Challenging management issues
With its dispersed international sites, 4000 desktop PCs and libraries equipped with laptops for student working, the college’s small infrastructure IT team of five people was struggling to maintain its existing hardware.
“There were three main challenges that drove us to look for a new approach – ageing Windows PCs and laptops, increasing security issues and the need for updates and the available resource to manage the devices,” explained Glen Harrison, IT Infrastructure Manager.
“Our desktop hardware was on a five-year replacement cycle but like all organisations our investment budgets were limited, meaning only some PCs were replaced each year as needed. This meant some of the older devices were running out of memory and failure rates were increasing year-on-year.”
The number of security and software updates was also increasing and becoming more time consuming to manage. With the high profile WannaCry cyber-attacks, the team realised the college was potentially exposed to these types of threat. Finally, the colleges’ two main libraries had stores of up to 80 laptops available for students to book and use by the hour. “These laptops were becoming difficult to manage and frustrating for students and the staff to use. Each time a laptop was switched on, it could take up to 30 minutes to update,” said Glen. “With our resources, it just wasn’t practical to update all these devices every week to minimise the downtime for staff and students.”
So, the college began to look for a new desktop and laptop solution. It had tried a small thin client deployment in the past but that technology was now outdated. Glen wanted to revisit this option because he had seen it working very successfully in other environments.
After trying thin client hardware from some of the leading manufacturers and being dissatisfied with the results, Glen and the team turned to IGEL technology, attracted by the availability of IGEL thin client hardware and its desktop conversion software.
IGEL provided the college with a demo IGEL UD3 thin client, 10 licences and its Universal Desktop Conversion 3 (UDC3) software for testing. “We took our oldest PCs and converted them to IGEL-like devices using the conversion software and they just worked,” said Glen. “It meant that we could have a mixture of old PCs and laptops running as IGEL devices and IGEL thin clients all operating in exactly same way.”
Repurpose existing hardware
With IGEL’s UDC3 software it’s simple to repurpose existing desktop hardware bringing an end to replacing outdated hardware or patching systems with ever-changing applications. The UDC converts any x86 device, regardless of manufacturer or form factor. It takes only minutes to turn old devices into a universally deployable IGEL Linux-based thin client. Converted devices are then instantly integrated into IGEL Universal Management Suite (UMS) for remote support, zero-touch deployment and easy central management.
Working with Circle IT, its trusted IT partner and an IGEL reseller, the college refreshed its IT infrastructure and created a Windows virtual environment. It has replaced its oldest PCs with new IGEL UD3 thin clients and converted a large number of the ageing Windows XP PCs and its library laptops to IGEL-like devices using the UDC3 conversion software.
The backend IT system is completely Microsoft Server 2016 with a Microsoft Hyper-V 2016 platform for all the virtual servers. The thin client platform is split between thin client infrastructure servers (virtualised servers and Dell blades) and end user servers with Office 2016 installed. Microsoft App-V is used to stream the applications across the network to the devices.
Using Microsoft Secure Gateway, staff and students can also enjoy the same simple computing experience wherever they log in from, using their own PC, laptop or thin client device. Students now always have the option of saving work to the college system, to their own allocated personal cloud storage or to their own device, eliminating the need for using the USB port and further eliminating security risks.
“The IGEL deployment has been a huge success for the college”, concluded Glen. “It has been a complete game changer – just by moving to IGEL we have addressed so many problems.”
The college has seen multiple benefits from the new way of working. The new thin clients are significantly less expensive to buy than new PCs and use less electricity to operate, so there are financial savings every time an old device is replaced.
“The conversion of the library laptops to IGEL devices has also been incredibly successful,” said Glen. “The devices now boot in seconds and can be managed centrally and updated at the click of a button. You just make a change in the IGEL management software and it updates all devices at the same time – it just happens. The same couldn’t be said of Microsoft Systems Centre when managing the Windows PCs. The library staff were so impressed with the IGEL converted laptops that they volunteered money from their own budget to pay for more licences.”
And Glen says the support from IGEL has also been second to none. “We had one laptop where the wireless connectivity stopped working when we converted it to an IGEL device. IGEL asked us to send the device to their development team in Germany so they could update their solution. Within 4 weeks we had new firmware and drivers and the machine was working perfectly. Not only are we saving a lot of money and solving problems, but the support we have been getting from IGEL has been fantastic.”
Based on the positive feedback from the library, the team then converted all their Windows XP PCs to IGEL-like devices over the summer holidays. “Normally when you roll out a new technology project you spend the next few weeks solving problems but not with this IGEL project,” said Glen. “Everyone logged in when they came back from holidays and there were literally no problems.”
Lastly, the team spends much less time having to firefight and manage the devices, meaning they can spend that time more proactively, helping staff and the students at the college use technology to find smarter ways of working.
Moving forward, the technology team is keen to continue to use IGEL to further increase the flexibility of its computing devices. “At the moment, we have lots of classrooms equipped with PCs and they are left unused for long periods. In the future, it would be great to replace these devices with a fewer number of IGEL converted laptops that could be moved from classroom to classroom as needed – maximising their use and cutting the number of devices required,” said Glen.
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IGEL delivers powerful unified endpoint management software that is revolutionary in its simplicity and purpose-built for the enterprise. The company’s world-leading software products include the IGEL OS™, Universal Desktop Converter™ (UDC), IGEL Cloud Gateway™ (ICG), IGEL UD Pocket™ (UDP) and Universal Management Suite™ (UMS). These solutions enable a more secure, manageable and cost-effective endpoint management platform across nearly any x86 device. Additionally, IGEL’s German engineered and manufactured thin, zero and all-in-one client solutions deliver the industry’s best warranty (5 years), support (3 years after end of life) and management functionality. IGEL enables enterprises to precisely control all devices running IGEL OS as well as Windows OS from a single dashboard interface. IGEL has offices worldwide and is represented by partners in over 50 countries. For more information on IGEL, visit www.igel.com.
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