The UK’s largest childcare nursery provider, Busy Bees runs over 200 childcare nurseries around the country. The company, which has just celebrated its thirtieth birthday, was founded on a belief in providing child-centered care of the highest quality. Many of its nurseries are rated by Ofsted (the UK’s Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills) as Outstanding.
IT Manager Paul Creaser is responsible for the flow of information around Busy Bees. He manages the company’s rapidly growing IT requirements with a team of just six employees and a trusted relationship with their IT partner, Total Computers.
Busy Bees had grown rapidly through a series of acquisitions and wished to update its information systems to provide a scalable, familiar and flexible solution for its workforce. As Creaser explains, “We had outgrown our existing IT infrastructure and we had over 35 physical servers.” The server room was full. Air-conditioning and other related costs were extremely high.
At the same time, Creaser’s team was supporting 1,000 PCs at 226 locations around the country. Busy Bees is a family-friendly employer and Creaser was keen that any solution to IT support costs would also enable flexible working.
Paul Creaser and his team worked with Citrix® Gold Solution Advisor Total Computers to define a new system that combined server virtualisation with a virtual desktop for users. For end-users, Busy Bees upgraded to Citrix XenApp 6.5 to provide a richer and more flexible experience.
On the server side, the company experimented with various virtualisation solutions before settling on Citrix XenServer. Creaser explains: “Cost was the biggest issue. Other solutions were more expensive and included features that we didn’t need. XenServer was perfect for us.”
Busy Bees reduced the number of physical servers required to just six, with a consequent saving on space and running costs. The company deployed Citrix NetScaler as a remote access gateway to provide employees seamless, secure access to the system from anywhere.
“Users prefer a familiar desktop,” says Creaser. “Using XenApp to deliver Windows® apps and desktops as a secure mobile service has been greatly advantageous for us. Everyday tasks like searching for a document become much easier, especially for occasional users like many of the nursery staff.” As a result, the IT team handles far fewer support issues.
Busy Bees’ virtual desktop also actively supports flexible working, enabling staff to work better and live better. “People across the business can now log on wherever they are, at whatever time suits them, and enjoy the full desktop experience. As a result, they can work from anywhere and still be productive,” explains Creaser.
Supporting a single, virtual desktop is simpler than managing many individual machines. As Creaser puts it, “We now have 14 times as many desktop computers, but we manage them with just three times the staff.”
Server management is simpler, too. Not only has Busy Bees reduced the number of physical servers from 35 to six, but those six servers provide a more stable, more resilient service. “We can lose one of almost anything and have no noticeable impact on users,” says Creaser. “System stability and ease of management have been the key things for me. Essentially, Citrix just works.”
Creaser and his team have a few projects in the pipeline. They are working with Total Computers to make greater use of the functionality provided by NetScaler for security, load balancing and disaster recovery. The team is also keen to deploy Citrix XenDesktop for those users who require a more personalised desktop and they are evaluating the benefits of extending flexible working to include a Bring Your Own Device scheme. Busy Bees is also evaluating the use of thin client hardware as a potential replacement for their PC estate.
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