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Migration tool eases insurance company's move to Windows 2000

Safety Insurance of Massachusetts finds out that migration doesn't have to be painful. The company uses The Van, a settings migration tool, to speed up and ease the stress of migration.

It's every IT manager's dream for a migration to go over without incidents--no employees with lost data, no system downtime, and no disruption of workflow. It sounds almost too good to be true. Faced with an impeding migration from Windows 98 to Windows 2000, Ed Drexel of Massachusetts-based Safety Insurance began the search for a way to make that dream a reality.

Drexel, MIS Manager of Safety's PC and LAN groups, wanted to avoid the typical migration headaches, such as downtime and cost overruns. As an insurance company, it was crucial to keep system downtime to an absolute minimum to allow the company to efficiently serve its customers. Working with that requirement and a need to keep costs low, Drexel considered a number of options, including Microsoft's user state migration tool, before settling on Virtual Access Networks' The Van 2.2.

The Van "was bundled with the Windows 2000 license, so there was a pricing incentive" to use it, Drexel stated. At first, however, the availability alone was not enough to convince him that it was the right choice. The Van was not yet a proven product, and "we were one of the early adapters," he said. He carefully evaluated the product and company and did several test runs before choosing it.

Drexel's tests revealed that, despite its youth, The Van's feature set was very rich. It allows users to create custom templates that define migration rules, including file-size and -type limitations. In addition, The Van's browser-based interface was a good fit for Microsoft's RIS, the imaging solution Drexel had chosen to use for the migration. This meant that after setting up the RIS server, IT staff didn't have to load any additional software on employees' machines. Instead, they could perform each migration through a browser.

When migration time rolled around, The Van was a dream to use. "We didn't lose settings or files, and everything it worked smoothly," Drexel said. Safety's IT department could capture "personal settings from the desktop with little or no effort, lay down an image that we had created that was 1.8+ gig of data in ten minutes, then load the personal settings back," he explained.

Drexel was most impressed by the time savings that came as a direct result of using The VAN. "We could go out and work around people's schedules," Drexel said. "I could come to a person's desk during lunch and run a 45 minute upgrade." All in all, time spent at each desktop was less than an hour, whereas it might have otherwise taken two hours or more. IT staff members didn't have to wait until everyone left for the day, and the migration didn't have to be a full-time effort.

After the migration was completed, The Van's recovery features have continued to pay dividends. By using The Van to store user profiles in a client/server environment, Drexel can centrally administer the capturing and maintenance of user settings. "On a moment's notice, we can restore those settings as needed," he said.

Truth be told, Drexel was surprised when his dream of an easy migration came true. The IT staff reported no help desk calls related to the migration. Even more astonishing was the fact that Safety completed the migration more than a month and a half ahead of the original plan. It's no surprise, then, that the company plans to continue using The Van for future upgrades and recovery.

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