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Rather than being constrained by IT, virtualisation and IGEL thin clients allow Hallidays to focus on advising and serving clients
IGEL, a world leader in the delivery of powerful unified endpoint management (UEM) software, thin clients, zero clients and all-in-one solutions, today announced that Hallidays, an award winning firm of accountants and business advisors in the North West of England, has implemented server and desktop virtualization along with IGEL UD2 and multimedia UD3 thin client terminals to significantly enhance organisational efficiency and boost team productivity. 

By investing internally in best of breed, reliable and easy to use technology, Hallidays is freeing its team - particularly eight IT consultants - to focus on helping advise clients about how to grow and manage their businesses without its own technology limiting this or being a time-consuming overhead to look after.

IGEL was selected over competitive companies because of its Universal Management Suite (UMS) facilitates easy deployment. Matthew Jones, Hallidays' IT manager says, "The IGEL management console is powerful. The whole point of buying IGEL is to make life simple for users and our IT team. You plug a device in, it appears in the UMS, policies are then applied and once rebooted, that's it - it's done. It takes five minutes from no configuration at all to full configuration and, compared to a traditional PC, we're saving about one day a week on desktop administration."

Founded in 1843, Hallidays supports numerous clients in the Stockport and Greater Manchester area with specific expertise working with SMEs, credit unions, academies, charities and solicitors. Offering fixed priced engagements, Hallidays provides a broad range of services covering not only accountancy and tax advice, but business growth, HR, IT, recruitment, payroll, wealth management and corporate finance.

In the past three years, revenue generated by Halliday's IT team alone - a group of eight who provide clients IT support and consultancy - has grown 250% given they have been able to become fee generators themselves rather than just internal IT managers and break-fix problem solvers.

A new platform to support growth

This has been achieved as Hallidays has shifted its whole IT infrastructure to a virtualized environment to simplify management and put in place a platform for growth. At the end of 2012, it standardised on VMware vSphere for its server backend solution and Citrix's VDI-in-a-Box for the desktop, with the business subsequently reducing its physical estate from 11 to 3 servers. At the same time, a private cloud was created allowing its team of 80 - from wherever they are - to access files and key applications such as Microsoft Office 365, Digita accounting software and an in-house developed practice management suite, Practice DNA, which among other things provides value-based billing functionality.

The benefits of virtualization and VDI have been immediate and are as follows:

1.    The IT team saves a huge amount of time managing infrastructure as it's all centralized and server based. Software and weekly security upgrades are now quick to do rather than the team having to back up everything, update servers, test them and then individually do the same on each desktop - a time consuming process especially when colleagues are working offsite, sick or on holiday. With VDI, updates are installed on one master image which is then populated on all desktops throughout the business. The impact on end-users is therefore mitigated. They don't have the palaver of waiting for updates to be done. Rather, they can log in immediately and get on with their work.

2.    Security has been improved as no data ever leaves the building - it's all held centrally in Hallidays' datacentre with the team connecting into their virtual desktop to access it using a web browser and Citrix Receiver.

3.    Server resources are used more effectively as virtualization allows more machine utilization and the capacity to expand when new clients are won without any unnecessary expenditure on IT.

4.    Members of the Hallidays' team can work remotely on client sites to provide attentive customer service and quickly and easily connect back in to all systems and work just as if they were in the office.

Refreshing all desktop devices has also simplified management

Initially, Hallidays used ‘fat clients' as desktop devices but these weren't as reliable as expected. Jones explains, "We experienced intermittent connection issues between our Windows-based devices and the new VDI environment because of various software plug-ins. A simple and reliable alternative had to be found."

Hallidays contacted its IT partner, cloudDNA, for advice given they had successfully worked on another project to improve the security of the cloud infrastructure as well as ensuring compliance policies were being met. Jones says, "They did a good job here. I thought the cloudDNA team were very approachable and easy to talk to so we've turned to them for help with our VDI project and desktop purchase."

Jo Wright, cloudDNA Practice Director, managed the vendor selection process for Hallidays. "We took time to understand the challenges faced from both a business and technical perspective before introducing them to IGEL," says Wright. "Collectively, we were able to demonstrate the value of IGEL during a proof of concept and within a few days had moved onto a pilot user group. IGEL makes it that easy."

IGEL UD2 and multimedia ready UD3 terminals have been installed at Hallidays in a phased and painless roll out, with the final batch just purchased to complete the project company-wide. To date, Halliday's investment in virtualization, cloud infrastructure, servers, storage, networking and IGEL terminals totals in excess of £175,000.

Considerable total cost of ownership benefits

In addition, the IGEL UD2 and UD3 terminals are cost effective consuming a fifth of the power and costing approximately half the amount of a traditional PC. Jones says, "Hallidays takes being green extremely seriously and we use solar panels on our building. We've set policies on the IGEL thin clients so they power on when some-one connects into their virtual desktop and power down when they log off - that's quite a big electricity saving over the course of a year when you have an 80 strong team."

Feedback from the business has also been positive. Jones says, "I can't tell you how much people love getting an IGEL. I'm honestly not joking. They go from a traditional desktop with intermittent connectivity issues to an IGEL thin client which is just so much quicker and more reliable - it just works. The feedback we get from the team is brilliant."

Ainsley Brooks, IGEL's UK & Ireland country manager, says, "Hallidays has shown that it is committed to choosing class leading solutions and then successfully implementing them. This is important given its advisory work with clients. It demonstrates it has a knowledgeable and experienced IT team at the forefront of technology able to help customers select the right solution to support their commercial requirements."

Published Tuesday, May 09, 2017 9:10 AM by David Marshall
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