Eversheds Sutherland Ireland is a full-service international law firm, serving a predominantly business client base.
In a competitive legal market like Ireland’s, the firm looks to differentiate itself with technology and has formulated a strategy of ‘the user is the office’. To achieve this goal successfully, it needed to ensure it could deliver a very resilient, universal desktop experience to users regardless of where they are working from.
As a law firm that relies on access to its documents and the productivity of fee earners, the firm was also keen to address its business continuity planning. Previously, this had involved needing to procure desktop and server hardware ready to invoke at a backup site. However, this was a highly expensive
approach that involved planning for excess capacity and committing large capital expenditure to the project.
To address the firm’s needs, Eversheds Sutherland Ireland looked to its IT partner SureSkills, which proposed a virtual desktop infrastructure built on the VMware Workspace One platform, part of the VMware Horizon suite. This is hosted on the IBM Cloud. This acts as the firm’s remote access solution while also meeting its BCP requirements. It gives the characteristics of enterprise architecture within an organisation’s own data centre but using cloud scale to deliver capability.
Eversheds Sutherland Ireland can run 50 concurrent users on its virtual desktop infrastructure as currently configured, and in the event that it needs to invoke its business continuity plan, it can quickly spin up the additional capacity to deliver an agreed specification of desktops to every single person in the firm.
Many of Eversheds Sutherland Ireland’s lawyers like to work in a two-screen configuration: one display to compare large documents side by side and the other for communication tools.
They also rely heavily on audio, either for phone conferences or dictation. However, the firm’s previous remote access solution delivered an inferior desktop experience. VMware Workspace One delivers a seamless experience. “When I first connected, I couldn’t really tell difference between my own desktop and the VDI. I can fire up on iPad and continue to work as if I’m on the desktop,” says Nicholas Eustace, IT director at Eversheds Sutherland Ireland. “The VDI implementation has enabled audio across the network so we can continue to use our soft phones. It’s keeping this idea of ‘the person is the office’ so they should have everything with them. With the previous VDI, it was always messy to jump between screens, or else it wouldn’t work, whereas now we have full audio and dictation capabilities,” Eustace Sutherland adds.
As of April 2019, the VDI implementation is going through final test of images and is being rolled out to a core group of partners. From there, the test group will expand to 30 people in the firm who will continuously use the solution, and stress-test it to ensure the configuration delivers what the firm needs.
Eversheds Sutherland Ireland has realised significant cost savings by not having to build expensive IT hosting, power and air conditioning infrastructure to serve more than 350 people in the event of invoking a full BCP plan. Because the VDI infrastructure is delivered via the cloud, the firm only pays for what it consumes, and can scale up or down accordingly. If it needs to add more storage or desktops as it grows, it can easily do so at a more incremental cost. It has also saved on renting physical floor space in a backup location, which can be as high as €50 per square metre in parts of Dublin city centre.
The VDI project has given the firm full flexibility in enabling its staff to work from any location, making its people as productive as possible. That’s especially crucial for a legal firm that earns much of its revenue by hourly rates to clients. In addition, it meets the overall business strategy that “the person is the office”.
In this respect, the new VDI infrastructure is a definite competitive advantage. “If the firm takes on a large case that requires partners and fee-earners to be based close to the client, they can easily set up in nearby accommodation and all they need is internet connectivity to access their files just as they would if they were in the office,” says Eustace.
Legal firms by their nature are highly reliant on documents, and the volumes of data they consume and generate is growing all the time. With a cloud-based infrastructure, it’s simple and cost-effective to add more terabytes of storage as needed.
SureSkills delivered the project to an aggressive deadline of less than eight weeks, and its experience of working with other law firms was an advantage throughout the project. “What really sold it to me was the rapid timeline,” says Eustace. “In SureSkills, we have a vendor that knows the constraints in our industry and can advise on what’s possible and they know not to steer us in certain directions,” he adds.
Eustace concludes: “What we want to achieve in the long term – and we’re almost there now – is that we’re constantly in a state of BCP. No matter what users are connected to, it’s a highly flexible VDI and cloud infrastructure that’s always on. You just know that it’s working all the time and that’s the state of readiness we want to get to. I know that, come a BCP event, it’s working 100 per cent and it’s ready for the users.”
We have worked with SureSkills for a number of years and consider them to be a key strategic partner when it comes to our IT environment. The SureSkills team has consistently exceeded our expectations from an operational, service delivery and management perspective, and their depth and breadth of technical knowledge continues to add value to our team.
Nicholas Eustace, IT Director, Eversheds Sutherland