Connecting state and local government leaders

This Housing Authority Took App Delivery Into the Cloud

Toledo, Ohio, the seat of Lucas County.

Toledo, Ohio, the seat of Lucas County.

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

A consulting firm warned the Lucas Metropolitan Housing Authority in Ohio about the obsolescence of its IT infrastructure and desktops five years ago. But the department—with employees close to retirement and lacking the skillset for a new environment—opposed a new strategic plan.

When the IT manager passed away suddenly, the same firm, Patterson & Associates Consulting, won the IT management consulting contract to upgrade everything.

LMHS became the first government agency in the world to provision Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based software company Citrix’s app delivery controller, NetScaler, in Microsoft Azure Government’s cloud.

“We needed our data to be much more secure, as well as needing our infrastructure to be disaster recovery resistant,” Craig Patterson, LMHS acting IT manager and also president and CEO of the firm, said in an interview with Route Fifty. “Government organizations have a false sense of security, and moving to the cloud enhances security—especially in a mobile environment.”

LMHS handles personally identifiable data like social security and bank account numbers, and recently a broken sprinkler flooded the basement of its data center. The cloud doesn’t just protect data in such an instance but tracks where it’s going, so it’s secure even on the mobile devices of temporary workers and contractors, where nondisclosure agreements once needed to be signed. Plus, technical support comes from U.S. citizen—an added layer of comfort data isn’t going overseas.

Because LMHS already had a Microsoft infrastructure—it’s moving from the antiquated Windows XP to Windows 10—and budget cuts limited the agency’s ability to staff people for hardware replacement, going with Azure was a cost savings.

Deployment is still ongoing, and everyone at LMHS gets the same version of core software courtesy of NetScaler. Previously, when IT was server- and PC-based, coworkers often had different versions of Windows and PowerPoint.

The system is device agnostic, so LMHS doesn’t have to buy high-end tech in lieu of an iPad or iPhone.

“The most powerful operating system can run on any device, including bring-your-own-device,” Patterson said. “That’s going to be the gamechanger.

In a few seconds, a new desktop can be commissioned using NetScaler by creating an image that can be pushed or pulled to the device of a resident, client or staff member—a huge timesaver making workplace entry easier.

The paradigm of government agencies being in the hardware business is that, by the time a lengthy procurement is completed, the tech may already be obsolete, so managers are left to buy more computing capacity than they need.

“Azure scales up and down, so I’m not over-purchasing,” Patterson said. “That’s a huge advantage you only get when scaling in the cloud.”

Dave Nyczepir is a News Editor at Government Executive’s Route Fifty.

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