How Penn National Insurance Supported a Massive Increase in Remote Workers

How We Did It: Remote worker troubleshooting saves virtual workspace initiative which includes Citrix XenDesktop and IGEL Endpoints.

Infrastructure: Citrix XenDesktop; IGEL Endpoint; VMware vSphere; Cisco IP Communicator (softphone)


Penn National Insurance‘s IT team was facing a massive increase in the number of remote workers and they needed a way to:

  • Support a surge of remote workers using Citrix.
  • Respond to an increased amount of troubleshooting calls to resolve issues.
  • Prevent performance issues from occurring vs reacting to end user feedback.
  • Document end user experience metrics rather than relying on end users.
  • Report to management remote work activity and productivity.

In response, the IT team rolled out its virtual workspace initiative, proving to be one of its most challenging IT projects. The Penn National Insurance IT team had to work across multiple technologies including IGEL, Cisco and Citrix and contend with each unique environment – home office, remote office or coffee shops – where their employees were connecting and still provide a consistent end user experience.

“It’s easy to use 25-30% of what a solution can do but with Goliath we are constantly in that product. It provides too much value that we can never set it aside. The ability to see all our cross-platform products in one tool and to quickly have true visibility into the issue to guide expectations and meaningful conversations with our end users is priceless.” — Mark Keefer, Senior Infrastructure System Administrator, Penn National Insurance.

An inherent issue with the virtual workspace initiative is the need to rely on and manage multiple vendors to enable this remote worker lifestyle. Penn National wanted to be able to proactively monitor, manage and troubleshoot all of the elements across the overall delivery infrastructure including IGEL Endpoint, Cisco IP Communicator (softphones) and various connection methodologies whether it is WIFI, satellite or hardwired phone lines, Citrix XenDesktop and VMware vSphere.

“We wanted to provide one unified experience to all users regardless of their device, locations or type of connection as part of the virtual workspace initiative,” said Dan Morrison, Director IT I&O, Penn National Insurance.

Two Examples of technical issues that were resolved but could have slowed the deployment:

Issue #1:

“We wanted to see all of the delivery infrastructure subsystems and monitor them proactively from a single pane of glass so we could anticipate end user experience issues and troubleshoot them quickly when they arise,” said Morrison. “The image below is the Goliath Automatic Citrix Discovery and Dependency Map, which gives us the NOC view. We see this every day and it is refreshed in real time so we can determine at a glance if there are issues and where they are so we can troubleshoot quickly.”

An employee is calling in from their home office using an IGEL Endpoint, Cisco IP Communicator (softphone) and utilizing a connection which can be anything from a hard line, satellite to WIFI. Given all these moving parts, Penn National needed a way to anticipate and be alerted to issues, for example, connection speed being slow and or overall session latency being high, before or at the same time as the employee. Then, they needed to be able to troubleshoot the issue down to the root cause.

Citrix Xenapp end user productivity report
Issue #2:

“We had a user that was connecting from their home office and complaining about logon times. Using the ICA and HDX drill down from the session display, seen in the screenshot below, I could see that the issue was connection speed and therefore the issue was from the house to the data center. After further conversations with the end user we discovered the WIFI was overloaded with other users in the home while the employee was attempting to use the Cisco softphone so it couldn’t handle the voice payload. She had the other users stop using the internet and she was able to restore her voice performance.”

Citrix Xenapp end user productivity report

Screenshot: Above shows a drop in “Connection Speed” from the IGEL endpoint at the user’s home office. So we know at a glance that bandwidth from the home office is the issue. Short term we suggested they reduce the number of users connected to the home WIFI. Long term they upgraded their internet package.

The technology also allows IT to look at latency trends and actual latency metrics in real time. According to Morrison, “I can simply sort the session display by latency length and receive alerts to high latency. Then if I see high collective latency I know it is inside the data center and if it is just a handful of users I know it is outside the data center. Just this disqualification is huge for us and cuts down on massive time wasted looking for where an issue might be. I use Goliath literally all the time and I am in the software multiple times a day.”

Penn National Insurance was able to leverage the detailed end user and Citrix Delivery infrastructure metrics to ensure the successful completion of their Virtual Workspace Initiative.

Video: Prove Home WIFI as Root Cause of Citrix Latency