CGW Lawyers ditches PCs for virtual desktop

Brisbane-based law firm experiences improved staff productivity as lawyers can log in from home

Getting rid of aging desktop computers in favour of a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) has led to increased productivity and less IT problems for Brisbane-based Cooper Grace Ward Lawyers.

Speaking at Trend Micro’s Evolve 2013 conference in Sydney, CGW Lawyers IT manager Jason Mills told delegates that prior to the VDI implementation two years ago, it had five-year-old PCs, an inconsistent patching process and poor remote access.

Its environment now consists of VMware View suite with VSphere.

“We were very pragmatic and looked at physical desktops versus virtual desktops. It all came back to that consistency and remote access,” he said.

According to Mills, it had the View suite up and running within a day.

“We decided to do a proof of concept [with virtual desktops] and grabbed a number of people from different parts of the firm,” he said.

“To leverage a bit more out of the investment in VDI we decided it would be a good idea if we re-purposed our existing desktops. We figured if we could get more life out of the computers it would be better from a return on investment [ROI] point of view.”

As part of its agreement with Microsoft, it had access to an operating system called Windows Foundation for legacy PCs which is a cut down version of Windows XP.

Users were provided with a View suite login which got them into the computer. According to Mills, the firm was able to get another year and a half usage out of the legacy PCs before getting “lots of blue screens”.

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Challenges

However, the introduction of a virtual desktop environment two years ago was not without its challenges.

“When we first rolled out the virtual desktop to the pilot group, users said it was too slow and that was due to not running the VDI on the correct system operating environment [SOE],” Mills said.

“If you can get the SOE right, test your environment first and then run the VDI that would be how I would approach the project again.”

The law firm also had a problem with portable dictation unit recordings. Mills explained that lawyers record dictations daily and send the recordings off to be typed up.

“When we used tethered dictation units in the virtual desktop, the recording went into a shared environment,” he said.

“With that latency, the units weren’t being as responsive as they wanted.”

However, he said that the benefits of VDI far outweighed the implementation challenges. For example, the virtual desktop environment means that lawyers can log in from home.

“Lawyers inherently don’t save documents and they don’t like closing things down nicely. We’ve been working them to say that if they are in a rush, they can push the button on the machine and walk away. When they login from home, those documents are still open," Mills said.

“From an IT stand point, we now have the ability to focus on process improvement projects."

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

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