This is a guest post written by Gerrit Otten, IT Manager, at Nijhof-Wassink Group.
Before I started working at Nijhof-Wassink Group, I witnessed a lot of sides of IT — from sales to technical, and from design to operation. I did this because companies need knowledgeable IT leaders who not only understand the business, but are also able to help make the most out of IT.
I’m Gerrit Otten and I’m the IT Manager of Nijhof-Wassink Group. I love technology, but my real passion is to bring businesses to the next level with IT. After I joined Nijhof-Wassink group, the partnership I found with Citrix helped us do just that.
Nijhof-Wassink is an international logistics services provider, specializing in bulk transport by road, rail, and water, with a fleet of about 400 trucks. Headquartered in Rijssen, the Netherlands, Nijhof-Wassink has more than 1,100 employees in 20 branches throughout Belgium, Germany, Poland, and Hungary. The company provides intermodal logistics, fuel distribution, road transport, warehousing, and terminals, in addition to specializing in storage, cleaning, and other services.
Pretty soon, our system expanded with more computers, servers, and new techniques. Fast forward, 15 years later. The IT system grew to be a big, sluggish monster sitting inside a server room attached to the IT office. There were a mix of servers, operating systems and ways of accessing data. Remote users were working on fat clients, transferring a lot of data over slow WAN connections and local users were working on the on-premise Citrix servers. The situation was clearly out of focus and very labor intensive for to manage, leaving the IT team with no time to make changes for the better.
Then in 2010, we made an important decision. We knew we had to go back to basics and redefine what was really important to creating a new way of working. We came up with a clear vision to create a technology system that was easy to access, empowering our users to work anywhere, at any time.
My job was to make this possible. Together with my team, I started installing a brand new Citrix XenApp environment based on Windows 2008 and Office 2010. The base of the system would be a blank canvas for users to work on. As we had several companies with their own identities, we wanted to create an “at home feeling” for our users by branding each portal with the look and feel of their company, just like it was a private system.
For this new XenApp environment to work, we also migrated to a new VPN network, Exchange environment, and a VMware server virtualization infrastructure. Thanks to the ease of using Citrix solution, this all was done in a timeframe of only a couple of months. Once installation was complete, our users were amazed by the new possibilities it offered with capabilities they never knew existed.
As time progressed, employees started bringing in their own devices. This would have caused a disaster if IT had tried to stop this. You know, a few years ago “experts” would tell you to keep away from users bringing in their own devices, as they would break the network and were uncontrollable. I remember attending a keynote presentation at Citrix Synergy in Barcelona and hearing a Citrix presenter saying, “We at Citrix believe everybody should be able to work anyplace, anytime and on any device.” It was music to my ears! I knew instantly who’s going to help me embrace BYOD instead of trying to kill it.
In 2013, we moved the IT system to the data center and used our own server room for backup. At the time, a downtime of one day was acceptable, so this setup worked for us. We also started to migrate fat clients into thin clients and started to rollout tablets in the organization.
Two years later, we finished adding a second data center which is now running next to the original in an active-active situation. We can spread users across both data centers and when one goes down, the other one has enough capacity to keep users working. Downtime was reduced to under one hour. Also, we added XenDesktop with Nvidia vGPUs for our CAD engineers to design trailers in our factory in Bedum, NL.
Now, in 2017, we just finished adding a third data center in Warsaw, Poland to host a front-end Citrix environment for our Polish and Hungarian users. This brings apps and possibilities closer to the client and, therefore, provides a much more stable and fast user experience. We rely on the advanced techniques from NetScaler to deliver a secure and fast connection to all of our data centers. Users have one URL to access their apps and data on the system, whether they are in the office, at home, or on the go. They just download the Citrix client, type in the URL or their email address and they’re in! This easy method was key for us. The IT system helps users by making their work easier, rather than busy calling the help desk all day. And I’m pleased to say that since we added NetScalers to our IT infrastructure, help desk calls dropped more than 30%. This means that our IT team finally can devote time to making change for the better.
So, what’s next? The cloud is coming, for sure, but I’m not seeing a dark storm forming, instead I see a clear blue sky of possibilities. Our IT system should adapt to whatever new technique is going to be developed, and we are ready for it! Our user-centric design provides the best base for our users to access what’s important and to work anyplace, anytime and on any device.
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