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Holder IT implements Citrix VDI in a box for leading UK independent tax consultancy CW Energy LLP, dramatically improving remote access to business applications.

CW Energy LLP profile

CW Energy LLP in the City of London is the leading UK independent tax consultancy to the oil and gas industry, with a growing number of clients in other fields. The firm’s ten-strong team offers clients large-firm experience within a small-firm environment.

Established in 1990, CW Energy’s extensive client base now extends from small start-up operations to the majors.

The challenge: to remove the limitations of VPN access for members of the team working from home or abroad.

The need to improve remote access to applications and programs stored on CW Energy’s office server drove the implementation of a virtual desktop solution.

Stewart Norman, a partner at CW Energy LLP, explains, “We like to have the option to work from home at least one day a week. We did have limited access to the office server via a VPN (virtual private network) and could access current emails and data files. However, that was about it – we were very restricted in what we could do. For anything more complicated we needed to be sitting in the office.”

There were issues of equipment standardisation, too: “Everyone needing access at home had to have the right configuration in place on their home PC – which could not be a Mac incidentally – with the latest version of Microsoft Outlook, equivalent to the specification of our office desktops. There was another concern; if all the family are using the same system, there is a greater risk of internet-borne security threats. The only practical solution was for the firm to invest in equipping staff with dedicated laptops to use at home.”

A cost-effective VDI solution

For the past 15 years, CW Energy has relied on Holder IT to develop and support its IT infrastructure. Outlining the value that Holder IT brings to the business,CW Energy Partner Stewart Norman says, “We first involved Holder IT to help us counter the threat of the millennium bug. They provided us with a cost effective solution then and have been working with us ever since, keeping us on track with advice on our IT strategy and preventative maintenance.”

Holder IT recommended that CW Energy consider implementing Citrix VDI‑in‑a‑Box as an affordable solution to their challenges. Citrix VDI‑in‑a‑Box provides the same benefits as enterprise scale virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) deployments but the infrastructure requirement is at a much lower acquisition and running cost.

Development, testing and trialling went forward for a short period and the virtual desktops were implemented in the closing months of 2012. Stewart reports that the roll out went smoothly, with no interruption to day-to-day business, adding, “All members of the team now have secure, reliable remote access to centralised systems, with the flexibility to work from home as effectively as if in the office.”

Full access to critical business programs

Giving some key examples of the essential programs on which the smooth-running of business depends, Stewart says, “We subscribe to a regularly updated tax reference service, supplied on CD. Whereas in the past we would have had to ensure that all home PCs or laptops had the latest version installed, we can now be confident that everyone can access the current version. It’s much more convenient and we can take it for granted that we’re using up-to-date

Applications such as the Corporation Tax returns program and an in-house search engine run only on the office server because they need to access the firm’s database. Stewart says, “It’s now possible to use these programs remotely through the medium of the virtualised desktop, which allows staff to work as effectively as if they were in the office.”

Delving back into the archives is now practicable: “Our old Outlook files are archived on the server. Now we can refer back to these emails from a remote location, which would have been impossible previously. It’s amazing how often we need to do this.”

Immunity from disruption

Stewart is pleased with the extent to which having a dependable remote capability has improved business continuity: “We’ve been aware of the need to preserve continuity of service for a number of years. Now, if we can’t reach the office for any reason, we can simply log on from home or any other location with a broadband connection and carry on, accessing applications and programs with the same ease as if we were in the office.”

As Stewart highlights, it doesn’t take a great deal to bring the capital grinding to a halt: “We’re now completely unaffected by transport disruption, adverse weather, strikes, demonstrations… any of the incidents that can make commuting to our central London offices difficult or even impossible. In fact, if we know there’s likely to be a problem, we can plan for it and work productively from home for the day, rather than trying to struggle in.”

The Citrix solution makes the user device immaterial. This in turn has brought another, unexpected benefit: the virtual desktop solution has transformed working life for a CW Energy consultant who has multiple sclerosis. Not only has having home access eliminated the difficulties of commuting, he finds it much easier to access the office programs via the VDI using an iPad rather than a traditional keyboard and mouse. “It’s been a real boon,” comments Stewart.

Stewart concludes, “The virtual desktop solution is a prime example of how Holder IT has helped us to evolve our IT over the years to take advantage of emerging technology. In our niche market we go head to head with the Big Four accounting firms. Our IT systems are fundamental to the business – we can’t cut corners or tolerate downtime. The support we’ve received from Holder IT has proved invaluable in ensuring our infrastructure is accessible and dependable at all times.”

“All members of the team now have secure, reliable remote access to centralised systems, with the flexibility to work from home as effectively as if in the office. The virtual desktop solution is a prime example of how Holder IT has helped us to evolve our IT over the years to take advantage of emerging technology and add value to our business operations.”

Stewart Norman, Partner, CW Energy LLP

Key solution benefits

  • Desktop virtualisation using Citrix VDI‑in‑a‑Box
  • CW Energy team has greater flexibility to work from home
  • The same reliable access to core applications and programs at home as in the office
  • Increased business resilience if the firm’s central London office are inaccessible
  • Consultancy, implementation and support from trusted partner Holder IT