Busy Bees

Busy Bees

Total Computers implemented a remote desktop solution for Busy Bees’ staff at nurseries across the UK, based on Citrix XenApp. The solution is easy to manage and reliable, and provides a familiar Windows desktop for nursery staff. Citrix XenDesktop was implemented to deliver a fully virtualised desktop to around 300 staff at Busy Bees’ two main offices. 

Client

Busy Bees was founded in 1983 by three families unable to find the quality of childcare they wanted for their own children. Since then it has grown to become the UK’s largest childcare nursery provider, with 237 nurseries across the country, caring for around 30,000 children. Busy Bees retains its founders’ child-centred approach, and the individual interests, safety and happiness of every child remain central to the care they receive. 

Business driver

Busy Bees’ first implementation of Citrix, was driven by the need to have an easy to manage way of delivering its core business application to nursery staff. This application records each child’s details, requirements and attendance, as well as handling invoicing and staffing rosters.

Each nursery typically has around three to five users, who use one or two shared PCs to access this application, the internet and Microsoft Office.

In 2007, when Busy Bees expanded by taking over the Leapfrog group of nurseries, it upgraded to Citrix XenApp 4.5, again turning to the Total team to help with the implementation.

By 2012, Busy Bees needed to upgrade its infrastructure to cope with its continued growth. 

Solution

After considering a couple of options, Busy Bees looked to Total. “We did explore another solution, with another company,” explains Paul Creaser, Head of IT at Busy Bees. “But the technology didn’t meet our needs, the supplier’s technical skills weren’t what we were used to from Total and they didn’t understand our business the way Total did.”

Total proposed implementing the latest version of Citrix XenApp, for the nurseries, and XenDesktop, for central staff, virtualising the underlying servers with Citrix XenServer, for increased efficiency and resilience, and using Citrix NetScaler for secure access control and performance optimisation. 

Following detailed design work, Total’s consultants proceeded with the project.

“Total handled everything smoothly, delivered on time, and gave us good ideas of how to make the system work as well as it could,” explains Paul.

Benefits

“The biggest advantage of the new XenApp deployment was that we then had a full Windows desktop for our users. It looks just like the Windows 7 desktop that the nursery staff are familiar with at home,” says Paul. “Before that, there was a lot of confusion in how to access the applications.”

“The full desktop was faster and slicker and had more functionality than before,” says Paul. “The number of issues we had from the nurseries dropped off massively, saving our IT team time. XenApp is also now easier to manage and more stable than earlier versions.”

The server virtualisation enabled Busy Bees to reduce its number of servers from 35 to only 12, which has allowed it to free up two racks, and has reduced power consumption.

“Total handled the server virtualisation for us, which went smoothly – our users didn’t even notice, which is what we wanted,” says Paul. “Now, it’s easy to add a new virtual server when we need to, and far cheaper and quicker than having to buy a physical machine.”

The project also incorporated provision of a virtualised storage area network (SAN) that is supported by Total. Paul comments, “Total can easily give us more space when we need it – we simply increase the licenses and put in more disks.”

“We have good relationships with Total’s people – they know our set-up, and they always respond quickly,” says Paul. “Our account manager stays in touch, and gets involved to help when he needs to.”

“Total’s expertise with Citrix is second to none – there has never been an issue they’ve been unable to sort,” says Paul. “I’m more than happy with their technical skills, and their Citrix consultants have also been able to bring in other experts from the team when we’ve had issues with Microsoft software or other areas.”

“Total have always carried on working in the evening or weekend as we need them,” says Paul. “They go that extra mile, which is a big deal for me, and they’re a safe pair of hands.”

For the future, Busy Bees is planning to move to a new environment located in a remote data centre, with a second disaster recovery site – with Total handling the implementation and then pro-actively managing hardware and software in the new infrastructure.

“We’ve worked with Total for many years,” concludes Paul. “We’ve had plenty of opportunity to move away to other partners, but we’ve stayed with Total because we’re very happy with their service and what they do for us.”

Solution architecture

Technology solution

Total designed and implemented a new virtual infrastructure based on Citrix technology.

Total virtualised Busy Bees’ existing server platform using Citrix XenServer, which has the twin advantages of being optimised for XenApp workloads and of being free. The addition of a storage area network (SAN) increased performance and resilience. Total recommended and implemented a software-defined SAN from DataCore, which separates the storage software from hardware. This enabled Busy Bees to re-provision existing servers that had been made redundant by virtualisation. It also allows additional disks to be added, as application and data performance requirements dictate.

When Total migrated Busy Bees to the latest version of Citrix XenApp, this meant moving from a 32 to 64 bit architecture, and required migration from Windows Server 2003 to Windows Server 2008 R2. This necessitated a pre-migration phase of application compatibility tests using Citrix AppDNA combined with physical testing. 

Citrix XenApp manages applications in the data centre and delivers them on-demand to staff in the nurseries. This also enables affordable second-user PCs to be used in the nurseries, which helps keep costs low for Busy Bees.

Citrix XenDesktop was implemented to provide around 300 of Busy Bees’ more demanding head office users with a VDI desktop.

Citrix NetScaler application delivery controllers optimise performance and load balance the traffic between the data centre and the nurseries. They also provide mobile and home workers with secure remote access to data and applications, and deliver a consistent user experience, irrespective of device.