Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Company

Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Company: Enhancing Application Access with Unidesk and Citrix XenDesktop

With the combination of Citrix XenDesktop and Unidesk, FMH has virtualized all of its desktops and applications for simpler management, happier end users, and a more agile business.

Famers Mutual Hail Insurance Company of Iowa

"The key component to our VDI success has been Unidesk. Unidesk layering was the only way we felt we could build and update virtual desktops with different app combinations, while having only one Windows OS layer to patch and maintain."

Dru Lesnik
AVP - Information Systems, Famers Mutual Hail Insurance Company of Iowa

The Business Drivers for VDI

Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance of Iowa (FMH), headquartered in West Des Moines, Iowa, has been providing peace of mind for Midwest Farmers and their families since 1893. FMH provides farm-focused insurance in 15 Midwestern states, and maintains a Reinsurance Department for accepting risks from both domestic and international insurance companies.

Faced with migration from Windows XP to Windows 7, the need to unify multiple office locations, and a desire to improve operational efficiency, FMH started investigating the move to Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) in 2012.

A merger with a Property and Casualty Company and the potential for future growth created new VDI business drivers, as FMH would require a desktop infrastructure that could quickly get new branches integrated, even if they were located 50 miles away.

FMH also wanted to simplify desktop support and increase user productivity, while keeping in compliance with its strict security policies that prevent employees from doing work on their home PCs. VDI would cut down on the number of costly laptop purchases, while letting users securely access their work desktops from home PCs or mobile devices.

Virtual Desktop Solution

FMH decided to deploy its virtual desktops on VMware vSphere, hosted by HP servers and Xiotech storage, and accessed by Dell Wyse clients.

But the hub of the VDI project is Unidesk for application delivery, image management, and personalization, and Citrix XenDesktop for secure, high performance desktop connectivity through any device.

Immediate ROI from Layering

With 360 desktops now in production, FMH is seeing major savings in the amount of time and resources needed for desktop and software deployment, especially compared to the few remaining laptops and PCs that have yet to be migrated to VDI. Unidesk is the main reason.

“Before, we had PCs staged and ready to go, but whenever a new hire would come in or a PC would break, we would have to finish that final little bit of customization to make it ready for the user and the tasks they would be doing,” says Dru Lesnick, AVP of information Systems at FMH. "Now, with Unidesk, we have one gold Windows 7 layer that is standard for all desktops, and we can very quickly choose from any of our 54 application layers. Unidesk has cut down tremendously on the labor and time required for both desktop staging and rollout.”

Junior IT administrators are now "layer builders" who can package any application - even complex custom property and casualty apps - in minutes. Once layered in their own virtual disk containers, apps can be assigned to any desktop without re-installation.

Affordable Persistence, Happier Users

Unidesk layering technology makes it quick and easy for the FMH IT department to create desktops that satisfy all of the company’s use cases, and provide users with a “Follow Me” desktop that saves all user settings, application configurations, and even user-installed applications.

Unlike typical persistent desktops that are storage-intensive and hard to manage, Unidesk persistent layers make the desktops storage-efficient and easy to administer.The Unidesk Windows 7 OS layer and application layers are only stored once per VDI host. As a result, each persistent desktop has the small storage footprint of a non-persistent desktop – typically 4-8 GBs, depending on how much storage FMH allocates to each desktop’s persistent layer. Comments Dru:

“Unidesk gives us a very simple way to administer our persistent virtual machines. They are easy to manage because they’re all built from common OS and app layers that are easy to create. We only have to patch them once to update our entire VDI environment.”

Citrix XenDesktop and Unidesk Integration

Unidesk’s integration with Citrix XenDesktop has enabled IT administrators at FMH to provision desktops based on a single Windows 7 OS layer and different combinations of application layers directly into XenDesktop catalogs and groups. FMH users access their desktops using the Citrix HDX high performance protocol. FMH is also leveraging the broad client support (e.g. zero/thin clients, tablets, smartphones), multi-factor authentication, multimedia support, USB and peripheral support, and WAN optimization features of Citrix XenDesktop to deliver a powerful VDI user experience.

“The integration between Unidesk and Citrix XenDesktop really completes the VDI picture for us, giving us best-in-class application and desktop virtualization,” says Dru.

Foundation for the Future

FMH has nearly 100% of its desktops and applications virtualized. The time savings is enabling the IT staff to refocus resources on other strategic projects, while the enhanced access to Windows applications is enabling field workers and office workers alike to improve customer service.

Concludes Dru, “The key component to our VDI success has been Unidesk. In our business, we have different applications, ranging from standard office productivity to custom complex insurance. Unidesk layering was the only way we felt we could build and update virtual desktops with different app combinations, while having only one Windows OS layer to patch and maintain.”

Deployment Details

  • Application Management
  • EUC Platform
    Citrix XenDesktop
  • Server
  • Storage
  • Users
  • Application Layers
    54 Applications, 1 Windows OS
  • More Info
  • Desktop provisioning and break/fix times cut by 80%
  • Edge data secure in data center
  • Endpoint power consumption cut by 90%