Jun 18 2020

How to Enable Teleworking in a Weekend

Desktop as a Service, hyperconvergence and cloud can help agencies stay agile.

Moving to a remote work environment is easier for some organizations than others. For many workplaces, the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic was more modest because their employees already had access to VPNs, work-issued laptops and approved communication channels. 

For others, closures related to COVID-19 forced IT teams to very quickly provide teleworking capability to employees and virtualize systems, while maintaining high levels of compliance and security. 

At Maryland’s State Lottery and Gaming Control Agency, we were in the latter camp. Compliance is critical for an organization like ours, as we maintain applications and processes that ensure the integrity of lottery and casino-operated games. Systems log and report transactions from lottery terminals and point-of-sale locations. 

Prior to the pandemic, we had done a substantial amount of work to set up an enterprise cloud operating system. And by turning to specific virtual desktop technologies, we enabled telecommuting capability for our entire workforce in a single weekend — not only quickly, but also securely. Here are two pieces of advice from our experience. 

Focus on Your Infrastructure First

Focusing on your agency’s IT infrastructure is essential to making remote work function. We had been planning for some sort of emergency for several weeks. We had a number of teleworkers already, but we knew there would be many more as soon as people had to stay home due to the coronavirus. 

We turned to Nutanix’s Xi Frame solution, which is a Desktop as a Service (DaaS) solution that enables application access on any device, from any location. This allowed us to spin up an environment and equip our team with virtual workspaces over a weekend. Using a DaaS solution provides visibility, control and security; without this, IT staff would need to set up, test and profile each laptop, which can take an hour or more for each user. 

The crisis scenario presented by COVID-19 meant we didn’t have that luxury. Enter Xi Frame: We were able to deploy a controlled and secure environment regardless of what devices our employees use, how they connect to the internet or what security measures have been put into place. 

Our initial deployment supports about 100 accounts, but we can easily expand the solution to support our entire agency in just a few clicks. Now it’s possible to stream business applications from our data center to employees, who can work from anywhere using a desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone browser. 

READ MORE: Hear from Nebraska CIO on the importance of continuity of operations.

Change Your Agency's Perception of Cloud

We were previously opposed to cloud technologies for the public sector. But trust in the cloud has come a long way in the past few years. Using hyperconverged infrastructure to create a private cloud system has allowed Maryland Lottery to rely on its agility and flexibility to support changing needs. 

When compared to other cloud deployment options, private cloud technology enables our IT team to remotely support every employee during challenging, unpredictable times while staying secure. And we’re not alone; according to a recent Vanson Bourne survey of 2,650 IT decision-makers around the world sponsored by Nutanix, public sector organizations have deployed more private clouds than other industries, with over a third (39 percent) of government organizations reportedly deploying private clouds. 

Like many organizations over the past couple of months, we have had to make numerous adjustments to our operations to focus on the health and safety of our employees and of Maryland citizens. 

Our core mission has always been to support good causes — including education, public health, public safety and the environment — and while many things have changed, this mission remains of the utmost importance. 

The task of enabling our entire workforce to work remotely was daunting. But you never truly understand the shortcomings of an IT solution until you replace it with something better. Through this transition to Nutanix, we were able to cut our server and storage management time by half, if not more. 

Today, we know this strong foundation has been impactful in the short term, and it’ll help us continue modernizing and innovating at our organization for years to come.

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