BY USE CASE
Secure Distributed Work
BGV / Badische Versicherungen has an integrated digital workplace strategy with support from NetPlans
Security needs stability. For almost 100 years, this is exactly what the BGV / Badische Versicherungen insurance group has stood for. Founded in 1923 as a special purpose association of eight Baden cities, the company today offers comprehensive insurance protection for municipalities in Baden as well as for private and corporate customers from all over Germany.
With a premium volume of more than EUR 392 million and more than 1.8 million contracts, BGV is one of the largest insurers in its region. Around 770 employees in the office and in the field are there for their customers every day to assist them with their concerns. The company puts a special focus on products for families, and with custom-tailored insurance solutions and services, BGV is directing its strategy for the future right of this target group.
Family-friendliness is also emphasised within the company. BGV has carried the “audit berufundfamilie” seal of quality since 2015 for its value-oriented and family-conscious personnel policy. A variety of measures are in place to promote the well-being of its employees. An important goal here is to further improve the work/life balance.
Workplace models with greater flexibility are constantly creating new IT requirements. “We had already provided our users with mobile devices and remote access to our internal applications a few years ago,” says Jürgen Kilian, Team Leader Service Operations at BGV. “Nevertheless, the initial solution architecture based on Microsoft Terminal Services was not able to fully meet the expectations of our users.”
Some users had to deal with long wait times to log into their desktop, weak application performance, and frequently interrupted connections—especially when working from home. In the worst-case scenario, user sessions could not be re-established and hours of work were lost.
The IT department decided to take a new direction to provide mobile workplaces. Together with Citrix Partner specialists from the IT system company NetPlans, BGV evaluated a digital workplace concept based on Citrix technology.
As part of a proof-of-concept installation, virtual workplaces were installed with all the business applications used by BGV in a Citrix virtual app and desktop infrastructure. “We worked closely with users from all departments from the very beginning,” says Gerd Klinck, System Administrator for the Windows infrastructure at BGV. “Users tested their access to applications from various environments and graded their impressions at the end.”
User assessments were either “good” or “very good”, without exception. Key applications like the policy administration system ICIS+ were still usable from home without restrictions. Multimedia content and videos displayed smoothly on every device. “Two things are noteworthy here: one, the graphics power of the NVIDIA Tesla M10 cards that we use in the test systems, and two, the PoC demonstrated as well that Citrix’s HDX protocol delivers very good performance over a relatively narrow network connection,” says Klinck.
After the impressive test, BGV quickly decided to use the solution for all IT workplaces in the company. The insurance group’s applications were first analysed and migrated to a new platform with a script-guided process. In the course of this process, the IT department introduced a new Office version and a current server operating system, reworking the domain concept including the user accounts.
“Citrix offers us the technology to keep the administrative and support effort for the environment as low as possible and to improve the user experience,” explains Gerd Klinck. “The Workspace Environment Management (WEM), for example, has helped us to clean up and streamline user profiles. We were able to reduce the login times on desktops from several minutes to just a few seconds—a huge benefit for the user.”
Troubleshooting in the new environment is also greatly simplified. With Citrix Director, User Support has a high-performance tool at its disposal to monitor and analyse the performance of virtual desktops and applications in detail. Help desk employees can quickly determine the causes of performance problems and determine, for example, whether the internet connection in their own building is delivering the speed promised. In several instances, problems were then resolved with the help of the relevant internet service provider.
Just a few weeks after the IT department had completed the launch of the new digital work environment, the global Covid-19 pandemic broke out. “Thanks to the Citrix solution, we were well positioned to respond quickly,” says Jürgen Kilian. “Even our office staff were able to switch more or less overnight to working from home and still respond to all customer enquiries.”
Users outside of BGV can connect via Citrix Gateways in the data centre with their virtual desktop, which gives them access to their full workspace with all applications. For communication with colleagues, BGV employees use solutions from Microsoft and Cisco. For example, with the softphone client from Jabber, users can make phone calls directly from their virtual desktops, with the data load processed entirely through the client.
All web access to internal insurance-relevant applications is continuously encrypted by the Citrix solution and is also secured with two-factor authentication. Sensitive customer information always remains in the data centre and is not saved locally on end devices— providing complete protection even for mobile access.
“NetPlans has provided us with a perfectly configured gateway infrastructure,” reports Gerd Klinck. “We were able to easily manage the booming increase in remote users. Of course, one major benefit of the Citrix solution is that we didn’t need to install any VPN clients on end user devices. We have made it as simple as possible for our users to continue their work under different circumstances.”
The feedback from employees was very positive. Many colleagues as well as executive management were grateful to the IT department for their excellent and swift assistance. “With the Citrix solution, we were ultimately able to continue our insurance business as usual and assist our customers even in this challenging time,” says Jürgen Kilian.
Flexible and mobile working options are expected to be used even more extensively in the future. The first expansion project is already underway: the IT department is currently testing the integration of Microsoft Teams and Microsoft OneDrive for Business in the virtual work environment with select applications. “We are optimising the use of Microsoft Teams with special Citrix HDX technologies, and for data synchronisation with OneDrive we are using a solution from FSLogix,” says Gerd Klinck.
In addition, the IT department will provide virtual desktops for professional graphics applications like Adobe Creative Cloud in the future using the new infrastructure. “The nice thing about Citrix technology is that there are always several ways to bring the applications to the users,” says the system administrator. “This way, we can actually serve every user group using just a single platform.”
We noticed from the very start just how mature the Citrix technology is. Users are very satisfied with the performance, and we can manage the entire infrastructure very efficiently with just one small team.