Probation Netherlands introduces remote working in one day

Formed in 1823, 'the Netherlands Society for the moral improvement of the prisoners' developed into “Probation Netherlands” in 1995. Their main objective is to set offenders on to the right path and ultimately preventing and reducing criminal behavior. In 2011 there was 76,293 parole contacts with suspects and offenders. Probation Netherlands has ten regions with just under 2,000 employees. The national office is located in Utrecht.

The Challenge: A solution to work from home

To work from home, Probation Netherlands used a solution as a service conducted by another organization. The solution works on the basis of a heavy authentication method and old technology. Furthermore, it was sometimes taking a month to process a request before an employee could work from home. "We needed a solution that was better suited to our current picture of remote working," says Michel Eindhoven, Head of I & A at Probation Netherlands. "If the number of remote workers is increasing - and that was the expectation at the time when the project started - it should be a simple organizational procedure. It made sense to implement its own internal solution. Technically it should be more modern and simpler: instead of a complicated solution with physical smart cards and certificates, we want to use Active Directory for authentication."

The Solution: Implementing Citrix NetScaler

Probation Netherlands has been working successfully with Citrix XenApp to deliver hosted desktops to more than 3,200 people in some twenty locations for more than four years. The workstations are thin clients from HP and Fujitsu. "The benefits of the Citrix solution are evident and have proven themselves," said Tim Poots, Project Manager at the Department of I & A. "The management is centralized and simplified, application maintenance is simple, workplaces are 100% interchangeable and can be controlled remotely, even from home. We also work with Citrix XenServer where we have virtualized XenApp systems, two virtual servers, each with about 25 end users on a single HP BL-series host. Because of this we are very scalable and have a very stable environment. "

The organization decided to start with a pilot of the Citrix NetScaler 5500 appliance for providing access from home to remote desktops as a replacement for the externally hosted solution. In this pilot, which was conducted in conjunction with Citrix Consulting Services, several dozen end-users from the organization were gradually added to test the new environment. "The pilot, however, was given three weeks after a totally unexpected twist," continues Poots.

Key Benefits

Working at home as a fallback solution

In the main office building, an office tower in Rotterdam-West dating back to the 60s, asbestos traces were found. Probation Netherlands decided in early 2012 to vacate the building immediately and all staff were sent home. "We already had a virtual - hosted with XenApp - desktop which the employees could use from home. We decided to end the pilot with the Citrix NetScaler and to scale up the environment immediately and put the solution into production, "adds Eindhoven.” In a single day we have accelerated the 'new work' introduced for the pilot users and employees in the vacated building to the operationalization of 450 emergency workplaces thanks to Citrix NetScaler. The technology has been proven and this project has grown much goodwill within the organization for the IT department."

A high Availability solution for all remote employees

Probation Netherlands needed to enable emplyees to work at home, based on two principles: the solution had to be as simple as possible for the end users within the organization and should be simple and widely applicable, including access from tablets and smartphones for many mobile employees. Citrix NetScaler proved easy to integrate with Active Directory and with the On-Demand SMS authentication solution, RSA (now EMC). Poots: "This NetScaler met our requirements in terms of security, flexibility and simplicity.”

The accelerated introduction of remote working required a leap of faith. It was not easy for everyone immediately, for example, some employees lacked direct contacts. Meanwhile, the organization has decided to allow remote working for all employees and homework arrangement worked out. Employees must therefore accept certain conditions on how it should deal with security or what should happen if, for example, a phone is stolen.

To support this increase in home offices - and the other mobile workstations - the NetScaler's 5500 HA pair has now been exchanged for a NetScaler 7500 HA pair. "We've done this replacement without downtime. Because of both machines High Availability mode, we replace them one by one. The appliances are easy to maintain and we are in daily practice, nothing to worry about," concludes Poots." Meanwhile, the NetScaler also serves as a reverse proxy for Microsoft Lync to facilitate remote collaboration."

Looking Ahead

An asbestos incident like this was fortunately not all bad. Probation Netherlands now has rapidly introduced new ways of working. Forced by circumstances, these employees have discovered how home working is possible wherever you are. "The employees were very enthusiastic about working with the new solution. Logging in is easier and works faster than before and we have access to all applications. It is so transparent that employees have no idea that they even work with Citrix solutions, "says Stella Tempelaar, Unit Manager Probation Netherlands. "We have recently inventoried how staff feel about working from home. Most find the flexibility and freedom a great benefit and cannot live without it. The commitment to the organization is virtually unchanged and the interconnectivity is as a good experience. Now all workstations are flexible and there are many working remotely, there is less direct contact with colleagues. One staff member said recently. “The feeling that I work for Probation Netherlands and not just for my team, has become stronger."

If the number of remote workers is increasing - and that was the expectation at the time when the project started - it should be a simple organizational procedure. It made sense to implement its own internal solution. Technically it should be more modern and simpler: instead of a complicated solution with physical smart cards and certificates, we want to use Active Directory for authentication.
- Michel Eindhoven

Head of I & A

Probation Netherlands

About Citrix

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The benefits of the Citrix solution are evident and have proven themselves.
- Tim Poots

Project Manager at the Department of I & A

Probation Netherlands

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Key Benefits

  • Working at home as a fallback solution
  • A high availability solution for all remote employees

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