"Like IT Departments everywhere, we've had to be more productive using fewer resources. One way we've done that is by standardizing on SSDs versus spindle drives. Our users are more satisfied because SSDs are more reliable, run faster and reduce the time we spend servicing computers."
Information Technology, Service Desk Manager,
Kingston Technology Company Inc.
From its headquarters in Fountain Valley California, Kingston Technology Company, Inc. (Kingston) sells its products across the globe. Its 4,000 world-wide employees design, manufacture and distribute memory and flash memory products for use in desktops, notebooks and mobile devices.
Like many executives in today's economy, Kingston's IT Director had two main goals: to improve end users' satisfaction and to increase the productivity of his IT department. With these two goals in mind, the IT Director challenged his managers to deliver measurable results.
"End users here aren't shy about sharing their IT problems with me," says Theron Sanders, Information Technology Service Desk Manager for Kingston. "At the top of their list were slow application response times and long boot up cycles." But simply improving end users' system performance wasn't enough. Sanders needed to do it in a way that boosted IT staffers' productivity as well. To achieve these objectives, the decision was made to phase out the use of spindle drives in favor of solid state drives (SSDs).
Sanders' seven-person team supports over 850 employees in the United States. These users are equipped with a wide range of devices including high-performance desktops, notebooks, tablets and smartphones.
To manage the transition from spindle drives to SSDs, Sanders adopted a two-fold strategy. New employees receive SSD-based systems while existing computers are switched out on an as-needed basis.
Depending upon the system to be provisioned, Kingston technicians select an SSD with the appropriate SATA interface (versions 3, 2, or 1), form factor (1.8", 2.5" or 7mm) and storage capacity (60, 90, 120, 240 or 480 GB). As needed, technicians use hardware from Kingston Upgrade Bundle Kits to complete the installation.
For new systems, specialists install the SSD and copy over a standard image containing an operating system and user applications. To upgrade existing systems to use SSDs, technicians use Kingston upgrade bundle kits that include Acronis® disk cloning software to copy the operating system, software applications and user data.
Typically, SSDs are imaged and ready for use within an hour. For new systems, that includes an average of 21 minutes to image the drive plus another 30 minutes or so spent running incremental software updates.
The results that Kingston has realised can be grouped into two major categories: a) User benefits and b) IT Department benefits.
"We've definitely noticed an increase in user satisfaction," says Sanders. "The number of 'thank-you' emails I get has gone way up since we've put in the SSDs because users' systems are performing better."
Sanders notes that since transitioning to SSDs, the content of the conversations he has with users has changed. "Instead of focusing on solving issues, we mostly talk about proactive changes users want to make, things like adding a second monitor to keep up with their system."
Sanders also noticed a marked drop in complaints from SSD-equipped users he meets while walking about the offices. "When we were using spindle drives, it used to take me two hours to walk to a coworker's office in another building because users would stop me along the way to discuss their issues. Since we've been using SSDs, I can actually get there in minutes."
The computer systems that were upgraded to SSDs experienced significant performance improvements.
Sanders' assessment of desktop systems revealed boot-times of up to 6:23 minutes. "After installing the SSDs and tweaking the image we were able to get that boot time down to around 3:30 minutes. Another system is now booting in under 40 seconds."
As for application performance, "I've seen a very big improvement in Lotus Notes, something that everyone uses every day," explains Sanders. "With the SSDs, I've seen it launch in three seconds whereas with spindle drives it was taking 12 seconds."
Sanders notes that not only does Lotus Notes launch 75 percent faster, but so do the databases within other applications.
As a result of shortening boot up and application launch times across hundreds of users Sanders' team has liberated labor hours that employees can devote to mission-critical projects.
By using SSD drives that are significantly more resistant to damage from drops, jars and vibrations, data is better protected. "The failure rates of our SSDs are definitely lower than the spindle drives we've used," recalls Sanders.
Kingston offers a comprehensive portfolio of SSDs that includes the form factors, interfaces and storage capacities most used today. By matching the most appropriate SSD with users' computers systems, Sanders has been able to standardise on SSDs. In so doing, the IT Department has realised a number of operational benefits.
By migrating from spindle drives to SSDs, "we went from imaging drives and turning them around in a day to having them ready in under an hour," explains Sanders. In fact, the SSD imaging productivity gains have been so significant, that now, "I can do 20-30 images at a time in one fifth of the time that it took using spindle drives."
As a result, "my employees are doing more high-priority tasks focused on improving our operations and spending less time fighting fires," says Sanders.
The faster preparation time also means that "we can be more flexible in our response to last-minute requests, like when an executive is flying overseas that evening and needs a new system," explains Sanders.
It used to be that when a user complained about unacceptably slow performance, the company would replace the system. "Today, we install an SSD and the user thinks they have a brand new notebook," states Sanders.
The average company upgrades computer systems every three years. By putting newer operating systems on SSDs and upgrading computer memory, Sanders has successfully extended the service life of many systems to five years. "It's been nice reducing our department's overall CAPEX spending while equipping users with systems that they're happy with," says Sanders.