West College Scotland is an educational facility with an outstanding reputation. It offers residents in the Scottish administrative districts of Inverclyde, Renfrewshire, and West Dunbartonshire a wide range of full-time and part-time courses. It was formed on August 1, 2013, following a merger of three regional colleges, which now make up its current campuses in Greenock, Paisley, and Clydebank. Over 20,000 students make the most of the college’s excellent amenities for further education. About 1,200 employees attend to the upkeep of the college in a wide variety of roles. This includes 30 IT specialists who ensure that the complex IT infrastructure of West College Scotland remains free from performance failures and stays up to date.
Chris Parker is one of these IT professionals. He was appointed solutions administrator in the wake of the college merger, taking on the responsibility of guaranteeing the high availability of students’ and teachers’ applications and providing support. Windows applications (such as Office 2016 and Office 365) as well as different project-management, 3D, and game-development solutions can be found on the 5,000 PCs at the educational facility. On top of this, Office and graphic-design programs from Microsoft and Adobe are used on 300 Mac® computers. These computers are primarily used as part of the college’s design courses, as well as in the private apartments of evening students.
The three originally independent colleges and current campus of West College Scotland had already successfully implemented Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) for efficient administration of their infrastructures. Chris came into contact with this management system in his new role in the summer of 2013—and was impressed right away. Thanks to SCCM, it was possible to roll out application programs, operating systems, and required updates in a centralized manner. Microsoft SCCM offered him ultra-convenient asset and device management and quickly replaced previous installation and imaging routines, which had been manual and taken up a great deal of time.
However, one question remained: How would they deal with the ever-increasing number of Apple® computers on campus? The basic functionalities that Microsoft SCCM provides for managing Mac were indeed an improvement on the previous, exclusively manual administration of iMac® and MacBook® devices. But the standard of management it offered was far from convenient. Even DeployStudio, which had been developed by one of the employees to create and restore hard drive images, was unable to resolve this issue.
On the search for a solution, Chris stumbled across Parallels and a special plug-in: Parallels® Mac Management for Microsoft® SCCM. If this solution lived up to its promise, then it would be possible for Chris and his colleagues to identify and register all Mac computers at the college by means of network scanning, Active Directory system recognition, or Apple Device Enrollment Program (DEP). They would be able to ensure machine compliance, create and roll out macOS® configuration profiles, activate FileVault® encryption and shell scripts, and—thanks to extensive reporting functionalities—enjoy a consistently up to date overview of users, actively used software, and demand for additional licences. This would apply not only to Mac computers within the college buildings, but also to evening students’ computers and students spread out throughout the entire region. Chris reached out to Parallels and soon received a license for an intensive evaluation. While Jamf and Munki (a toolset for managing software installations on OS X® computers) were included in the evaluation process as alternative solutions, it quickly became clear that only Parallels Mac Management could meet the clear criteria Chris had received from his manager. In Chris’ own words: “My manager emphasized that it would have to be possible to integrate the potential solution in SCCM—and Parallels didn’t just offer this, but also met all other requirements to a tee.” The decision was set in stone after the test phase was concluded successfully. Parallels Mac Management was implemented and entered live operation.
"…we are now able to administer our entire heterogenous fleet of computers and the applications used on them in a centralised manner with the aid of one single product, Microsoft SCCM, and a powerful expansion called Parallels Mac Management."
Setting up the Parallels solution went seamlessly, even though Parallels support was needed now and then. Chris elaborates: “I had to make a few phone calls, as our specific setup was a little bit different to the one outlined in the solution’s documentation. But thanks to the truly excellent support provided by Parallels and its highly dedicated employees, who were always willing to lend me their time, we quickly got to grips with smaller problems, such as issues with our WSUS servers during the installation of updates. I was really impressed by the team at Parallels!”
When asked what he thinks are the biggest advantages of the Parallels solution, one answer springs to mind. “Firstly, I would say that one major benefit is the truly convenient, quick, and simple rollout of software and operating system updates, which means that we can finally implement all the criteria stipulated in the Cyber Essentials issued by the National Cyber Security Centre. On top of that, we are now able to administer our entire heterogenous fleet of computers and the applications used on them in a centralized manner with Microsoft SCCM and Parallels Mac Management. As we can now efficiently use SCCM to manage virtually all of our clients, we are now saving enormous amounts of time and money, not to mention our nerves!”