Founded in 1984 by Jim Campion, Campion Insurance is a three year winner of Deloitte’s Best Managed Companies Award. Following a series of acquisitions in 2007/8, the company is now one of Ireland’s leading insurance brokers and has ambitious plans for continued growth. Campion currently has 11 offices and 150 staff across Ireland.
Ciaran Brosnan has worked with the firm – as independent consultant and now as full-time IT Manager – for the past three years. His first priority was to help Campion’s insurance experts be as effective as possible by resolving performance and stability issues with the existing IT infrastructure.
“After the mergers, the company had eight or nine different infrastructures and core applications,” explains Brosnan. “The goal at that time was to combine systems so that Campion could operate as a single organisation rather than eight or nine different ones.” The company’s core databases were merged, existing hardware was re-purposed and – using the Dublin office as a datacentre – Campion developed a single IT system. Problems with this approach quickly emerged, though.
Campion’s core line-of-business application is an insurance trading platform called Relay. Following the initial IT consolidation, Campion now had all its offices using a single Relay database. However, the firm had severe problems with speed and stability caused by the underlying IT infrastructure.
“The desktop environment didn’t perform the way it should,” explains Brosnan. “Common tasks like finding a client or performing a transaction were taking an age. Our users found it very frustrating to work with.” The IT department also had challenges. Using physical servers meant that there was very little flexibility and no resilience within the system. “If a server failed, so did a group of users. We couldn’t serve customers and business was lost.”
Brosnan’s team had to resolve these issues quickly so that the firm could focus on serving Campion’s customers effectively.
Brosnan and his team worked with Trilogy Technologies, a certified Citrix Solutions Partner, to design and deploy a suitable solution. “Trilogy was very strong,” states Brosnan. “They helped us select the right solution for our needs.” Campion decided to move to a fully virtualised infrastructure, hosted in a third party datacentre. The firm used Citrix XenApp® to provide Relay within a virtual desktop for users. “We felt that Citrix was the only real solution for a distributed organisation like ours. We have a budget and bandwidth we can afford and Citrix was the only serious contender,” says Brosnan.
The performance improvement was immediately obvious. Campion’s staff could log in from any office and enjoy a seamless, responsive system. Brosnan explains, “It simply performs like an environment should. It works for all users, all the time. If someone suffers a hardware failure in the office, they can simply move to the next PC or workstation, log in and pick up where they left off.”
With a happier, more effective company, CEO Jim Campion says the difference is like “chalk and cheese.” He jokes, “Now there is no excuse for missing sales targets.”
“In today’s market, we can’t do business unless we can do business on the move,” says Brosnan. “Citrix gives us mobile working by default.” Campion’s insurance specialists can now take their office to the customer, enjoying secure, remote access on any device, wherever there is an internet connection.
The virtual desktop environment is highly scalable. As Campion Insurance explores opportunities for expansion, Brosnan is confident that his team can easily meet new demands: “With our virtual infrastructure, we don’t have the hassle of connecting disparate systems. We just purchase a few routers and make the virtual desktop available in a new office. It can be done over a weekend.”
“When we upgraded our infrastructure, we largely re-deployed existing PCs to access the virtual desktop. Now we are replacing those with thin client devices,” explains Brosnan. “Old PCs can take so long to boot up that users often leave them running 24/7. Thin client hardware pays for itself in two years on power savings alone.”
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