IT teams are consistently overloaded with the diverse IT needs of employees. Organizations are realizing the importance of having the right technology, skilled personnel, and streamlined processes in place to stay ahead of the growing number of tickets and ensure optimal security. That’s why SWNS Media partnered with Atera – to simplify and accelerate many of the mundane IT processes and implement the best IT automations available. With Atera on board, their IT team can focus on more important tasks while remaining confident in their organization’s security measures.
Meet SWNS Media Group
With over 200 staff, SWNS Media Group (SWNS) creates and delivers high-quality news content to some of the biggest publishers in the world. They also own several agencies with services that range from market research and public relations to website design and brand identity. Although they are based in Bristol, UK, they have nine offices across the globe. They often work from home because of the remote nature of the business. SWNS has an in-house IT team to meet their employees’ technical needs. This nimble team of four is led by Technical Lead John Merrick.
Collaboration and visibility challenges cloud the team
When John arrived at SWNS in December 2021, he faced a few challenges immediately. He saw that there were no clear patch management processes for the organization’s devices, which also meant a cumbersome load of tickets. 130 tickets needed attention, and with only four people on the team, it meant slow response times and delayed business results when most of the time, tickets can be resolved with a simple computer restart.
“The first thing we usually see is this laptop hasn’t been restarted for two weeks,” John recalled. And if the reboot wasn’t enough, the laptop would likely just need a patch: “We’d have some PCs out there with 20 or 30 patches required.” Tickets that couldn’t be fixed with a reboot or patch require a script, which takes the team time to write or find with an online search.
These tickets weren’t the only thing that required the team’s attention—they also had to work with departments like HR to distribute laptops to new employees and Finance to track which employees have which devices from the correct purchase orders. “If Finance came to us and said, who’s using these devices? It would be like, I don’t know,” said John.
Coming from an MSP background, John knew that the only solution to these challenges was an IT platform that would give his team visibility, a clear way to handle tickets—especially the most common ones that just need a quick fix and a way to collaborate better with other departments. In January 2022, John brought Atera into SWNS, and the positive impact was felt immediately.
Atera enables SWNS’ IT approach to be proactive
Easy cross-departmental collaboration
Before Atera, the IT team’s collaboration with other departments was a challenge because they lacked visibility into the information and statuses of their devices, beginning with purchasing and giving information to Finance. As mentioned, the Finance team would ask for specific device updates and info like their purchase order. Instead of scrambling to piece information together, John’s team set up custom fields in Atera to group the devices.
“If we buy a batch of 10 devices, we can say that these were all purchased on a specific purchase order,” said John, alluding that this is just one department that benefits from Atera outside the IT team. They can also see which user is using which device and get notifications if there’s an issue, such as software needing an update.
After device purchasing comes distribution. Every new employee gets a company laptop with preloaded applications. Rather than manually installing each program on dozens of laptops, running back and forth between them, John’s team installs only the Atera agent. “Then we can leave them running until they’ve done all their patching. They’ve updated the software, applications, and things like that. Conservatively, we probably save 30-45 minutes per laptop,” raved John.
Once the updates are done, the laptops are sent to the HR department, which sends them to the right employees. This step used to mark the loss of visibility into the device’s performance. However, with Atera, John now has confidence and complete visibility into laptop statuses.
“We know that as soon as that laptop is deployed, it has Atera on it, so we can access it if it’s in the Bristol office. If it’s going to a home, we get access to that. It doesn’t matter where they send it. As soon as they’re logged in, we know if they have any problems.”
Remote fixes with lightning-fast AI scripts
As aforementioned, SWNS employees are scattered throughout the globe, and lack of visibility was a major pain point for the IT team. With Atera’s remote access solution, John’s team can access any device and troubleshoot it behind the scenes without interrupting the end user.
“Obviously, desktop is easy. You could just restart them every night when nobody’s there,” John said, referring to the ease of accessing devices back in the day when everyone worked from an office. “Laptops are another pain.”
With Atera, they can see the exact issue of the laptop, wherever it is, and run patches and scripts to fix it without waiting for it to become a problem. Using Atera allows the IT team to be proactive instead of reactive, continuing to be IT heroes behind the scenes.
When it comes to finding the right scripts to push to these laptops, Atera’s recently launched Open AI-powered script generator has been a massive help. Instead of referring to a search engine and wasting time finding the right script to run, IT employees just describe the problem and receive a script in seconds to review and run on devices remotely. It’s been a game changer for John’s team: “It just writes the script for me, and that may have taken me 30 minutes of Googling to come up with that. It’s taken me 30 seconds to type it in.”
Force multiplier with devices, automation, and software bundles
Because of Atera’s ticketing system, AI scripts, and remote access to devices, the SWNS IT team plowed through those 130 open tickets. They now have around 15 tickets at a time to manage. Not only did they cut down on the number of tickets, but they also went from four teammates managing tickets to two teammates—so they cut down on half the amount of personnel resources, which is a quantifiable win.
“The four of us were pretty much working on tickets every day. [Atera] just helped us view the tickets. We could break it down into different queues because of the custom fields,” reported John, who created faster ticket review processes from the new visibility. Now, they only need to meet twice weekly to review outstanding tickets.
Support for all kinds of devices
“Atera monitors all our laptops, MacBooks, servers, and NAS devices. The Availability Monitor is great for servers if they lose connectivity, we are notified straight away and can take steps to rectify. It also means we can alert users of potential issues instead of waiting for them to tell us something is broken,” said John. This enables their IT team to be proactive instead of reactive, which is important in securing endpoints and keeping employees efficient and able to do their job to the best of their abilities.
The team at SWNS is keen to automate or, at the very least, streamline repetitive tasks as much as possible. “In the simplest form, we drafted a bank of Quick Replies to use when responding to users. This saves us from having to repeatedly type the same messages and ensures we are consistent with our responses across the team, for example, simple things to check if low on disk space.”
Additional Customer Support Addresses are used to automate the allocation and categorization of tickets as they arrive. There are 10 additional addresses available with their license, and they use specific aliases for alerts regarding backups, domain, and SSL expiry dates, and HR requests. The destination address triggers the desired workflow, so the tickets are assigned to the relevant technician with the correct categorization settings, and custom field values are set.
A simple step like this has saved considerable time, as they manage over 250 domains and can get 20-30 alerts in one day regarding domain expiries.
“These would have had to be categorized manually, now it is all done as the ticket is created when it is also assigned to a technician, who then simply needs to do a quick check to see if the domain is still required. This change has helped us close these tickets in a third of the time.”
Software bundles are yet another simple but effective tool within the Atera arsenal. In the past, to install simple apps like Adobe Reader, FileZilla, Chrome, or Firefox, they would have had to connect to the end device, download the installer, and provide admin credentials during the installation, all while interrupting the user and stopping them from working. Now, they set up a software bundle that includes one or all of the apps mentioned and simply push it to the device. “It literally takes seconds of technician time, and the user suffers no interruption. It takes longer to respond to the user’s request to tell them the application is installed than it does to install it.”
Looking to the future
Atera has transformed the way SWNS’ IT team does business. The platform has enabled the IT team to be more proactive and efficient, allowing them to respond quickly to issues before they become big problems. The platform has provided the team with visibility, automation, and the ability to collaborate with other departments without barriers.
“I see Atera as integral,” John said when asked about their future with Atera. They’ve repurchased another year of Atera and are excited to continue using the current and future features to enhance their workflows further. “I just think it’s just going to get easier and easier to automate.”