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Food Company Benefits from IT Systems Analysis and roadmap for Future

"We needed a thorough IT systems analysis and didn’t have time to do it. With Alto’s comprehensive audit and recommendations, we know what the current state is and what we need to do to support the company’s goals moving forward."

- IT Manager, Dakota Provisions

Customer and industry
Dakota Provisions, turkey processing

Conduct an in-depth IT systems analysis, review hardware and software risks, make short term and long term recommendations, and provide a roadmap for the future.

Customer profile
Dakota Provisions manufactures poultry and protein products for retail and food service partners. Located at a world-class processing facility in Huron, South Dakota, the company employs 900 associates of which 180 are computer/email users. It expects to grow to 1,000 employees by 2015. Dakota Provisions produces over 320 million pounds of product annually, and is an industry leader in food safety. It was founded in 2004 by a co-op of growers and is dedicated to the heritage and survival of family farmers.

The Challenge

  • Dakota Provisions wanted a thorough analysis of its IT infrastructure. They had a small IT department, and the staff didn’t have time to review the hardware and software systems. Like many IT staffs, Dakota’s staff found that they spent their time resetting passwords, patching software, setting up new users, and ‘putting out fires,’ leaving no time to take a 360 view of their IT infrastructure. The company knew it was time for an in-depth IT “health check.”
  • Dakota Provisions has 900 employees and expects to grow to 1,000 by 2015. It has 180 computer users and wanted to make sure that the IT systems keep up with technology demands.
  • Dakota wanted an IT partner to identify issues of concern, prioritize the concerns, recommend improvements, and provide a roadmap for growth based on future needs. The analysis would help the IT staff develop a strategic plan, provide a framework for future budget expenditures and better allocate staff resources.  The health check would result in a healthier infrastructure, increased performance, less risk of security breaches and data loss, and reduce costs and employee downtime.
  • Dakota Provisions wanted a trustworthy IT partner with extensive systems engineering experience.  Dakota previously selected Alto to deploy Microsoft Office 365 and migrate its email, seeing first-hand that Alto could deliver.

The Solutions
Alto provided a thorough analysis of Dakota Provisions’ IT infrastructure. Much like preventative dental care, Alto believes that a proactive approach to IT systems management prevents major issues from occurring. Our systems audit included a:

Review of hardware:  
  • Alto conducted an inventory of desktops/notebooks and Servers/SANs (the type and quantity) and Hyper-V Hosts, and provided both technical and non-technical documentation.  Alto recommended ideal and next-best options for virtualizing physical servers and detailed the features and benefits of Hyper-V in Microsoft Windows Server 2012 compared with Dakota’s current Server 2008 R2 Hyper-V infrastructure.

Review of software:

  • Alto provided a summary of active desktop operating systems, details on the latest service pack available, critical support termination dates and recommendations for minimally intrusive upgrades.
  • Alto provided a summary of active virtual machines with RAM allocation statistics and a list of the applications most commonly used across the entire network including license usage and version information.  The applications analysis revealed a large number of unique applications installed on PCs across the network, so Alto provided a list of these applications with recommendations on how to lock down employees’ ability to download applications.
  • Alto conducted an audit of the operating systems including the end dates for mainstream support and extended support.
  • Alto’s systems engineers assessed the Dakota’s SQL infrastructure, documented the risks of the existing SQL sprawl and provided a detailed diagram of the ideal SQL environment based on current and future needs.  Alto recommendations reduced SQL operating costs and addressed the risks of supporting multiple versions of SQL Server.  Alto recommended that Dakota Provisions review the performance and support of important systems and applications that started small and grew to high maintenance, mission critical applications.
  • Alto provided a notable features list of Microsoft System Center 2012 that Dakota Provisions can leverage.

Alto reviewed security, backups and monitoring, and made recommendations for the best, most cost-effective solutions based on Dakota Provision’s IT environment.

After Alto completed the systems analysis, Dakota asked Alto to implement several of the recommendations. Alto: 

  1. Set up a cluster for the client’s Microsoft Hyper-V environment, migrated the company’s VMs into the cluster and showed the client how to replicate this in the future. 
  2. Created and updated a new Microsoft Windows Update Server and optimized the company’s Microsoft SQL Servers. 
  3. Inspected SQL server maintenance plans, made changes where necessary and recommended improvements. 
  4. Patched all servers and released non-critical Windows patches to desktops.
  5. Moved Symantec Antivirus and WSUS off the old server and onto a new 2008 R2 VM due to the fact that it was critically low on space.

Alto delivers a “to-do list” and a roadmap for future growth 
Alto's systems analysis provided Dakota Provisions with a detailed analysis of its hardware, software, security, backups, and monitoring, and recommendations that will improve performance, eliminate structural issues, increase efficiency, and lower costs.  Because of Alto’s systems engineering expertise and analysis, Dakota’s IT department was able to determine the best short and long-term course of action.  Dakota Provisions engaged Alto to implement some of the recommendations immediately and is maintaining a "to-do" list for future improvements.



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