When Tom Lawrence finally opened his office door, he saw complete darkness through the clinic's windows — another late night. While working feverishly to restore a doctor's corrupted PC at the health center where he works, Tom was already 30 minutes late for a traditional activity with his 16-year-old son, Justin.
Fridays meant father-son bonding time over Call of Duty and meat lover's pizza. But lately, whether it was a virus infecting the health workers' computers or driving out to restore dead PCs at the satellite campuses, Tom
was making Justin wait longer than he should to start their fun together.
Tom hurried toward the parking lot while calling his son.
"Hey, buddy. I'm sorry I'm not there yet. I'll be there in 15 minutes. I'll order some wings and garlic bread to go with the pizza as penance."
"OK, but hurry, Dad. A growing boy like me can't live off chips and salsa alone," joked Justin.
After ending the call, Tom gazed at the Black Ops Commander bobble head on his dashboard — a gag gift from Justin. He couldn't wait to get home, eat like a pig and take out entire digital armies with his son. But just as he turned into the pizza place to pick up their food, Tom got an even better idea — and he knew exactly who could help.
How one IT administrator and avid gamer battled disaster at work and bonded with his son with an unforgettable birthday gift
Colin, Tom's college roommate, worked as a developer at one of the big gaming companies in Southern California, and Tom decided to ask for a big favor: two passes to the holy grail of gaming expos — E3. With less than a month before the event, Tom knew it was a long shot, but he had to try.
"Can I do it?" Colin repeated from his home in El Segundo. "Obviously, you're not aware of what a big shot I am."
"Seriously, this would mean a lot to me," Tom said.
"No problem. I'll make you and Justin 'consultants' or something. He's old enough, right?"
"He'll be 17 next month — the day before the conference."
"Perfect — that's the minimum age; I'll get you two passes," Colin told him. "Just one thing — this clears me of that $40 I've owed you since Daytona Beach in '96."
"Tell Justin I said happy birthday."
Father and son hit the Call of Duty war front again on Sunday night with an ample supply of Chinese food as their rations. When Tom got into the office on Monday morning, he saw his boss, Jim, standing in the doorway, his jaw grinding nervously as he stared into space. Normally unflappable, Jim approached his days with the gentle enthusiasm of a man well-suited to his chosen profession. But one look now told Tom that something had gone very wrong with the new computers they ordered.
"The new computers failed," Jim stated flatly.
"How many?" Tom asked.
"All of them."
Of all the times for something so disastrous to happen, Tom thought, it can't be the month that he's planning the E3 surprise for Justin's birthday.
Tom shook his head and struggled to understand what had happened;
the 162 new computers were much needed and were supposed to make everyone's workday easier. However, as Jim now explained, the system supplier delivered the computers, but had improperly set up the new electronic medical records (EMR) system. The machines were unworkable in their current state.
Tom tried to focus as Jim filled him in on the extent of the situation.
"They're all configured with the wrong EMR version," Jim said. "And they're pointing to the wrong server. Most of the clinical apps we need weren't installed, either. They're completely useless."
"Did you call the vendor?" Tom asked, hoping for an out.
"Apparently they're swamped with other issues for several weeks. We're on our own."
Tom's mood darkened. A setback this huge would mean countless hours of overtime for several weeks. He felt his plan to surprise Justin with the E3 tickets slipping through his fingers. Tom had already cleared everything so they could leave at the end of the month for Justin's birthday, and now he was looking at one of the biggest IT disasters of his career. If he couldn't resolve this quickly, he would miss the chance to give Justin the birthday gift of his short lifetime.
"I'll get on the message boards," Tom said, doing his best to sound positive.
"Someone else must have faced this situation before. There's gotta be a solution."
Jim nodded, then turned and walked back to his office, still chewing on the problem.
Hours later, Tom's empty coffee cup lay at the bottom of the trash can as he hunched over his keyboard. His search queries had landed him on ITNinja.com, where a consensus of opinion led him to the KACE® Systems Deployment Appliance (SDA). He liked what users were saying about the KACE SDA's ability to extend image deployments to remote sites. What's more, he learned that it totally automates the deployment process and does everything — from pre-installation tasks such as disk, RAID and BIOS configuration, to post-installation tasks including sysprep automation, domain joining and service pack. Tom was surprised to learn the appliance even streamlined application and script deployment. Tom launched an IM window: "Jim, I think I've found something."
While Jim worked frantically to manually reimage a few crucial computers, Tom contacted a sales consultant at Quest® and received a 30-day trial of the KACE SDA. He also downloaded a trial of the KACE Systems Management Appliance (SMA). After getting the trial versions of the appliances up and running on the clinic's test server, Tom was amazed at how quickly the KACE SDA could build a Windows 7 image with all the right drivers and software, and reconfigure one of the test computers. Then he watched in amazement as the KACE SMA executed a complete hardware
and software inventory for Windows, Mac, Linux and UNIX devices across all five locations — even obtaining information for peripherals such as printers and network gear.
The next day, Tom and Jim met with Rhonda, the clinic's director, reporting the great results from the test drive of the KACE appliances.
"What's it going to cost us?" was Rhonda's common-sense response. As a small nonprofit community clinic, money was always tight.
"I asked Dave, the Quest rep, the same question," Tom replied. "He explained that if we go with KACE as a Service, meaning it's hosted from the cloud as a virtual appliance, it doesn't require any upfront capital expense. We can budget it as an operational expense instead."
"I like the sound of that," Rhonda said, brightening. "But, will these appliances help us meet HIPAA regulations?"
"Yes. The KACE SMA will give us the visibility we need to comply with HIPAA standards," explained Tom. "The KACE appliances will help us simplify device deployment and management, as well as security and compliance. HIPAA requires the same level of management for remote and on-site workstations, and this is exactly what the KACE appliances provide."
"Perfect," Rhonda said.
Once Rhonda approved the purchase, Tom and Jim were ecstatic about the speed of deploying the KACE appliances, as well as how easy they were to learn.
Things were improving dramatically, and much faster than Tom could have imagined. After doing a complete system inventory with the KACE SMA, Tom and Jim were able to take advantage of the KACE SDA's lights-off automated-deployment abilities to reimage all their machines, updating them with the correct EMR version and installing the clinic's crucial apps. The intuitive drag-and-drop interface of the KACE SDA made reimaging the new machines that much faster. With the deployment of the new EMR system, doctors would be able to diagnose patients with greater accuracy in less time.
Once the new computers were rolled out to the users, the EMR system and other clinical applications ran much faster thanks to the KACE SDA, maximizing the clinical staff's productivity. Tom and Jim knew that was Rhonda's main objective, so they couldn't help but brag about the successful deployment.
"The KACE SDA enabled us to image and deploy all 162 computers in just one day. It eliminated about 80 hours of overtime, or the equivalent of $20,000," Jim said to Rhonda, understanding her focus on the clinic's bottom line. "As bad as this debacle was, it might have been a blessing in disguise. Without the KACE SDA, it would have taken us up to six hours to set up just one machine with the right operating system, the EMR application and the other clinical applications we need."
"I'm impressed," Rhonda stated. "I really appreciate the initiative you guys took, not only in salvaging this situation, but in finding an ongoing solution for systems management and for rebuilding PCs when they get corrupted."
"I can't take credit," Jim smiled. "Tom found the KACE products on his own. I guess that gaming laptop made him a believer."
"Gaming laptop?" Rhonda asked. "What are you guys doing back there?"
"It's our diversion," Tom explained. "I've been using it as a little stress release on my lunch breaks. Things were getting pretty rough around here before we discovered KACE."
With everything running smoothly on the new KACE appliances, Tom finally felt he could reveal the big surprise to his son without worrying about any upcoming IT disasters.
Tom pulled up to Justin's school just in time to see his son trudging out the main gate, weighed down by a giant backpack. Tom smiled, knowing Justin would be thrilled with the E3 tickets. He pulled up to the curb and rolled down the window.
"Hey, bud. Hop in," Tom said.
After saying goodbye to his friends, Justin jumped in the car, "What are you doing here?" He asked.
Tom fanned the tickets and leaned over to hold them out the passenger window. "Oh, you know, just surprising my son with a trip to E3."
"No way!" Justin's jaw dropped, causing Tom to laugh.
Nearly speechless, Justin sat down and stared straight ahead before turning to his dad.
"But it's the middle of the week. Don't you have work emergencies to deal with?"
"No, kiddo. It's all about us now." Tom ruffled Justin's shaggy hair. "Happy birthday, son."
Justin's smile was all the thanks Tom needed. But, Justin wasn't the only one smiling. With work under control and the KACE Go Mobile App tracking any issues while he's away from the office, Tom had a feeling he was going to be smiling a lot more now, too.
Once the new computers were rolled out to the users, the EMR system and other clinical applications ran much faster thanks to the KACE SDA, maximizing the clinical staff's productivity.