Internal Affairs learns useful Citrix lessons

The Department of Internal Affairs thought it was experiencing unusual problems with the "bedding in" of a Citrix MetaFrame system for its regional offices. But IT managers with experience of the thin-client software are suggesting teething problems aren't unusual.

The Department of Internal Affairs thought at first it was experiencing unusual problems with the “bedding in” of a Citrix MetaFrame system for its regional offices. But IT managers with experience of the thin-client software are suggesting to DIA that teething problems are not unusual.

“As far as I can see from talking to [IT managers in other organisations], this is a common Citrix experience; it takes time to accommodate it to your environment,” says information and facilities manager Alison Fleming.

Load balancing and fine tuning of parameters like printing bandwidth are necessary before the system will work efficiently, she says.

A more troublesome implementation than expected at DIA left community development staff in the regions frustrated over their file and print and Lotus Notes tasks, she says. “And I sympathise with them.”

Staff are bound to feel somewhat isolated and powerless when head office lands new technology on them, she says. “They don’t know the details of what’s going on. It’s all just ‘a computer problem’ as far as they’re concerned.”

Problems such as slow response times and “the occasional print spooling hang” still have not been completely cleared up after three or four months, she says, but performance is much improved, with the help of an Auckland-based specialist from Citrix.

Fleming says the department has learnt three lessons from the experience. “First, you need to test Citrix very thoroughly in you own specific environment, unless yours is an absolutely standard environment.” Some of the Internal Affairs offices had printer types that were not on the department’s tested-and-approved list, and the range of printer drivers supplied with the Citrix software is quite restricted, she says.

“Secondly, it would be an intelligent move to get your implementation QA’d [quality assured] by an independent Citrix expert.

“And thirdly, be aware of the need for some tuning and forewarn your users,” she says. If users expect some teething problems they will not feel so concerned as if problems take them by surprise.

Citrix spokesman Andrew Cashmore says Citrix software installation “needs to be done by the book”, with scrupulous attention to detail, and knowledgeable staff to “look after the server farms and implement change control”.

DIA’s implementation, he says, after talking directly to the staff handling it, had not observed “best practice”.

“There were file-and-print servers on the same [processors] as the Citrix servers and things like that, that are not the best way to do it. We have made four or five recommendations to them, which we hope they implement.”

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