Level 7 Technology Group

order from chaos


Eastside legal Assistance program

Eastside Legal Assistance Program is a non-profit organization that provides, quality legal services to low-income residents of East and Northeast King County Washington. Legal services are provided in clinics staffed by volunteer attorneys performing pro-bono work as part of their professional responsibility to the community at large. The permanent staff is composed of three full-time individuals and a part-time staff attorney. ELAP celebrated it's 10th year anniversary in 2009!

In the beginning

The office has Internet connectivity through Comcast at 5 mbps. There is no fileserver. Each person uses a desktop computer running Windows XP and Office 2003 in a workgroup. Over time, computer performance has steadily degraded at the hands of numerous staff and volunteers. Like most organizations, old equipment was merely placed in storage or left under a desk.

The first step was to dispose of broken fax machines, printers, monitors, computers and "mystery parts" by sending them to the recyclers.

The existing workstations, only a few years old had a questionable collection of programs installed by various individuals over time which resulted in poor performance making them prone to lockups. The immediate solution was to add memory, remove unwanted software, and defrag the hard disk.

Since a centralized file server in a domain environment is not  practical in a very small office, each workstation was configured in a workgroup with file and printer sharing. For security reasons the Administrator account password was changed and each person was assigned a non-administrator logon. An alternate administrator account was set up the the Executive Director to use as necessary. An on-line backup solution called IBackup was used to back up only documents. The Avast! Professional program was chosen as the anti-virus, anti-malware solution. The assist users, LogMeIn remote control was installed on each workstation. When all of this work was completed an initial Acronis Tru-Image snapshot was taken with scheduled monthly refreshes.

Hardware refresh

ELAP hired a new Executive Director in July, 2010. In November, we came to the conclusion that our whitebox Celeron, 2.0GHZ, 1GB RAM, Windows XP/SP3 computers reached the end of their productive usefulness as our volunteers were nodding of waiting for pages to refresh with only five application windows open. I looked at HP, Dell and a custom solution from our local retailer, ComputerStop in Bellevue, WA.

After evaluating the alternatives, we recommended that the Board of Directors approve the purchase of five Dell Inspiron 580 series that consisted of the following components, along with new 17 inch flat screen monitors.

  • Intel® Core™ i5-650 processor(4MB Cache, 3.20GHz)
  • 4GB DDR3 SDRAM at 1333MHz- 3 DIMMs
  • 750GB - 7200RPM, SATA 3.0Gb/s, 16MB Cache
  • 16X DVD+/-RW Drive
  • ATI Radeon HD 5450 1GB DDR3
  • Integrated 7.1 Channel Audio
  • Integrated 10/100/1000 Gigabit Ethernet

The Board approved the purchase and they were deployed with Windows 7 Professional in a WorkGroup environment in December with the Windows 7 "Public" folder shared among all office computers.

In 2011, the Executive Director was having problems with email and calendar synchronized between his office workstation, a home computer and his Android mobile. ELAP was using POP3 email from our service provider. If you are familiar with a POP3 mail system, this situation is very familiar to you. I've used and deployed Microsoft Exchange because it is an email system that seamlessly integrates email and calendar. Unfortunately a domain of 5 is too small to support. But what about a "cloud solution"? Enter Microsoft Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS). I signed up for an evaluation in January and we deployed in March. See my Blog series on the project beginning here.