A virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) introduced to give staff more flexibility and mobility has enabled Falkirk Council to save £250,000 on its PC replacement programme alone, with the promise of additional long-term savings from reduced IT maintenance and rationalisation of the council’s office estate.
Located in central Scotland within half an hour of Glasgow and Edinburgh, Falkirk Council provides a range of services to the 160,000 residents of Falkirk, Bo’ness, Denny, Larbert, Stenhousemuir and Grangemouth – Scotland’s premier port and home to its only major oil refinery – including bin collection, education, home care, planning application, social housing, fostering and adoption, and roads maintenance.
In order to provide its 2,000 employees with more flexibility and mobility, the Council recently spent £1.8 million switching from Windows desktop PCs to a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) supplied by Glasgowbased IT solutions provider I-KONIC.
This uses Citrix Workspace as the VDI, mobile device and application management solution and, for the thin clients, a mixture of 600 IGEL multimedia UD3 endpoints, 100 quad core UD6 endpoints, plus 1,000 IGEL Universal Desktop Convertor (UDC) software licences that Falkirk Council is using to convert its existing HP PC desktops into IGEL Linux endpoints.
UDC was a key factor in the choice of IGEL as thin client provider, as it enables the council to save money by ‘sweating’ existing hardware assets. Others were IGEL’s Universal Management Suite (UMS), which enables IT staff to manage the entire UD3, UD6 and UDC environment centrally and shadow desktops for fast helpdesk support, and the IGEL Linux ‘read only’ OS, which ‘locks down’ endpoints and prevents staff from making changes – or introducing vulnerabilities – locally.
Tommy Evans, Falkirk Council project lead for mobile and flexible working, says the switch from traditional PCs to thin client technology marks a paradigm shift for the council and has enabled it to introduce flexible and remote working, which, as well as improving work:life balance for employees, has added resilience to the council’s service delivery.
Staff aren’t now tied to a particular desk. They just login from any IGEL device and are presented with Microsoft Office and applications tailored to their specific job role. We’re trying to change the mindset of employees to make work an activity, not just somewhere you go from 9-5. We’re empowering our staff to work anytime, anywhere, even from home, so they benefit from a good work-life balance. Even if there’s a snowstorm and people can’t get to an office, they can still login in and work as normal,” he said.
Evans adds that as well as enabling staff to work more efficiently and effectively, the new VDI infrastructure has the potential for significant long-term cost savings.
“VDI is allowing us to review the buildings we currently have and exit old properties to lower our operational expenditure – helping towards making savings, which we hope will contribute to the approximately £60 million worth of savings which have to be made by 2023,” he said.
It has enabled the Council to shift away from a continuous desktop replacement programme, which was costing around £250,000 every year, and reduced the overhead of managing thousands of PCs across multiple buildings.
With VDI, data and applications are held centrally and any software updates made in the data centre automatically populate connected IGEL desktops, removing the need for IT staff to update machines individually. This is a major benefit as Public Service Network (PSN) compliance stipulates that councils must not be more than two versions behind the latest version of applications such as Microsoft Office.
In addition, IGEL terminals have no moving parts, such as hard drives and fans, and therefore require significantly less maintenance.