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Auto Trader boosts its VDI with user environment management

With help from AppSense, Auto Trader UK got on the road to desktop efficiency with tools to make VDI faster and more user-friendly.

When faced with an inefficient virtual desktop environment, organizations can turn to user environment management.

One company that turned to user environment management (UEM) is Auto Trader Ltd., an online marketplace for buying and selling automobiles. The company consolidated 17 offices in the United Kingdom down to two at its Manchester headquarters and the other in London within the last year and a half.

About 150 of the company's approximately 1,000 employees work in Auto Trader's contact center. After the move they began using Citrix XenDesktop 7 to connect to a hosted desktop environment based on Windows Server 2012 R2.

Auto Trader's move prompted a companywide technology refresh in part motivated by an aging desktop infrastructure, said Mike Braid, Auto Trader's infrastructure engineer.

We didn't want to put all that in and give people the same old crappy desktop experience.
Mike Braidinfrastructure engineer, Auto Trader UK

"We invested a lot of money in these offices," Braid said. "We didn't want to put all that in and give people the same old crappy desktop experience."

In fact, slow logon times were such an issue in its previous hosted desktop environment based on older servers and an outdated version of XenDesktop that employees would sometimes have to wait upwards of 10 minutes before a logon to finish, Braid said.

About a year ago, Auto Trader began to look at products to enhance its VDI deployment and eventually settled on AppSense Inc. for its UEM needs. Auto Trader had not used a specific third-party UEM product previously. It also considered RES Software Inc. among other UEM vendors but found AppSense, which has an office nearby Auto Trader, was willing to tailor products to its needs, Braid said.

Using AppSense Environment Manager, Auto Trader cut the logon times down to under 30 seconds on the virtual desktops.

"When a logon process runs, which we've configured, it runs all the other stuff in the background that you don’t need immediately when you logon," Braid said.

Environment Manager also gives Auto Trader contact center employees the chance to move from one desktop to another without logging off their previous machine. They can simply login to another computer and it picks up that session where it was left off.

Using AppSense to maintain PCI compliance

In early 2015, Auto Trader began using AppSense's Application Manager to aid Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliance within some of its applications. One of Auto Trader's Web-based billing applications is only PCI-compliant in Internet Explorer, so it uses Application Manager to block access to the application in Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox browsers.

With Application Manager 8.9, the latest release of the product, Auto Trader is testing a more granular way of controlling that billing application access. Instead of blocking the entire Web in Chrome, for example, it can now block specific pages of the Web app that are out of PCI compliance. That could be a big step forward for the company user base, Braid said.

"The company is all about giving people the ability to use what they want to use," Braid said. "We don’t force people to use a specific browser. … The new release of the software allows us to configure it in a way that we're not limiting what they can do."

Auto Trader hasn't faced any significant technological problems with AppSense's products, although learning how to do UEM personalization within VDI was a steep learning curve and "a bit tricky" because of so many users needing individual desktop personalization, Braid said.

AppSense Application Manager 8.9 is available as both a standalone product or as part of AppSense's DesktopNow bundle. AppSense declined to provide pricing information for Application Manager or the bundle, referring customers to channel partners. However, DesktopNow was previously reported to cost $125 per user on a perpetual license.

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