Providing a fully functional home office workspace in a maximum of twelve hours; this is how NetPlans supported its customers after the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. Now, many customers are looking to establish enduring solutions for safe mobile work from anywhere. The Citrix service provider relies on its own business cloud and Citrix Workspace technology.
In recent years, the NetPlans system house group has evolved from a conventional IT service provider to a leading provider of cloud solutions and managed services. Founded in 1998, the company employs more than 250 people at 13 locations in Germany and Switzerland and supports customers with a comprehensive product and service portfolio, including in-house support.
NetPlans built its own business cloud environment to run its customers' applications and complete IT infrastructures. The modern computer centre in Karlsruhe meets the highest security standards and has been certified by DEKRA according to ISO/IEC 27001, ISO/IEC 27017 and ISO/IEC 27018. Customers can rely on all their data being stored exclusively in Germany and processed in accordance with the guidelines of the GDPR.
“When designing our cloud offerings and managed services, we were looking at the requirements of medium-sized customers right from the start,” Sebastian Unser stated, Managing Director of NetPlans Freiburg GmbH. “Companies that outsource their IT to us benefit from ease of use, transparent cost models, and comprehensive data privacy. NetPlans was named Managed Service Provider of the Year in 2018 by Computerwoche.”
Citrix technologies play a central role in the business of the cloud system provider. NetPlans' technical specialists have been helping customers implement Citrix infrastructures for many years now. In the meantime, the company also acts as Citrix Service Provider (CSP). With Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops, NetPlans delivers individual customer applications or even complete virtual desktops as services via its own business cloud. Citrix technology is also behind NetPlans' NPbox file sharing service: The Citrix Content Collaboration solution enables customers to securely share documents with other contacts, edit them together, and synchronise between different terminals.
All workspace services are managed and billed via the tools of the Citrix Service Provider programme. NetPlans provides its customers with customised solutions for their digital workspaces – with flexible monthly billing per user.
Demand for virtual workspaces surged at NetPlans after the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak. “Many SMEs faced the challenge of enabling their employees to switch to working from a home office in the shortest possible time,” Mr Unser reported. “To help these companies quickly and unbureaucratically, we developed the Home Office Express solution.”
The basic version of Home Office Express is based on Citrix Remote PC Access, a feature of Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktop. NetPlans was thus able to set up secure remote access for all computers in the office in the shortest possible time – additionally secured via multi-factor authentication on request. For the basic setup, the cloud system provider guaranteed implementation in less than twelve hours. Users were able to continue their work from home virtually overnight.
Alternatively, NetPlans deployed a complete Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops infrastructure within a maximum of 48 hours and migrated the existing desktops and applications to this environment. Customers immediately benefited from additional options such as centralised management and comprehensive security and performance monitoring.
“With Home Office Express, companies were able to act in the acute exceptional situation – without incurring large investment costs for their own infrastructure,” Mr Unser said. “Collaboration software such as Microsoft Teams can also be integrated into the virtual workspace.” NetPlans also had a solution for customers who could not procure client hardware for users in the home office in the short term. The micro-thin client HEDGEHOG UD Pocket converted private computers into secure endpoints in no time at all. Users only had to plug the UD Pocket into an available USB slot and could then immediately connect to their virtual working environment in the NetPlans Business Cloud.
NetPlans worked almost 24 hours a day in the early stages of the pandemic to help companies maintain their business operations. Customer requirements have changed since then: “Companies are now more concerned about what their long-term digital workspace strategy should look like,” Mr Unser stated. “Of course, it's also about the future operating model and the role of the cloud.”
NetPlans offers its customers a cloud-readiness check at this stage as guidance and a decision-making aid. The company’s consultants analyse the existing infrastructure and demonstrate actionable options for the future. In doing so, they not only evaluate the customer's technical “cloud maturity”, but also consider the organisational framework conditions and business objectives. Costs, benefits, opportunities and risks of different approaches are carefully weighed.
The results of these analyses and feasibility studies are as individual as the customers themselves. “It does not always make sense to move the entire IT and all digital workspaces immediately to one cloud provider – often a step-by-step approach is more advisable,” Mr Unser explained. "We benefit from the fact here that we can also map hybrid scenarios very well with Citrix. On-premise and cloud resources can be integrated seamlessly with Citrix Workspace.”
NetPlans works closely with CSP experts from Citrix to design its workspace offer. Technical specialists provided the cloud system provider with validated reference architectures to build a scalable and reliable service platform. They also support the implementation of specific customer requirements. “The key to successful projects is always the user experience,” Mr Unser emphasized. “With Citrix technologies, we ensure that users can work reliably and quickly with all their applications from anywhere. We still see great added value compared to other products on the market.”
NetPlans regularly exchanges information with Citrix on positioning Citrix solutions and go-to-market strategies. The company has been able to develop its service provider business step by step and has now achieved the status of CSP Premier Partner.
In addition to full-managed desktops and desktop-as-a-service offers, the company now also has various other enhancements in its portfolio. For example, FMaaS DATEV Client was used to create a virtual workspace that also includes DATEV's financial accounting software for companies and clients. Together with its partner Rocon, they offer integrated solutions for SAP Business One customers also.
“The world of work is changing quite rapidly at the moment. As a cloud system provider, we need to respond to these new developments at an early stage,” Mr Unser summarised. “Citrix provides us with exactly this flexibility. This enables us to provide workspace services that are perfectly suited to our customers' current requirements.”
The world of work is changing quite rapidly at the moment. As a cloud system provider, we need to respond to these new developments at an early stage. Citrix provides us with exactly this flexibility. This enables us to provide workspace services that are perfectly suited to our customers' current requirements.