Chrome Enterprise

At Ervia, Chromebooks are the start of a cloud-first journey

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Editor’s note: Today’s post is by Seosamh McMahon, Enterprise Architect at Ervia, a commercial semi-state company that provides strategic national gas, water and dark fiber broadband infrastructure and services in Ireland. Employees of Ervia, as well as its subsidiaries Aurora Telecom, Gas Networks Ireland, and Irish Water, are using Chromebooks with Chrome Enterprise license and Citrix to improve productivity and reduce IT maintenance.

In the next five years, Ervia’s country-wide workforce has the potential to grow from just over 1,700 people to thousands more as part of transformation and growth plans in our sector. That’s a challenging number of people to add to our head offices in Cork and Dublin, as well as offices around the country, especially when you think of the work involved in equipping employees with technology. But when these new employees start arriving, we know Chromebooks with Chrome Enterprise will help keep everyone productive and connected, no matter where they’re working.

Even before the potential for our workforce expansion became apparent, we knew we had to replace the aging Windows laptops used by employees who travel between offices. Our virtual desktop software ran very slowly on the laptops—employees told us they’d wait as long as six minutes to get to the Citrix login screen. The laptop battery life was poor, so no one wanted to use their laptops at home or while on the road.

When employees did use the Windows laptops, our help desk fielded a constant stream of calls about boot-up issues, blue screens, and network access. We had a growing stack of old laptops in the help desk offices, waiting to be repaired. We had no way to keep track of laptops as people joined or left Ervia, and no way to easily roll out apps that made work easier.

I reached out to Fourcast, a Google Cloud Premier Partner, for help. The Fourcast team were very proactive in terms of suggesting solutions that would work for our unique needs—and also in asking us the right questions so we wouldn't be caught off guard by unforeseen issues during implementation. Ervia’s IT resources, like those of many companies, are extremely busy, so Fourcast’s guidance during deployment helped us smoothly roll out the new Chromebooks.

We initially replaced 30 Windows laptops with Acer R13 Chromebooks. The word of mouth was so positive that we had a waiting list of people asking for the new Chromebooks. We now have 200 employees using Chromebooks, with another 300 to be rolled out by the end of the year. Going forward, every employee who needs to travel for work will get a Chromebook when they join Ervia, or when their Windows laptops needs replacing.

That big pile of broken Windows laptops in the help-desk office is gone, and support calls have fallen by 75 percent—people only call about very minor issues. Costs have gone down as well: We’re seeing substantial savings by switching from Windows laptops to Chromebooks.

Chrome Enterprise and the Google Admin Console gives us the control and visibility we didn’t have with Windows laptops. We can customize the Citrix login page depending on whether the employee works for Gas Networks Ireland, Irish Water, or central Ervia support functions, and give them access to the work applications they need. With Chrome Enterprise, we can set up a new Chromebook in just a few minutes, and disable devices that are lost or stolen.

Because employees have trouble-free and truly mobile laptops, they view the IT team with much more credibility than before—and they listen to our new ideas for improving workplace technology. Even Chromebooks’ super-fast boot-up time helped win us fans. One person stopped me in the corridor recently and said, “That’s the best thing IT has ever done for us!”

Our long-term plan for Ervia is to become a cloud-first organization. Chromebooks will help us move forward on that journey, especially when we welcome new colleagues in the next five years.