Thomas Eggar LLP is a top-100 U.K. law firm operating across the south of England. Founded in 1881, the firm offers an award-winning private client practice, a property practice and a commercial practice with specialisation in sectors including retail, financial services, manufacturing, sports and leisure, and technology, media and telecoms (TMT).
Head of IT Paul Serkis is responsible for providing effective IT systems and services to the firm's 500 employees, partners and directors across its six offices.
Thomas Eggar was typical of many growing, multi-site, multi-discipline law firms. It had evolved a complex estate of often incompatible software applications to support the needs of different parts of the firm. As Paul explains, "Often the legal profession appears to be behind the times when it comes to technology and that's largely because of the difficulties in integrating essential applications."
Typically, a law firm runs a large document management system that must interoperate with a practice management system and separate case management systems, each highly specialised to meet the specific needs of different areas of law. Data must flow freely between these systems. Centrally held documents must be accessible by the practice and case management systems. The vendors of these systems are often at different stages of upgrading their products so that different systems may have different desktop requirements. Paul explains, "One of our practices needed a special case management system that would only work with a certain version of Adobe Reader. The rest of the firm's systems required a different version. That's typical of the level of complexity we have. When you multiply that up by Tax and Trust and Property and all the other unique requirements we have, desktop management gets very fragmented and messy."
As a consequence, Paul's team had to manage a wide variety of PC desktops, each tailored to specific needs, across the firm's offices and employees. This placed a considerable overhead on the IT team.
To complicate matters further, Thomas Eggar was about to merge with another law firm. Overnight, on the evening of the merger, Paul's team would need to provide 74 new staff with a fully integrated Thomas Eggar desktop, while also merging the two firms' practice management, finance and other administrative systems.
Security, of course, was a critical concern. While Paul and his team needed to simplify IT management, they had to maintain the security of confidential documents and records.
Paul and his team started to explore ways to simplify the firm's desktop software requirements. They evaluated a number of potential partners before selecting Citrix Gold Solution Advisor Thintech Ltd. Thintech proposed using Citrix® XenApp® to deliver a single, secure desktop image to all users, on any device and in any location. With XenApp, applications and data could be centralized securely in the data centre and a single desktop image delivered to all users. System administration would be managed centrally, reducing cost and improving security. Applications with specific platform requirements (like the case management systems) could be run on separate virtual machines and delivered seamlessly to any user with the appropriate access rights.
"Thintech was very good," says Paul. "The team came in, held our hand and helped us through the period of change in a controlled manner. They helped us establish the necessary processes and policies in advance so that we avoided problems. Essentially, what we have now is a single 'fat build' of a desktop image that we can deploy anywhere."
Just as Paul's team had the Citrix desktop ready, Thomas Eggar's imminent merger with Pritchard Englefield was announced. The IT team had just one evening to provide Pritchard Englefield's staff with a working Thomas Eggar desktop. "The timing was perfect for us," explains Paul. "Our Citrix desktop was ready and we deployed it immediately to Pritchard Englefield's existing desktops and laptops. It went very, very well."
Since then, the XenApp virtual desktop has been rolled out to almost everyone in the expanded firm. It gives users secure access to their familiar Windows apps and desktop while vastly simplifying support and management needs. "If we had continued with the individual desktop approach, we would need another couple of staff by now," explains Paul.
Thomas Eggar has extended the life of existing desktop and laptop PCs by delivering the virtual desktop. Because applications now run in the data centre instead of on the user's device, PC hardware does not need upgrading to meet system requirements of updated or new applications. Paul explains, "In 2012/13, my PC replacement budget was around £90.000. In 2013/14, it was down to just £40.000 and in 2014/15, we've spent nothing!"
As well as breaking the PC hardware replacement cycle, Paul's team has been deploying cost-effective Wyse thin-client terminals into hot-desking areas. "A PC and docking station costs us around £650 to £750 each, but a thin-client terminal is only £150," explains Paul. "And management is simpler, too."
"Perhaps the biggest benefit has been showcasing what's possible," says Paul. "The Citrix solution has enabled us to look forwards." Particularly in the London office, Paul has seen employees handing back their laptops, preferring instead to use thin-client terminals in the office and secure, two-factor authentication to access their virtual desktop from home. "They don't like carrying laptops around. Now, they simply carry their security fob and log in wherever they like."
With Citrix virtualisation, users view and work with their apps and data over the network rather than having them installed locally. Sensitive case notes, client data and other information are secured in the data centre and employees can access them from home, a client's office and even in court. If a laptop, tablet or other device is lost or stolen, sensitive data remains secure.
The success of the XenApp solution has encouraged the firm to consider other ways of extending flexible working. Thomas Eggar is evaluating a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy. Paul's team is considering Citrix XenMobile® for mobile device and app management, and Citrix XenDesktop® for delivery of other types of virtual desktops, to further extend the staff's mobile capabilities. Paul can also see the potential for lower real estate costs in the future, as more employees work flexibly from home or in a hot-desking environment. "I can't express how much this solution has opened our eyes to different ways of working."
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