The university expects the tool to help reduce the number of incidents the IT department has to deal with and allow them to become more proactive at managing them, according to deputy CIO Minesh Chikniwala.
He explains: “We’re not a small organisation, we have 5,500 endpoints, similar to any corporate environment. What Nexthink allows us to do is to map behavioural patterns so we can troubleshoot.”
The platform monitors IT networks and reports on events such as changes to infrastructure, application usage, error message, crashes, and important security risks.
Chikniwala continues: “Where we’d previously deal with 10 phone calls individually, this allows us to figure out the similarity between all of these calls and analyse them down to where the problem was, which location, which switch they were using and which version of software.
“The platform collates all of this, shows we have 10 users using x version of software, 50 users using y version. It really goes down to a granular level.”
The university has never used a product directly comparable to Nexthink before, Chikniwala says, and only implemented it in the last two weeks. However he is confident it will deliver as promised.
“I can’t tell you how well it’s been used yet, but it’s shown to us that it’s capable of doing what it’s said. But the proof is in the pudding of course.”
The department also uses LANDesk’s management suite to control and deploy devices across the university’s estate, which is based on Windows 7, Chikniwala says.
Major changes to IT department
The university’s IT department has undergone major changes in the two years since Chikniwala joined.
“In terms of maturity, we had lots of catching up to do two years ago. We were an XP house and had no management software like LANDesk. So we restructured the department, brought in new people and went through a major transition.”
The IT department focused on buying ‘fit for purpose’ equipment and software, and went from having three ITIL qualified staff to 56 people with an ITIL qualification.
Chikniwala reflects: “The maturity of the whole department changed. And with that comes a better knowledge of buying products, closer to what the private sector would be doing.”
365 transition 'bumpy ride'
Bedfordshire has two data centres using VMWare to run about 4,000 virtualised servers, one data centre is in Luton and one in Bedford, which host all of its corporate services, software, HR, finance, databases, and so on, according to Chikniwala.
The university recently moved from Novell GroupWise to Office 365 as the e-mail client for its 23,000 users.
Chikniwala admits: “The transition was a bumpy ride, as they often are. But we got there in the end. That’s the biggest cloud solution we have.”
It has also just completed a £1.7 million project to refresh its entire Cisco network, he says.
Having invested over £8 million in ICT over the last two years, Chikniwala says his focus now will be to consolidate previous investments, refine previous implementations and make sure they’re performing as expected, a task he says will be aided by Nexthink.
“The next chapter is Nexthink and how it can help us to improve and refine our estate even more. If someone had offered it to us two years ago, it wouldn’t have been right for where we were in terms of maturity. It’s come along at just the right time for what we need.”