No distance too great for IT support in the west

Long travel between locations limit in-site support options

Western Australia's sparse population has forced government IT departments to aggressively pursue remote monitoring and management solutions to reduce the need for on-site support staff at schools and police stations.

To illustrate the kind of challenges faced by these organizations, WA's Department of Education and Training must provide IT services to 791 school sites spread across an area of about 2.2 million square kilometres.

The department's infrastructure and telecommunications ICT manager, Glenn Veen, joined in the year 2000 when there was no centralized infrastructure for the schools.

Since then, Veen has adopted a standard operating environment (SOE) policy along with software to centrally manage the network.

"We now have 70 percent of schools with 10mbps broadband [but] how do we know what's being used and how do we manage it?" Veen said, adding few people want to go out to the remote schools to do IT work.

"I started using node manager in 1995 [and] now [the department] has at least six products from HP. We can manage the network and have solution at all levels so notebooks are managed centrally."

The department is now deploying SOEs to 200 schools for a fully managed operating environment with no technician on-site.

Supplying patching and networking support can now be done remotely.

"We're almost proactive and know where faults are coming from before the schools know," Veen said. "About 130 schools are fully managed and quality of service is good."

The requirement for on-site support is also being reduced with the provision of centralised services like e-mail, identity management, and content delivery.

"We are now driving sustainable technology and without HP would not be able to see it," he said.

The tyranny of distance also affects IT support at the state's remote police stations.

Speaking on behalf of WA Police, Fujitsu Australia senior consultant Paula Smith said distance is one of the challenges software providers have when dealing with the WA government.

"We faced this challenge five years ago when WA Police was replacing its mainframe because it was a whole of business project - the police knew how to use it and every police station needs to use the incident management system," Smith said.

With a requirement to interface with the state's Department of Justice and Department of Planning and Infrastructure, and 16 projects converging at one time, Fujitsu's challenge was to find a tool to improve the quality of the new applications.

Smith's previous experience with Mercury's Test Director at BankWest helped Fujitsu's decision to choose the product to "help make my job easier".

"When we went live we had all right information and didn't want the SAS knocking down the wrong door," Smith said, adding HP's Quality Centre has helped put in applications with low defect rates.

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