Enhancing IT efficiency for Canterbury Christ Church University

10 July 2023

Canterbury Christ Church University is a vital source of training for healthcare and teaching professionals. The university has three campuses across southern England, and partnerships with other academic institutions around the UK and the world, and so it needs to host high performance software to support their programmes at all levels.

Its partnership with the University of Kent to establish the region’s first ever medical school required that Kent and Medway Medical School students could access both institutions systems, including being able to use the Canterbury Christ Church desktop service from campus and several NHS locations. The university also wanted to provide academic and professional service staff with hybrid work models, at a time when the country was in lockdown due to COVID-19. To achieve this, the University needed to convert on-premises remote desktop services (RDS) to enable access to campus desktops across all its sites.

The IT department initially implemented generic student desktops in 2020 to ensure access to university resources. However, the maintenance and scaling necessary for so many users provided significant challenges for the IT department.

“The University needed to implement a cloud first strategy to lower costs and scale to accommodate a hybrid model,” said Dave Haliwood, platform and systems manager at Canterbury Christ Church University. “On-prem alternatives required too much specific expertise to maintain and simply were not flexible enough to meet our needs.”

Tailoring virtual desktops

When the initial RDS licences came up for renewal, Haliwood turned to Microsoft’s Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD) to help enable the university’s hybrid model and make it easier for the IT team to create host pools for every department. This improved functionality, but the university’s IT team still needed something that offered a complete automation package beyond the Azure admin portal.

Accordingly, the university imported eight host pools from native Azure into Nerdio Manager for Enterprise, resulting in an immediate ease of management and scaling.
“The Nerdio technology made it much easier for my team to build and manage host pools while still providing a great service to our users,” said Haliwood. “It is simple compared to the complexities of native Azure but still provides IT with all the options they need to make customised updates.”

Improving efficiency

The university’s IT team of 68 people needed a streamlined, automated management tool to power such a big and heterogeneous organisation, especially with its tight IT budgets. The native Azure solution proved to be complicated, and Nerdio Manager for Enterprise helped to make the cloud environment immediately more manageable.

“A good example is The School of Engineering, Technology and Design,” said Haliwood “Its host pool had particularly sophisticated requirements with the need to provision high-performance and with Nerdio Manager’s auto-scaling features we immediately saved 70% through its compute and storage scaling, managing session hosts, reducing profile storage capacity.”

The university’s IT team is now able to use the Nerdio portal as an ad hoc service desk, allowing them to manage session hosts and individual sessions. This allows them to offer better experiences to users. Nerdio Manager for Enterprise ensures that updates can be made quickly in just two clicks, as the portal provides a single point of operation for all automation and AVD management.

Enhanced student and staff experiences

With Nerdio Manager for Enterprise, Canterbury Christ Church University has been able to increase the speed of AVD adoption across the organisation, while improving user experience.

“Nerdio made everything much easier and has enabled us to do more with AVD than we ever could natively,” said Haliwood. “The automation and ease of use provides the team with much more flexibility, allowing us to create bespoke environments for specific departments while still keeping costs low and allowing for proper testing and rollout. Our users have never been happier with the experience.”

While creating a new host pool used to take weeks, or months, with Nerdio Manager for Enterprise that same work takes less than a day. Nerdio’s solutions helped the IT team to customise desktops and better serve the academics. Now the IT team no longer worries about capacity and has seen a significant decrease in IT support claims.

“Canterbury Christ Church University demonstrate the power Nerdio and Azure Virtual Desktop have to empower remote learning and enhance the modern student experience,” said Tom Archer, regional sales manager, UK & Ireland. “Their ability to deliver a low-cost, high-performance route for accessing teaching and learning resources showcases this, it is a win-win-win for all involved.”