As a Sales Engineer supporting State and Local Government (SLG) agencies in the Central US, I’ve had the opportunity to see trends within government verticals that hold true across state, county and city lines. Using these trends, I’ve created a series of SLG Case Studies that looks at what agencies are currently accomplishing with Citrix, with the ultimate goal of allowing other government agencies to use these examples as a template for how they can take a similar approach in solving their current challenges.
For a look at the other case studies, please visit here.
For this case study, I will be discussing how Public Safety agencies improve effectiveness and emergency response times using a Citrix solution. Specifically, I’ll be discussing use cases for Police, Fire, and Emergency Medical Services (EMS). For simplicity purposes, you will see me use the term “911 agencies” as well.
When speaking with 911 agencies, the two most important pieces we typically discuss are availability and security of the data they need 24/7 access to. Availability of data is important when considering the level of support they provide citizens during routine daily tasks, but becomes absolutely critical when dealing with potentially life-threating situations where citizens and/or 911 teams may be in danger. Without access to real-time data, field responders can place themselves in a dangerous situation, unaware of the risk. On-demand access via mobile devices can also help save time by allowing field officers to handle lookups/searches on the go to avoid unnecessary phone calls to operations, or worse, trips back to the station.
At the same time, the data being accessed often contains confidential Personally Identifiable Information (PII) data that needs to be secured to protect the identity of citizens. PII data is a prime target for hackers, especially as the government sector has become one of the top targets. According to IBM’s 2016 Cyber Security Intelligence Index, government was the fourth most-attacked industry in 2015, with breaches exposing records “containing non-expiring data such as social security numbers, place of birth and even digitized fingerprints”. And when looking at the most frequently occurring incident categories, you’ll see that ‘unauthorized access’ tops the list with a massive 45% share!
Using application and desktop virtualization, agencies can deliver out critical applications to employees both in the office and in the field. Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop encrypts data in-transit and eliminates data from living on the end point device, providing remote access via an inherently secure solution. This means that even if that device is lost or stolen, no data will be lost and that device can be quickly replaced with another. We can improve security even further by providing multi-factor authentication, and even FIPS compliance to satisfy any CJIS requirements (think criminal lookups that query an FBI database).
Citrix use case: RMS, CAD, and CJIS
- Records Management Systems (RMS) and Computer-Aided Dispatch (CAD) are two of the primary apps that all 911 agencies use. Common application vendors that I see include TriTech, Intergraph (Hexagon), New World Systems, Spillman, and PremierOne (Motorola).
- Police need access to these systems in the field, and solutions like XenApp and XenDesktop with NetScaler allow these critical systems to be securely accessed on-demand, 24/7 via mobile data terminals (MDTs) that could be anything from laptops or rugged computers, to tablets and smart phones.
- These systems traditionally don’t perform well over slow or latent connections due to the data-heavy nature of these client-server apps. Virtualization greatly improves performance of the app over the WAN by keeping the application and associated database in close proximity on the same network.
- All data is simply “presented” locally yet remains protected in the datacenter, eliminating risk of data loss if that device is lost or stolen.
- Plus, when an update to these critical systems is needed, IT doesn’t need to wait for detectives and deputies to return to the station to update these apps or re-image machines. All changes can be made once centrally and made immediately available.
- At the other end of the CAD systems are the 911 Operators and Dispatchers at the station or in call centers. These call center machines can be virtualized to provide quick access to internal databases, especially when dealing with branch offices across the city, county or state. This centralizes desktop management as well, minimizing IT trips to these remote sites.
- NetScaler also eliminates the need for a cumbersome VPN setup while providing the ability to add two-factor authentication (2FA), which adds security and is a requirement for CJIS compliance. There is more to it, but at a high level, CJIS compliance is a requirement if systems communicate with an FBI database to perform tasks such as criminal lookups. In order to be CJIS compliant, the solution must utilize FIPS 140-2 encryption in transit. Citrix offers FIPS 140-2 compliant solutions.
Citrix use case: Geographic Information System (GIS)
- GIS is another common application that I see delivered through Citrix across many industries, but in particular to Public Safety, GIS apps allow 911 agencies to improve situational awareness, discover and analyze crime trends and patterns, and deploy resources more effectively.
- The most common GIS app I encounter is Esri ArcGIS, which has a large number of successful deployments via Citrix. Other app vendors I’ve seen include Hexagon, Bentley and Google.
- A few examples of how GIS is used: 911 Dispatchers/Operators use GIS to navigate officers to the scene of the crime or to track offenders on the run; Investigators use GIS to visualize crime trends using heat maps; Emergency responders use GIS to improve response times at large public events.
- Using Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop, GIS can be delivered virtually to end point devices in the field versus managing local app installs. This introduces the same benefits as described for RMS/CAD, such as decreased system administration via ability to centrally configure, manage, upgrade, and patch the client GIS software.
- Since virtualization offloads the compute requirements to the datacenter, agencies can free up PC refresh budgets by either extending the useful life of current workstations, or by eliminating the need for high-end GIS workstations through support of low cost devices such as thin clients or even Chromebooks.
- Citrix has been at the forefront of GIS delivery even before the recent advancements made in the GPU/3D graphics space. The HDX 3D Pro functionality in XenApp/XenDesktop now takes delivery of GIS to the next level by supporting the app with virtual GPUs on the backend for even higher performance.
- Finally, another benefit XenApp provides is license control. With the ability to limit number of concurrent users on a per app basis, 911 agencies won’t need to worry about having to over-purchase expensive licenses by improving on the 1:1 ratio of total licenses to users that local installs require.
Citrix use case: Secure Forms
The final use case I wanted to hit on addresses a time consuming and often painful process that all Public Safety personnel can appreciate. I’m talking about FORMS! Forms are a very practical tool for collecting and submitting data, there’s just no automation and way too many physical sheets of paper to carry and keep track of. And when that data needs to be input into a system? You’ll either need to accomplish that manually or have a solution that scans that form in and then hopefully populates a database for you.
Wouldn’t it be cool if we could quickly and easily turn that paper form into a native mobile form that integrates with features of your smart phone/tablet to allow you to complete that form on a mobile device and then have that data automatically uploaded to a backend system?? Well, with Secure Forms we can do just that! With zero mobile programming skills needed! Seriously, think about how many forms are used in the field, especially in Public Safety, and then think about how useful it would be to have these forms (securely) available on your smart phone with access to your phone’s native hardware like the camera, microphone, and touch screen. We already have several law enforcement customers using this solution in innovative ways, from writing up traffic tickets and automatically filing them into the system, to streamlining the process for documenting a crime scene. Check out Adi Chand’s blog post for more info around how we’re seeing Secure Forms used in law enforcement agencies today.
Hopefully you found this information to be useful and have a better understanding of how Citrix technologies can be used to improve certain workflows at your agency.
Feel free to contact me or leave a comment below if you have any questions. Additionally, if you’re interested in a case study focused on your specific government vertical, please leave a comment and we can add it to the list!
Thanks for reading,