La Trobe Uni starts Windows 7 move

La Trobe University has begun upgrading its staff desktops and student computer labs from Windows XP to Windows 7.

La Trobe University has begun upgrading its staff desktops and student computer labs from Windows XP to Windows 7.

The Melbourne-based university hopes the new operating system and associated technologies will help simplify IT management processes, gain economies of scale, make support easier, reduce overall energy consumption and limit student opportunities to gain unauthorised access to systems.

"We've used this as an opportunity to completely change the way we deploy desktops," said David Hird, the university's chief technology officer.

The university already has 250 desktops running the new operating system, out of a total fleet of 6500 — roughly half for staff use and the rest in computer labs.

Having taken over responsibility for computing resources from IT offices in individual faculties, Hird now hopes to use Microsoft's management tools and a standard operating environment across the university.

"We're going to be using System Center Configuration Manager 2007 for deploying the desktops and applications," he said.

"We'll be using Active Directory with Group Policies to manage those machines better than we can with Windows XP. All of the settings will be standardised across the university, instead of each area doing its own thing. This will make support much easier.

"We can also get rid of log-on scripts. We'll be using Group Policy Preferences to assign shared drives and printers. There's a lot less programming involved."

Hird also expects Group Policies will help reduce IT equipment energy consumption.

"We can set screen time-outs and shut-down times, there's a lot more control over that," he said. "We take green IT very, very seriously, so we're trying to do as much as we can in that area."

Security is another big concern for the university, as students have been known to use computer labs as a base for hacking into university systems or computers outside the network.

"The AppLocker facility ensures students can't run any applications that we don't specifically allow," said Hird. "We can lock down those boxes a lot better than we have in the past. If students can only run officially approved applications, that will also make management easier and reduce our network traffic."

Hird has found "surprisingly few" compatibility issues.

"A few older peripherals have caused problems, mostly ancient printers and scanners that people like to hang off their machines, but they probably shouldn't be using those," he said. "We've been pleasantly surprised by how few problems we've had."

La Trobe should have around 700 machines running Windows 7 by the start of the academic year, according to Julia McKenzie, head of service delivery.

The university will then roll out all new PCs with a Windows 7 standard operating environment. It expects to have the majority of systems running the new operating system within two years.

"We also tend to upgrade them when users ask and a lot of people have been asking for it," said Hird.