How Park University manages end-user devices at scale through automation
With David Chesher, Director of Technical Services, Zachary Neu, Senior Technical Support Specialist, and Gina Foley, Information Security Administrator
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Park University is a private liberal arts university founded in 1875 based in Parkville, MO. 13,250 students worldwide pursue their Park education at one of their 41 US campuses or online from around the globe. Park University is home to around 350 full-time faculty and staff with 1,500 students on their flagship campus in Parkville, MO.
David Chesher, Director of Technical Services at Park University has over 20 years’ experience as a systems administrator, project manager, and IT leader. His team is responsible for delivering the full spectrum of technical service to faculty, staff, and students at Park University. “Before we brought NinjaOne on two years ago, we really only had TeamViewer to manage end-user devices,” says David. “We didn’t centrally manage patching before Ninja, software deployment was done manually in person or via GPO. Ninja filled a huge gap in capabilities for us that we didn’t know we needed.”
For the technical support team, visibility into endpoint health and behavior is key. “Ninja lets us see what is happening on a device at any given time. We check on performance, see which processes are running, get hardware details, and more to help us diagnose and solve issues faster,” says Zachary Neu, Senior Technical Support Specialist. Recently, Zach’s team received reports of slow end-user devices. Looking into those machines, Zach found that Park University had some older laptops with 8 GB of memory, 2 GB of which was dedicated to video. “It was easy to create a search group to identify these machines, see that they were running slowly, and remediate the issue. Without Ninja, we would have had to rely on end-user reports or go machine-by-machine to identify and resolve this problem.”
Connecting to end-user devices was a regular pain for the technical services team prior to Ninja, says Zach. “Walking an end-user through the process of getting their device ID is painful, but without it, I couldn’t connect via TeamViewer. It was even worse if TeamViewer wasn’t working– I had to walk the user through uninstalling and reinstalling the application before I could connect. That’s not a great experience for anyone.”
Zachary continues, “With Ninja, I can quickly search for the device and one-click remote in without ever talking to the end-user. Ninja removes complications from my team’s workflows and saves us time.” For David, that’s a huge business value, “Ninja saves us at least one minute per remote access session. With ten thousand remote connections per year, that’s over 150 hours saved per year on just that interaction.”
Park University creates and manages golden images to make the new device setup process faster, easier, and more standardized. According to Zach, “Ninja helps a lot with deploying new machines. We can reduce the time spent managing our golden image by having fewer applications included. When we deploy the Ninja agent to a new device it’s smart enough to know which applications need to be installed and push those out automatically. Adobe Creative Cloud, for example only goes to our design lab endpoints, while SentinelOne goes to all of them – Ninja is smart enough to automate this.”
Gina Foley, Park University’s Information Security Administrator gives an example, “Ninja checks our endpoints to make sure our EDR solution SentintelOne is deployed. If it's not detected, Ninja will install the application for us. We can validate that the installation has occurred via the built-in software inventory. Because of this, we don’t have to worry about the complexity of having SentinelOne be part of our golden image.” Park University recently deployed 350 new endpoints over a two-month period. “We were able to deploy SentinelOne completely automatically to over 98% of those endpoints, with the remaining 2% requiring some additional configuration,” says Gina.
“So much of security is just having visibility,” says Gina. “I can always login and see who is using which device. I can always check Ninja to verify that patches are being pushed regularly. If something goes wrong, I also know that David’s team can jump in to help. NinjaOne is the safety net we didn’t know we were missing.”
David’s team has really leaned into using Ninja, “Whenever we have a big project coming up, we start by asking how Ninja can help us deliver that project more efficiently.” One recent example that comes to mind involves an Office 365 license issue. “We had a licensing issue where all Office licenses need to be updated to a different code. We wrote and deployed a batch script that updated the registry key and deployed it to all our end-user endpoints with a single click. End-users never knew a change had been made. Our server team did the same process manually on far fewer devices and it took them a full day,” says David.
“I have a lot of trust in my team,” says David, “Ninja gives me 360-degree visibility over our managed endpoints and my team. I don’t need Zach to prove he’s doing his job, I can check really easily. His time is better spent helping people.” For David, visibility means better management, faster remediation, and a greater ability to support his team.
In the first half of 2022, Park University’s technical services staff, encompassing both help desk and technical support, has dropped from 9 full-time employees down to 5. “My team is shrinking, but the demands on the team are not,” says David. “Having Ninja in our toolbelt is like having another full-time employee at the University. An FTE that doesn’t take vacation, is never out sick, and who we don’t have to pay benefits. Ninja a huge benefit because the money is so well spent. If it weren’t for Ninja, I don’t think our IT team could deliver services to expectation with our staff reduced so far.”
It's not just technician efficiency that has improved at Park University, Ninja has had an impact on end-users as well. “Over the last two years, everyone has seen more employees work from home which poses huge challenges for end-user support. Everything we did hands-on when employees were on-site Ninja helps us do for remote employees,” says David. “We’re able to make end-users more satisfied with their IT services and more efficient by reducing remediation time from hours to minutes and often minutes to seconds.”