Irish forestry company gains a resilient, right-sized network for remote locations and workers with SD-WAN
Solution Key Benefits
SD-WAN delivers a secure reliable network and enables modern work styles for 400+ workers at home, in the office or in the forest.
Better connectivity needed for remote locations
It’s not always possible to locate your sites where there’s optimum connectivity. Coillte Forest is a state-owned business responsible for 445,000 hectares of Irish woodland, about 7% of Ireland’s total land space. It operates 20 office locations and 15 sawmill and weighbridge operations sites. Inevitably, many of these are in remote locations.
Coillte used MPLS circuits to connect its office sites but this presented a couple of business issues. Firstly, some sites had connectivity that had been either over or under-provisioned. Where a 1Mbps MPLS line was too little, the next step up might be 10Mbps, an expensive option for a smaller site.
Business continuity was also an issue. When MPLS suffered an outage, it would take time for the back-up connection to become active resulting in downtime at office and weighbridge locations. If a weighbridge lost connectivity, it would be unable to raise invoices for loads of timber, resulting in delays and poor customer service.
Changing workstyles driving change
Changes in workstyles and service provision were also driving changes in requirements, as ICT Technical Infrastructure Architect Marc Walsh explains, “Over the last three or four years, we've moved from an 80-90% on-premises footprint to being 50-60% in the cloud. We now have a hybrid system where high-end applications like ERP, GIS and forest planning are hosted in our datacenter, while Office 365 and applications like HR and learning and development are accessed through a browser. Rather than backhauling internet traffic through the datacenter, we wanted to give our sites local internet breakout while still ensuring security and a consistent user experience.”
With a much greater use of laptops, tablets, and mobile phones to connect to Coillte systems while working from home or in a forest, Walsh and Technical Services Manager Paul McGrath wanted to right-size the connectivity at each site to avoid over-paying while ensuring Coillte had the flexibility to cope with demand spikes when projects caused more people than usual to be working from any site.
The Coillte team chose to work with Edge7 Networks who recommended SD-WAN to provide the flexibility and resilience required, while opening the way for future workstyles.
“I really appreciate the level of respect and care that Edge7 showed for our individual sites,” ICT Technical Infrastructure Architect, Marc Walsh says. “They were available at any time of the day and worked alongside us to architect the appropriate solution for our situation.”
Paul McGrath, Technical Services Manager adds that, “We’ve had a fantastic experience with Edge7. They’ve made this one of the better projects we’ve run over the last few years.”
The insight and ability to right-size office bandwidth
“SD-WAN gives us the ability to flex our network bandwidth up or down, aggregating different services and different providers to give us burst capability to meet our needs,” McGrath explains. “We didn’t have that capability with MPLS alone.”
With SD-WAN, Coillte can combine any type of connectivity including 3G or 4G connections as back-up or supplemental bandwidth. It enables the team to prioritise network traffic by workload ensuring critical services are always available. One of the reasons that Coillte chose SD-WAN was its rich reporting and visibility across the network which helps the team right-size every connection based on actual usage.
As Coillte adjusts to a post-Covid-19 work-from-home policy, SD-WAN’s reporting will enable it to further optimise bandwidth to meet new levels of in-office activity.
Improving experience for all users, everywhere
SD-WAN provides Coillte’s offices with local internet breakout, so staff enjoy the best performance whether using private or public cloud applications. Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops ensures users have a consistent and secure experience on any device, from any location, whichever apps they need.
Having deployed SD-WAN to all its office locations, Coillte is now starting on its weighbridge locations, enabling all of the business’s users to enjoy the same, modern workstyle wherever they are located.
“We’ve just deployed to the first weighbridge, where there was no previous back-up line,” says McGrath. “We now have the resilience and robustness that SD-WAN enables. And, where staff could previously only use their business applications, they can now use unified communications, too. They can join video calls or Teams calls and collaborate. That's a new demand that's come with the Covid-19 situation. We've seen a proliferation of video calls and SD-WAN makes that available to our people however remote their location.”
“Citrix has provided us with the assurance and reassurance of having no data or documents stored on end-point devices,” Walsh says. “When the Covid-19 lockdown happened, we were able to transition our full user base from working in the office to working from home using Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops, overnight because the interface for each individual user is exactly the same. They click the same icon on their laptop. If they're working outside the office it brings up an SSL VPN secured by MFA using Citrix ADC technology. We were confident that Coillte’s data was secure and that the encrypted channel, through an SSL VPN, to a Citrix desktop allowed continuous service for the majority of our users by the next day.”
As McGrath adds, “We were pretty confident from the get-go that we could manage our environment seamlessly and securely. Remote access was a success story in what was a tough year for everybody.”