Technology Solutions Yield Bountiful Harvest

Sowing the seeds of technology

Agriculture is not a low-tech vocation. Modern farmers are constantly evaluating new seed varieties, pesticides, and herbicides. Many are also harnessing business intelligence technologies to improve traditional decisions, such as when to plant and how much to water each field.
Dodge City, Kansas-based Crop Quest helps farmers make these types of decisions. The company analyzes data on crop yields and the factors that affect yields by drawing on a database of results. Then its agronomists advise farmer-clients on how to increase crop production. “Being able to combine data from a million acres of farmland is a huge value to our customers,” says Dwight Koops, regional vice president.
The importance of data analysis to the Crop Quest business model makes protection of information and endpoints business-critical, yet the company strives to minimize IT demands on internal staff. For strategic reasons, the company has outsourced many IT functions to the St. Louis-based Newberry Group. Internal staff members who handle technical support do so in addition to other job responsibilities.

Effective solutions take root

A stable of Symantec solutions help Crop Quest maintain a secure IT environment, while minimizing time required for tech support. For instance, Symantec Ghost Solution Suite enables internal staff to maintain a disk image that is consistent across Crop Quest agronomists’ laptops. This accelerates the company’s annual deployment of new computers.
Jason Hooper, the IT lead who also doubles as a precision agriculture specialist, estimates that now Crop Quest can deploy 30 new laptops in three hours, compared with the 90 hours that the company’s annual hardware rollout would take if he manually set up each machine. “Symantec Ghost Solution Suite pays for itself every time we get a new set of computers,” he says.
This acceleration in the deployment of new laptops also helps when a system fails. In addition, Symantec Ghost Solution Suite speeds up tech support because when a laptop is having problems in the field, the IT team can troubleshoot from an identical machine
“Our agronomists spend all day in their trucks traveling to different farms,” Hooper says. “We see hard drives fail from the vibration of driving all day, from dirt, and from being dropped. Being able to reimage quickly and troubleshoot on an identical machine really saves time.”

Reaping benefits in data protection

Crop Quest also uses Symantec Backup Exec to protect the data on its three data center servers. Despite annual growth in data volume of 10 percent, the Crop Quest team has been able to maintain a four-hour backup window. In addition, backup success rates regularly exceed 90 percent, and all restores have been 100 percent successful.
Better yet, Backup Exec, like Symantec Ghost Solution Suite, saves IT staff time. “We don’t have to babysit Symantec Backup Exec,” Hooper says. “It automatically notifies us about whether a backup was successful. If there wasn’t a problem, someone changes out the tape and it’s ready for backup the next night.”
For endpoint security, Crop Quest relies on Symantec Endpoint Protection. The company has experienced no significant business disruption from malicious code since deploying Symantec Endpoint Protection, and 500 to 1,000 threats are being blocked each month.
“Installing leading-edge technology is a tremendous investment,” says Ron O’Hanlon, president of Crop Quest. “Knowing our data is protected and secure helps us increase our business. The Symantec solutions are paying for themselves by increasing the value we bring to our customers.”
For more information on how Crop Quest is using Symantec solutions to protect data and endpoints while minimizing demands on IT, click here to read the full Customer Success story.