Thin clients at tenant-led housing association

27 November 2017

One of the UK’s only tenant-led housing associations, Community Gateway Association (CGA), has upgraded its entire desktop infrastructure installing 220 multi media-ready IGEL Universal Desktop 3 (UD3) terminals for staff at its new head office.

The desktop refresh project is part of a wider IT investment programme that has been completed to support the association’s purchasing and refurbishing of a brand new headquarters – Harbour House in the Preston Docks area.

Founded in 2005, CGA is a not-for-profit housing association managing more than 6,000 properties in North West England. It took over Preston City Council’s housing stock, adopting what’s described as an “innovative” model of community engagement in the subsequent running of the association. This means almost half of CGA’s board is made up of tenants along with council staff and independent members.

When the organisation was established in 2005, brand new PCs and laptops (i.e. ‘fat clients’) were originally purchased. Mark Pearson, CGA’s IT systems and development specialist, says: “They were difficult to manage when you have close to 300 staff and a software update needs to be installed in various departments. In our business plan, we refresh equipment every three to five years [and have switched to] thin clients progressively since warranties have ended or machines have come to the end of their useful life.”

The organisation shifted to a virtualised environment in 2009 using VMware. But when the equipment started reaching end of life, CGA found that the original supplier had gone into liquidation which meant no more firmware updates. “With the office move, it was time to review alternatives and upgrade our desktop estate,” says Pearson.

IGEL says CGA selected its UD3 terminals because of their “reliability, positive customer references and management simplicity”. The company includes its Universal Management Suite (UMS) for free and reckons it is easy to use compared to competitors who have “cumbersome and costly” alternatives. This was a key criteria as CGA has a small internal IT team of three to support the whole organisation.

“We wanted our desktop hardware to be agnostic irrespective of the backend server software used,” says Pearson. “IGEL offers this kind of ‘future proofing’ which is a big positive. It means we can run either Microsoft, as we do today, or simply change to Citrix at a later stage if we so wish.”