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About the organisation

The Salvation Army is a global Christian ministry and charitable organisation with operations in 123 countries. The UK division employs around 7,000 people, and one of its key activities is offering help and advice to single, homeless men from around 100 support centres, or ‘LifeHouses’, dotted around the country. Other charitable work supported by the organisation includes community services such as parent and toddler groups, over-60s clubs and, more recently, unemployment support services. Around 2,500 of Salvation Army UK’s staff work at

the LifeHouses, and as CIO Martyn Croft explains below, the challenge of supporting the PC infrastructure around the country prompted it to adopt thin client devices. Having made the leap to virtualised desktops, the organisation has moved into support home and remote

workers through a secure VPN, and is now undertaking a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) project in London. Croft, for whom security has been one of the key drivers in all

of this, says that the move to desktop virtualisation has opened up a number of alternative IT strategies in future, including the possibility that it may no longer provide staff with corporate devices at all.

CIO Martyn Croft explains how the Christian charitable organisation’s use of desktop virtualisation is evolving

Information Age (IA): Your first desktop virtualisation project was put in place to support staff at your ‘LifeHouses’. What was the motivation behind that project? Martyn Croft (MC): It was very expensive to support PCs in 100 different locations around the country. If there was a hardware problem, we’d have to send out an engineer. If there was a software problem, we’d need to use remote access, which used lots of bandwidth. There was also a security component.

We’re holding details of 6,000 vulnerable adults. If a homeless person’s data is stolen, they are very soft targets for identity theft. We have to take care of that data, and I didn’t want it to be left on PCs that could be stolen.

IA:You chose to use thin client devices from Wyse and Microsoft’s Terminal Services. Why was that? MC:We had a look at Citrix’s desktop virtualisation software at the time, but it was a bit too rich for us, so we

went with Terminal Services, and that was fine. Because the people working at the Lifehouses are spending most of their time with people, rather than on computers, we were able to design a simple, vanilla desktop that met their requirements.

IA: What have you done to address those issues? MC:We’ve done some fairly innovative things with circuit bonding, which gives us more resilience and failover. In some of our larger LifeHouses, we’re running four ADSL circuits bonded together in a router. Also, we have used a Packeteer device

Martyn Croft, CIO, Salvation Army UK “Homeless people are very soft targets for identity theft. We have to take care of their data, and I didn’t want it to be left on PCs that could be stolen”

And in the case of hardware support,

we wanted our users to be able to unplug the device if there was an issue, stick it in a jiffy bag and send it back to us. With thin clients, it is as easy as that.

IA:How was it received by the users? MC: It would be wrong to say that it was absolutely plain sailing. We’ve had some problems with latency and jitter over some of the more affordable data networks that we use.

to get some insight into the volumes of traffic we were experiencing. So now we’ve got some very good benchmarks and we’re quite confident of the number of users that we can comfortably support. I like to have seen some hard benchmarking

data from our suppliers in advance, to be honest.

IA: Have those measures resolved the issues? MC: Network performance is a constant battle. One of the biggest challenges that we’re having at the moment is accommodating rich media. We’re keen to promote e-learning but videos are very difficult to accommodate on the infrastructure platform we have.


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