A new Direction: Service Delivery to Your Desktop

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A New Direction: Service Delivery to Your Desktop


Country: Egypt

Industry: Education
Customer Profile

The American University in Cairo (AUC) is one of the largest and oldest educational Universities in the Middle East. It maintains five campuses, with 2,500 staff members and more than 5,000 students. AUC offers programmes across a diverse range of course areas, developed with industry input and taught by practicing professionals to ensure students receive a ‘real-world’ education.

Business Situation

The organisation comprises five campuses, each in a different location. Different implementations of various technologies did not integrate well and hindered communication between staff. Managing the disparate systems was difficult, costly and time-consuming.


AUC required a consistent, centralised environment that was easy to implement, manage and operate. It replaced legacy systems with a unified solution based on Microsoft technology. The new system has improved communication and collaboration between staff, and provides the framework for future projects such as portals and helpdesks.


  • Standardised environment that is easier to manage

  • Reduced travel time for IT staff with remote management

  • Easy integration with existing applications

  • Improved identity management with Active Directory®

  • A spectacular drop in virus & internet attacks

  • Enhanced secure infrastructure

“We chose Microsoft because we needed a system that was easy to support, secure, cost effective, and would successfully serve the large number of PCs and applications we use.”

Dr. Mona Kaddah, ACS Director, The American University in Cairo.

The American University in Cairo (AUC) in Egypt is one of the largest and oldest educational institutions in the Middle East, with five campuses distributed throughout Cairo. With over 5000 students and 2500 staff, technology plays an important role in the daily lives of the community in terms of collaboration, communication, research and business processes. A technology platform had been built over a number of years to accommodate a surge in demand for computing facilities, with rapid expansion in most departments and units. However, as a result of the rapid expansion and parallel initiatives from many units, the resulting technology platform comprised an incompatible mix of systems and applications that was difficult to manage, administer and support. In 2005, Academic Computing Services (ACS) designed and implemented a new, standardized environment using Microsoft technology. This solution is easier to manage, cost-effective and efficient, with IT team members no longer facing time-consuming commutes between campuses. The Microsoft framework flexibility and scalability allows room for growth, with the possible addition of services such as a student portal and helpdesk facilities in the future.

“Replacing disparate systems with a single, centralised platform has made infrastructure management infinitely easier. Microsoft provided all the functionality we needed and more.”

Hussein M. EL Sayed, Senior Academic Systems Architect.

Academic Computing Services.

The American University in Cairo was founded in 1919 by Americans devoted to education and service in the Middle East. For its first 27 years the university was shaped by its founding president, Dr. Charles A. Watson. He wanted to create an English-language university based on high standards of conduct and scholarship and to contribute to intellectual growth, discipline, and character of the future leaders of Egypt and the region. He also believed that such a university would greatly improve America's understanding of the area.
Initially, AUC was intended to be both a preparatory school and a university. The preparatory school opened on October 5, 1920, with 142 students in two classes that were equivalent to the last two years of an American high school.
Since then academic program enrollments have grown to 5,022 students (Fall 2001), with 749 students at the master's degree level. Adult education expanded simultaneously and now serves approximately 30,000 individuals each year in non-credit courses and contracted training programs.
Throughout its history, AUC has balanced a strong commitment to liberal education with a concern for the region's needs for practical applications and professional specialisations. Today, AUC emphasises liberal education and all undergraduate students study a common set of courses in the humanities and the natural and social sciences as part of the university's core curriculum. In addition, the university maintains its strong commitment to fostering understanding across world regions, cultures and religions.
Currently, the American University in Cairo comprises five campuses, each in a different location. The different technologies on each campus did not integrate well and hindered communication between staff and collaboration among students. Managing the disparate systems of around 4,000 PCs and servers in different locations was difficult, costly and time-consuming, especially with a limited number of technical support staff. Another major problem was virus infections & Internet attacks that sometimes paralysed entire departments and units, who had limited technical support personnel.
To prevent the spread of viruses, worms and other Internet hazards, network security policies were tightly configured, with the network backbone connecting the five campuses adhering to rigorous access limitations on switches and routers, and with major intranet communication ports disabled. This factor represented a barrier to any centralised solution.
ACS chose Microsoft as its preferred technology vendor after evaluating a series of solutions following a request for proposal. “Microsoft provided all the functionality we needed and more,” says Hussein El Sayed, responsible for overall design and implementation of the new system. “The system encompassed a range of collaborative tools that we believed would help foster better communication between staff. It was also the most cost-effective solution for us in terms of maximising our Microsoft campus agreement.”

    Initial Deployment: Public Access Labs

ACS began building the system in 2002, with a deployment limited to ACS-managed public access labs. The solution was based on the Microsoft Windows® 2000 operating system and running Microsoft Active Directory® for 5800 student accounts. An additional master server was installed at the main campus, to control, secure and remotely manage 120 PCs. Features included student profiles that allowed access to all ACS labs with a single sign-on, and a printing management system based on Microsoft Active Directory accounts to control student printing quota and payment.
Microsoft ISA server was used for the implementation of a firewall in the lab to control and limit bandwidth for laptop users using plug-in ports at the lab, and to guard against viruses and threats from the Internet.
In 2004, ACS upgraded the open access labs to Microsoft Windows Server™ 2003 operating system and installed an evaluation copy of Microsoft System Management Server 2003.
Also in 2004, ACS started building a wireless authentication system with ISA Server in a public access lab servicing student laptops. The system was based on Microsoft Windows® 2003 operating system, and running Microsoft Active Directory service. This system also integrated with the printing management system, created to manage student logins and printing quota. Useful usage statistics were also generated from the system.

    Deployment of a Remote Management System Campus-wide

In 2005, ACS began expanding upon the system to include all PCs on campus, taking six months to plan and develop the necessary enterprise level architecture, which was based on Microsoft Windows 2003 operating system.
The implementation included domain servers running Microsoft Active Directory, and a master server running Microsoft Systems Management Server (SMS) with Windows Server Update Services (WSUS), deployed at the main campus. The SMS server allows ACS to provide remote software installation services, Windows, and antivirus updates to users, as well as gather information and inventory details about the hardware and software used at the university.
ACS solved the security issue by using Microsoft Visual Basic® and custom scripting to change the standard ports to customised ports, allowing communication with desktops campus-wide without violating the network security policy, thereby fitting the system into a tight security environment.

    Creating a Collaboration Facility

A further deployment was made in the ACS public access labs with the implementation of Office Live Communications Server 2005. The Office Live Communications Server is used as local instant messaging and collaboration tool, and provides the core of a 'collaboration corner' that is used by students and faculty.


In ACS public access labs, a printing management system based on Microsoft Active Directory facilitated a change from a manual system to a highly efficient computerised and automated system.

“The Microsoft tools and applications were straightforward and very easy to use,” says Maha Amer, technical support manager.

    Reduced travel time for IT staff with remote management.

“The constant and automated Windows & antivirus updates to the servers and desktops using System Management Server 2003 took an enormous burden off our shoulders, and protected the campus from new Internet threats” says Mostafa Bakr, senior technical support specialist.

    A Spectacular Drop in Viruses Across Campus

As a result of the deployment of the remote management system, and the availability of an automated system for providing anti-virus and system updates, a spectacular drop in virus occurrences and Internet attacks was achieved, with a 95% decrease in reporting of virus cases within a three month period.

    Easy Integration with Existing Applications

AUC uses a large number of applications designed to integrate into a Microsoft environment. Hussein El Sayed says: “Students and teachers use a lot of applications to carry out their work. The university implements Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP), which is a protocol for accessing information directories such as identity information and public keys, so teachers and users could authenticate their identities on the LDAP system. But because of some limitations in the implementation of LDAP, users often needed different passwords for different applications. Because we now have an infrastructure based entirely on Microsoft, it’s far easier to integrate the applications and simplify user access.”

    Improved identity management with Active Directory

By committing to an infrastructure based on Microsoft technology, and the implementation of Active Directory, it was possible to provide a single user name and password for intranet, wireless, and desktop log in. Students and teacher confidence in the system will grow in the near future, because they will no longer need different passwords for different applications.

    Enhances Secure Infrastructure

Prior to the provision of remote management services, the university had established a tight security infrastructure, but it needed to enhance its virus monitoring and security update processes.
Hazem Hassib, senior technical support specialist, further explains: “As soon as a security update is released, we can ensure all computers are protected by using Systems Management Server 2003 to remotely deploy the upgrades. This is one of the advantages of moving to a single network based on Microsoft technologies, in that you can start picking products off the shelf, rather than trying to squeeze third party products into the infrastructure. We will also cut costs with the use of the Systems Management Server to remotely deploy applications. This means we can limit the number of technicians who physically go out and install applications, and their time can be better spent on more challenging tasks.”

    Single Technology Also Cuts Costs

ACS had to complete the migration without taking its systems down. Dr. Kaddah remarked: “We don’t have the luxury of closing down for six weeks through the summer like many educational establishments, because we have a large number of international and summer students. So we achieved the migration without any down time by implementing as much of the new infrastructure as possible in a parallel network, and in phases.
Using the Microsoft Campus Agreement

ACS was able to leverage the Microsoft Campus agreement to obtain all necessary server software at a very reasonable academic rate, with appreciable discounts.

For More Information

For more information about Microsoft products and services, call the Microsoft Sales Information Center at (800) 426-9400. In Canada, call the Microsoft Canada Information Centre at (877) 568-2495. Customers who are deaf or hard-of-hearing can reach Microsoft text telephone (TTY/TDD) services at (800) 892-5234 in the United States or (905) 568-9641 in Canada. Outside the 50 United States and Canada, please contact your local Microsoft subsidiary. To access information using the World Wide Web, go to: www.microsoft.com

For more information about AUC, visit the Web site at: http://www.aucegypt.edu/

© 2007 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. This case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY.
Document published March 2007

Software and Services

  • Products

  • Microsoft Office Professional Edition 2003

  • Microsoft Office Outlook 2003

  • Microsoft SQL Server 2000

  • Microsoft Visual Studio 6

  • Microsoft Visual Studio 2003

  • Microsoft Office Live Communications Server 2005

  • Microsoft Systems Management Server 2003

  • Microsoft ISA Server 2000

  • Microsoft ISA Server 2004

  • Microsoft Windows Server 2003

    Enterprise Edition

  • Windows Server Update Services (WSUS)

  • Microsoft Windows XP Professional

  • Microsoft Windows 2000 Professional

  • Technologies

  • Microsoft Active Directory

Microsoft Windows Server System

Microsoft Windows Server System is a comprehensive, integrated, and interoperable server infrastructure that helps reduce the complexity and costs of building, deploying, connecting, and operating agile business solutions. Windows Server System helps customers create new value for their business through the strategic use of their IT assets. With the Windows Server operating system as its foundation, Windows Server System delivers dependable infrastructure for data management and analysis; enterprise integration; customer, partner, and employee portals; business process automation; communications and collaboration; and core IT operations including security, deployment, and systems management.

For more information about

Windows Server System, go to:


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