With offices throughout the U.S., remote access is essential for this large non-profit organization to maintain its operations. The organization had been utilizing Citrix Horizon View, a virtual desktop solution, which was hosted on local servers. Their experience with this solution was very frustrating for both local and remote users, as it had performance and connectivity issues, as well as significant data center management concerns. Additionally, the View environment was not optimally configured, aging, and very expensive to maintain. In short, it no longer suited the client’s business needs.
The organization knew they needed to evolve their core technology solution, which was quite large and included six (6) physical servers and 28 virtual machines. The organization was also using several highly resource-intensive applications that required a significant investment in infrastructure and hardware, including an Exchange server and an Exchange DAG server for redundancy and availability.
Uptime is essential, so in addition to the Exchange DAG solution, a robust backup and disaster recovery solution was in place. Initially, the system was managed by an internal IT staff, but there were several challenges related to the management and maintenance to their system.
DPS took over the management of the organization’s technology in February 2018 and immediately helped develop a strategic plan to consolidate their system and migrate it to the “Cloud”. Initially, several conceptual designs were reviewed with the company to outline what the next system could look like. As DPS gained more institutional knowledge about the Client’s workflow, challenges and objectives, these designs were further refined and finalized.
The next step was to execute the strategic plan to overhaul the client’s technology. Initially, the Exchange solution was migrated to Office 365. As a part of this project, OneDrive was leveraged to replace the users’ home drives. This reduced the amount of data being stored on the servers and allowed the remote users to quickly and easily access their user data by leveraging the scale of Microsoft’s public Cloud solution.
In conjunction with the use of OneDrive, Office 365 EMS was utilized to implement multi-factor authentication (MFA) and Mobile Device Management (MDM) that aligned with the organization's human resource (HR) policies around acceptable use and important security standards. Additionally, specific access controls were executed to protect the Office 365 platform from unwanted access.
As a part of the plan, DPS advised the client to evaluate several Cloud SaaS options for Line-of-Business applications that are necessary for fundraising, accounting, and other key work functions of the organization. They settled on moving their primary Line-of-Business applications to an Authorized Application SaaS provider who specialized in their specific applications.
DPS collaborated with the SaaS Provider to migrate the data to their platform and away from the server environment. Since the SaaS system was tested prior to cutting over to a live production system, the staff experienced very little impact. As this migration occurred, DPS designed and deployed an Azure Cloud environment to host the client’s local domain, print and file services. A web and reporting server virtual machine was also built in the Azure Cloud.
DPS worked with the client to consolidate their previously six (6) file and datacenter servers down to two (2) and helped them cut down the amount of data being stored on their servers. DPS also made sure that the Azure environment was designed to include appropriate backups and disaster recovery solutions, since these backup solutions were still necessary, just in a different context. The move to the Azure cloud was successfully implemented primarily because the Azure environment was built and tested while the client’s staff continued to utilize their on-premise system.
Prior to all the previously mentioned changes to utilize the Cloud, DPS refined and streamlined the client’s core local network infrastructure and Wide-Area-Network (WAN) to ensure that their network would be ready to support the Cloud system. A new phone system was also installed to replace an obsolete and problematic system.
Lastly, several new laptops and workstations were deployed and configured with the newly implemented security controls, including point-to-site VPNs to ensure an easy, private, and consistent connection to the Cloud environments.
The new system was tested and rolled out throughout the company. In total, it took over a year to fully implement the Cloud system.
The staff enjoy a much greater technology experience by migrating to the cloud. They now have the nimbleness to work from anywhere and production increased in kind. Employees are much happier as their experience with technology is now a positive one as opposed to a frustrating experience rife with speed and connectivity issues. Furthermore, their ability to fundraise and manage their accounting is no longer hampered by finicky technology that no longer suited their needs.
Along with the migration, the client was able to adjust their work from home policy, as their new system is more flexible and secure. With the new technology in place, leadership felt much more confident that staff could be equally as productive at their homes as they would be in the office.
The timing was right. When the 2020 pandemic occurred, the client was able to successfully pivot when their entire staff had to work from home. All applications, email and data were accessible, and their connections continue to be very stable.
From a budget standpoint, had the client decided to make a “horizontal move” to a similar locally hosted solution, they would have had to incur expenses of about $300,000 in capital investment to replace, configure, and deploy hardware. It would have been both expensive and not particularly forward thinking in terms of design.
By moving to the Cloud, the client minimized their expenses by eliminating the need to purchase hardware and software. Their overall cost of ownership was massively reduced.
The client attributes their recent technology success to DPS’s planning and execution to move them to the Cloud. They are grateful for the significant improvements to their technology that supports the mission of their organization. As their IT partner, DPS appreciates the organization’s willingness to go through this shift that represents a major change to their expectations of how their technology should work.
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