Virtualization Technology News and Information
Markerstudy Group leverages investment in Citrix Cloud Services and IGEL OS to deliver a 'hybrid' future of office and home working

IGEL, provider of the next gen edge OS for cloud workspaces, announces that British insurance services company, Markerstudy Group, has quickly, successfully and cost-effectively introduced working from home, capitalizing on its transition to Citrix Cloud Services and a EUC solution which comprises over 3,000 IGEL OS powered endpoints.

This business-critical Citrix project was proposed and managed by IGEL partner, cloudDNA, working in close collaboration with Markerstudy's own internal infrastructure team.

Markerstudy Group of Companies is headquartered in Kent, and includes Markerstudy Insurance Services Limited, the UK's largest Managing General Agent supporting 1,000 broker partners and more than 3 million policyholders with a variety of insurance products.

The business has grown organically and by acquisition. In 2020, it purchased the Co-op's insurance underwriting business making it the UK's 6th largest motor insurance provider and, in April 2021, it acquired Brightside Insurance. In addition, the group owns a number of other related businesses, including windscreen repair and replacement provider - Auto Windscreens - and Vision Vehicle Solutions - a provider of credit and intervention hire to motorists involved in road traffic accidents.

Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops had been used by Markerstudy for some years running on-premise in its two datacenters. Ian Richardson, infrastructure team leader, explains, "In response to COVID-19, we transitioned to Citrix Cloud Services wholesale and moved everyone on to it. Within two weeks we were operating business as usual with 1,500 call center staff working normally and supporting customers from home."

The features within Citrix Cloud Services have been central to how this was done so fast. First, multi-factor authentication using virtual tokens is bundled with the Citrix Cloud Services subscription meaning system security could be guaranteed when staff connected to their virtual desktops from home. This avoided the additional time and expense of deploying an extra third-party security solution for everyone which would have cost annually around £100 per user.

Second, the log in process is easy, given Citrix provides a dedicated URL and portal page where staff simply input their username, password and password token to gain access to their desktops. They then use Microsoft Office and various underwriting platforms to serve customers.

Third, the access layer is managed as part of the Citrix Cloud Service which saves internal IT staff involvement, with workloads able to be provisioned from both its datacenters and in the cloud. Richardson says, "Citrix runs this ‘front door' entry which removes a considerable management overhead compared to our previous on-premise solution. We now don't have to worry about DDOS attacks, updates, patching or access security - it's all provided along with a four nines availability SLA. It's an excellent security boundary which has allowed us to mobilize people from home."

IGEL OS powered endpoints key to EUC success at home

The other key component to deliver the home working transition has been Markerstudy's decision to standardize on IGEL OS and convert laptops, desktops and HP thin clients into ‘locked down' centrally controlled devices. Today, 85% of users have an IGEL-Citrix solution, with 3,000 IGEL OS licenses purchased, along with IGEL Cloud Gateway which connects and manages the home-based devices outside the corporate network. IGEL's Universal Management Suite (UMS) is also used to provide a single window into the whole environment allowing simplified management, along with remote shadowing for staff. As part of its remit, cloudDNA supports the whole IGEL estate.

The use of IGEL OS rationalizes end-user computing for Markerstudy - a one-size-fits-all approach given the range of businesses in the group. Richardson adds, "Most staff do shift work in call centers. With Covid, we advised colleagues to take their computers home, plug them in, connect them to the Internet and they will work. And they did."

The combination of Citrix Cloud Services and IGEL OS delivers a wide range of other benefits:

  • The quick onboarding of employees as Citrix-IGEL OS endpoints can be preconfigured in advance. For example, around 300 staff joining from Brightside will have their devices managed in this way.
  • The ability to save money by recycling disparate hardware from companies acquired like Co-op and Brightside as IGEL OS runs on any x86 64-bit device. Reflashing each machine takes minutes.
  • The rationalization and downsizing of office space given many people now work from home.
  • The simplification of software licensing for the business which again saves money. Today, Markerstudy requires licenses from just Citrix, IGEL and Microsoft - for Office 365 - rather than the myriad of software agreements associated with a traditional ‘thick client' environment.
  • The capacity to meet Cyber Essentials Plus accreditation standards where new patches must be implemented within 14 days. IGEL UMS in combination with Cloud Gateway enables this process to be greatly simplified as updates are literally ‘pushed' out to all endpoints. Richardson adds, "We're introducing Patch Thursday. Staff at home will be asked to keep their machines on at night and we'll update them over the wire so they're ready for Friday morning."
  • The ability to underpin new developments such as the introduction of video calling with customers given IGEL OS supports Citrix HDX - the protocol which enables high-definition audio and video to be streamed over a network.
  • The improvement of staff retention rates as people realize a better work-life balance through remote working.

Al Taylor, cloudDNA's chief technology officer, says "From acquisition to lockdown, IGEL OS has helped Markerstudy rapidly adapt to the dynamic needs of the business with a one size fits all OS that's secure, operationally efficient and can be deployed for every user scenario from the head office to the home worker. Being able to repurpose hardware with IGEL OS has also extended endpoint lifespan, reduced the impact of chip shortages with various sustainability benefits too."

Adam Miller, Head of Group IT at Markerstudy, says,"Markerstudy were early adopters of a hybrid approach to staff working across multiple locations. The combination of Citrix Cloud Services and IGEL facilitates seamless secure access to our platforms and a consistent user experience, which both boosts end-user adoption and ultimately staff productivity."

Simon Townsend, IGEL's chief marketing officer, says, "The flexibility offered by IGEL in tandem with Citrix Cloud Services shows how organizations like Markerstudy can really grapple with the work from anywhere new normal. The desktop OS and VDI architecture is designed to ensure security, simple access, consistency, the ability to scale, simplified management and - the best bit - lower cost."

Published Monday, November 15, 2021 8:58 AM by David Marshall
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