Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops Review

Provides us with more secure offerings for remote access; security is leaps and bounds ahead of our previous solution

What is our primary use case?

We initially implemented it so that our attorneys had an option to work from home. The majority of them did not want to carry a laptop back and forth. Prior to 2020, we did have four of our 40 attorneys using it almost full-time on a work-from-home basis.

We use the following in protecting our environment: Citrix Gateway, Remote Desktop Access, Citrix Secure Browser, Web/URL Filtering, and Contextual Access.

How has it helped my organization?

It's amazing that if someone has a sick child, they can still work. It's not that they are completely dead in the water. They can log in and access 99 percent of what they need to, as if they were in the office, and the workflow is the same.

Our previous solution was Terminal Services and that had very low security. My only security concern with this solution is users saving their logins and passwords in the browser. The security it provides is relatively high. The built-in security of Citrix is leaps and bounds above what the basic Microsoft solution had. I did request we add two-factor authentication, but that has not yet been approved. My management feels that I am doing a disservice by trying to add security measures.

But something that makes our security easier is that Citrix provides access control based on device, location, end-user device, or application. One of the reasons we chose Citrix was because it was one of the more secure offerings for remote access. I have faith that Citrix will continue to have that.

In addition, when COVID hit and I maxed out my Citrix licensing, I used the automated analytics to try to ensure everything was running well. It was very nice to be able to log in and see that I wasn't exceeding any capacity of Citrix or the servers themselves.

It provides everything in one integrated platform, and most of it is on one dashboard, which makes it even better. Monetarily, Citrix is a mid-range cost solution compared to some others out there. It does help our attorneys because, with attorneys, time is money. It helps alleviate downtime. I don't think that Citrix actually saves me any money, but it prevents me from losing any.

What is most valuable?

The most valuable feature has to be the non-persistent desktop. If one of my users messes something up and blows away their desktop, it goes back to what it was originally, before they had an issue.

Our employees also absolutely love the flexibility of using it on any device. We have quite a few people who use iPads and they really like the experience on that, regardless of where they are. The only difference is that the speed of the connection changes, but nothing else does. The consistency is huge.

The solution's centralized policy control and distributed enforcement work well. We have the desktops locked down so users can not add their own software. That's centrally controlled and it does make it easier to be able to present a consistent experience.

I also like that we have redundancy built in. The last time we upgraded, which was three years ago, we put in dual controllers and dual storefront machines. We have never had an outage that the users were aware of. I did have a desktop server crash and was able to restore that from backup. Nobody ever knew. They had had the same experience regardless.

What needs improvement?

The only thing we have found to be detrimental is when we have tried to find training. I realize that we're looking at it at the worst time possible, with a pandemic going on, but it seems that most of the training offered is learn-by-yourself online. I have a desktop admin who would love to be able to dig deeper into group policy and settings, to be able to admin Citrix a little bit more easily. That's the only thing that I would like to see an improvement on, the availability of training for novice users.

For how long have I used the solution?

I've been using Citrix for at least 14 years, maybe 15.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

It's very stable. It's one of the most stable software applications I run. You set it up and it just goes.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

In terms of scalability, it seems that the only things that limit you are your number of licenses and your compute. So scaling is very easy.

Prior to the work-from-home initiative, I had about a dozen users who consistently used it. After COVID and the work-from-home, even though I had only 20 licenses, I had 24 people who were using it. Those four extra people were working part-time in the office and part-time from home so they shared the license. When one was in the office, the other would use it, so I never exceeded my license capacity. And now, since the State of Idaho lifted work-from-home, I'm back down to about eight people who are on it consistently.

How are customer service and technical support?

The support is excellent. They are wonderful. Luckily I have only had to use them once for a critical issue. I got on the phone, was transferred to an engineer, and had it resolved in less than 20 minutes. For minor issues that are questions, they usually have those resolved in less than 24 hours. And usually, the delay is on my end getting their fix implemented and responding.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

We had tried Microsoft Terminal Services and found it sadly lacking for the user experience. We went ahead and implemented Citrix and we have been using it ever since. Terminal Services was Microsoft's attempt to do a remote desktop presentation and it failed miserably. There were a lot of issues and items with Terminal Services. The biggest advantage with Citrix was the consistent experience. Terminal Services was not consistent. If you got too many users on it, desktop icons would move and applications wouldn't load.

What about the implementation team?

While the centralized policy control and distributed enforcement work well, I wish we understood it better. I had a local engineer with Citrix certification build my farm for me. Since it was a brand new concept for me, it was very difficult to grasp at first. He did some preliminary training for us: How to admin it, how to update, how to make things run. But I am in no way an expert on the back-end. If I was able to take the time, which is kind of hard, to learn how all of the nuts and bolts work, I could improve the user experience a little bit. It's a lack of knowledge from my side.

From start to finish, our deployment took about two weeks, and that was mostly because the engineer could not dedicate his full time to me. It was a couple of hours here and there. Overall, the time billed was about 20 hours.

We built the servers, we tested the servers, and then we pushed them out to the handful of attorneys who had requested the ability to work from home. Then we fine-tuned it from there. I really let my users be my test-bed.

Any maintenance is done by me, but it requires minimal maintenance, mostly upgrades.

What other advice do I have?

My advice is get an engineer. Their knowledge can't be matched. A very good one will do it as an educational experience, so you learn as you go. Having somebody who knows Citrix inside and out build it, with best practices and what would suit our needs the best, was invaluable to me. And our engineer has provided support on the minor things afterwards and that has been wonderful. I love the support.

My users either love it or hate it. There is no in-between. The ones who love it do so because it is very consistent in how it works. You log in, everything works. It's the same desktop, the same software, every single time. The people who hate it are the ones who use their desktop to store things, and I don't save the world on their desktops. As soon as they hit that 2 GB mark, I start deleting things. Those are the people who don't know how file stores work.

Even though we run the servers on-prem, we advertise it as a "cloud solution" since it's accessed through a web portal, and that has helped quite a bit in pushing my user base to understand what "cloud" really means. I can see moving this off-prem to a cloud solution in the future, but at this time my budget is frozen, so it's not going to be anytime soon.

I usually don't have to refer to the solution's behavior analytics for detecting anomalies because if something isn't working optimally, my users let me know immediately. They're very vocal if something isn't the way they expect it to be.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?


Which version of this solution are you currently using?

7, agent version 1811
**Disclosure: IT Central Station contacted the reviewer to collect the review and to validate authenticity. The reviewer was referred by the vendor, but the review is not subject to editing or approval by the vendor.
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