and new staff who have come on board with full expectations of a functioning network and desktop workstation and how to use it. Add in some longstanding support from management who recognize the value of investing in technology and training, and the efforts of the current part-time network manager who keeps it all humming.