LAS VEGAS, May 11, 1999 — With a shortage of skilled information technology (IT) professionals and limited budgets, companies are looking for ways to reduce the time and cost associated with deploying and managing server software. They are also looking for more efficient ways to train employees on how to use new software as they roll it out.
In an effort to meet these needs, Microsoft this week announced two new products that enable companies to easily deploy and manage server software and quickly train their workers to use it. BackOffice Server 4.5 is designed to make it easier for company departments, branch offices and mid-sized organizations to roll out and administer server software. It also simplifies the task of developing business applications that integrate multiple BackOffice components. Windows Media Training Server, a joint product announced by Microsoft and Compaq Computer Corporation, enables IT managers to train workers on new software by using streaming media over the corporate network. Both products were announced at the Spring Networld + Interop ’99 conference in Las Vegas.
An integrated suite of server applications designed for Windows NT Server, BackOffice is currently the branch-office standard in a number of leading bank, insurance and retail organizations. It is deployed in more than half of the Fortune 200 companies, 45 state governments and all cabinet-level federal agencies in the United States.
Companies that use the software say it helps them save money and remain nimble in a competitive business environment. For example, Novant Health serves more than 2.2 million people in three states through a network of hospitals, nursing homes and outpatient facilities, forming a corridor of health care from southern Virginia to upstate South Carolina. A non-profit organization with $1 billion in annual revenue, Novant deployed Microsoft BackOffice Server at its main hospitals and 60 remote sites as a corporate standard for integrated file and print services, e-mail, mainframe connectivity, asset management, help-desk services, software distribution and Internet connectivity. The BackOffice Server-based solution has proved so successful that Novant plans to deploy it in more hospitals as they join the Novant Health system.
“The biggest impact of this solution is our ability to turnkey a new location, to keep our management costs down and to keep our people costs down,” said Joseph Venturelli, network operations manager at Novant Health. “Because we don’t have to hire a network administrator and put in a separate system at each of our remote locations, we’re saving a lot of money. The ability to remotely control and manage from one location is worth its weight in gold.” Earth’s 911, a national partnership of public and private organizations dedicated to protect the environment, uses BackOffice Server to consolidate hundreds of thousands of information resources onto a central Web site and telephone number.
The Microsoft BackOffice family has enabled Earth’s 911 to maintain a single database that provides both phone callers and Web site visitors with information specific to their zip codes. This eliminates the cost of thousands of phone systems in each state, and provides one reliable source of information.
“We were able to start small and add functionality as we needed it, which was extremely important with our limited resources,” said Chris Warner, the organization’s director.
The new version of BackOffice includes the latest server components including Microsoft SQL Server 7.0 and Systems Manager Server 2.0. It also comes with updated desktop software such as Outlook 2000 e-mail, the FrontPage 2000 Web site creation and management tool, Visual InterDev Web development system version 6.0 and Seagate Crytsal Info 6.0.
Several new features in BackOffice Server 4.5 promise to make the suite even easier to deploy and manage. For example, the new version makes it faster for IT managers to configure servers by automatically detecting the current configuration and recommending the appropriate component and service pack upgrades. It also includes several new features that allow companies to automatically deploy the software to multiple branch office and department servers.
BackOffice Server 4.5 allows companies to manage common tasks from a single point of administration and includes four consoles specifically designed to meet the needs of help desk technicians, Web administrators, branch administrators and central IT administrators. It also includes an intranet starter site and starter applications designed to simplify the process of creating a company intranet.
In addition to helping companies roll out intranet solutions, BackOffice Server will include a new feature called the Team Productivity Update, designed to help employees get results faster by providing a central and structured location for all team information. The new feature, which will be available as a product update in the third quarter of 1999, will allow employees to quickly create a secure, structured team workspace where they can share and work together on documents, view team calendars and contact information and analyze business data.
“Our customers are challenging us to simplify the deployment of solutions based on Office and BackOffice,” said Rich Tong, vice president of marketing for the Business Productivity Group at Microsoft. “BackOffice Server 4.5 makes the jobs of IT professionals and solution developers easier by taking the guesswork out of setting up and managing a branch or departmental server. With the Team Productivity Update, we now simplify the rollout of team-oriented knowledge management solutions based on Office 2000 and BackOffice components, including SQL Server and Exchange Server.”
BackOffice Server 4.5 reduces license administration costs by providing a single license for server components and a single client access license. Pricing starts at U.S. $3,099 (estimated retail price) for BackOffice Server 4.5 with five client access licenses.
With Media Training Server, Microsoft and Compaq have designed a low-cost corporate training solution that enables companies to effectively convey information to their employees. For companies, it offers a more efficient way to train employees. For employees, it offers a convenient way to receive training in an interactive environment directly from their desktop computers. The solution is based upon the Compaq ProLiant server and comes pre-configured with approximately 100 of the most popular Microsoft product training sessions. It also includes information about certification and product training as well as short informational video clips from Compaq.
“The joint solution from Compaq and Microsoft makes it easier for customers who want to incorporate audio and video into their training and communications to increase effectiveness and reduce cost,” said Ray Villareal, Vice President of North America Enterprise Computing for Compaq. “We’re bringing industry-leading products and a rich set of content into one package that lets customers get started quickly and with less risk.”