Mergers are never simple. When Platform Housing became one of the UK’s largest housing providers after the merger of Fortis Living and Waterloo Housing, it inherited a major IT headache. How did Platform Housing go about solving an overly-complicated networking situation that came with a high price tag?
Unified but complex
Following the successful merger of Fortis Living and Waterloo Housing, the expanded organisation found itself with a disjointed IT estate. For example, one housing provider had a computer system where most of the resources were installed locally rather than distributed over a network, whereas the other housing provider’s resources were remotely distributed via a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). The combination of the two systems left the newly-merged organisation struggling with a set-up that needed overly complicated maintenance and came with a high price tag.
With around 1,200 staff, it was important for Platform Housing to find a long-term solution that would address the challenges of combining the two separate IT infrastructures. The organisation had some specific areas that it wanted to address, including flexibility, analytics and total cost of ownership.
The IT set-up inherited by Platform Housing after its merger meant that in order to access their work and applications, users had to first access terminal servers, then navigate an additional screen. What was needed was a simplified IT system that gave employees, whether working in the office, at home or remotely, the ability to access their applications direct from a central location instead of having to open multiple screens to start working.
VDI and remote application solutions are a great way for employees to access what they need to work from any location, but not all VDI and remote access solutions are equal. It’s a good idea to shop around and look for one that has simple installation, all-inclusive licensing and easy options for scalability.
Platform Housing solved its challenges by using a remote application delivery solution to optimise its VDI solution, enabling it to reduce its 50+ post-merger servers down to 20. The best remote application delivery solutions work with VDI, Remote Desktop Session Host (RDSH), Azure Virtual Desktop and Remote PC to ensure that users can access all the apps needed for work easily and smoothly, even when working remotely. They can also offer greater flexibility and data security so it’s worth doing some research to find a solution that uses multi-device, multi-app workflows and supports multi-cloud deployments, including Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services. Some are very adaptable, and some will allow the mixing and matching of different operating systems. For example, applications can be deployed on-premise but then scaled out to hybrid or public cloud, with auto-provisioning and auto-scaling.
Even before we all learned to work remotely in 2020 during the pandemic, it was important for organisations to build flexibility into their IT systems and now, more than ever, it’s understood to be a crucial part of enabling business continuity in the face of unexpected global events. Part of this is ensuring that departments using specific applications aren’t forced to work from the office just because that’s where their specialist software resides.
For example, at Platform Housing the finance and housing management teams use SDS Proval, IPOS, Capita Open housing, Swordfish and DRS as well as Microsoft Office, and users work both in the office and remotely. Both teams, wherever they are working, are unaware that they are accessing their applications and desktops through the server.
This illustrates how, when looking for an all-in-one VDI and remote application delivery solution, it’s important to choose one that allows users to launch and work with their own desktops and applications, which are published virtually to wherever they are and on whatever device they are using from inside an HTML5-enabled web browser; users don’t have to install additional software on their PCs or laptops and aren’t limited to a particular platform. Additional features such as high-availability load balancing, granular filtering and multi-factor authentication also help ensure optimum security and redundancy.
Platform Housing wanted simplicity for users and IT administrators to improve efficiency and the user experience. A solution that publishes users’ desktops and applications from a central server keeps things simple for managers because all dashboards are in one place, providing clear insights into performance and resource usage. IT administrators should be able to review and detect patterns or spot any problems, all from a ‘single pane of glass’. Users need single sign-on (SSO) so that they only have to log in once to access what they need without re-entering numerous authentication codes.
Making a choice
For organisations like Platform Housing, it’s crucial that their chosen VDI solution is flexible and able to be accessed remotely to ensure no interruption to business processes. A remote application solution that optimises the experience of using VDI, Remote Desktop Session Host, Azure Virtual Desktop and Remote PC can be a real asset.
Paul Fisher is a technical consultant at Parallels.