The London Borough of Barking and Dagenham is rolling out Google Chromebooks to its employees in a bid to cut costs and ensure continuity when Windows XP support ends on 8 April.
It also supports the council’s new IT strategy, which involves making all its systems browser-based and device independent.
“If our apps are browser-based then the logic of using an OS that’s browser-based fits with the strategy vision,” said Rupert Hay-Campbell, Information Communications Technology and Information Governance Officer, London Borough of Barking and Dagenham.
With the looming deadline for Windows XP support, the council started exploring options to counter this in the middle of last year. Barking and Dagenham had to choose between upgrading its 3,500 desktop computers running and 800 laptops running XP, or find a new way of giving employees access to council systems, which are provided by Northgate and Capita.
After conducting a pilot using Chromebooks, the council signed a contract at the end of December to start deploying it to staff. It worked with Google partner Ancoris, which supplied specialist deployment expertise and the Chromebooks for both the pilot and the ongoing deployment.
“Even with an upgrade to Windows 7, our existing desktops needed a fair amount of replacement,” he said.
The council is keeping the screen, keyboard and mouse of each desktop, and will replace the older desktops with the Chromebooks. To date, the council has 350 Chromebooks deployed, and aims to have about 2,000 on the network by June.
However, the council expects to still have 600 desktops, which will be upgraded to Windows 7.
Since not all of the council’s business applications can be accessed directly through a web browser yet, Barking and Dagenham plans to operate a Citrix thin-client model in the short term. This has required the council to make some investment to scale up the capacity of its Citrix environment to prepare for the 3,000 users.
“Our expectation is that we will swiftly move [to browser-based applications],” said Hay-Campbell. “We are looking at the Microsoft Office 365 and Google Apps.”
Nonetheless, some of the council’s applications, such as its SWIFT social care case management system from Northgate, are already browser-based and can therefore be accessed directly on the Chromebooks.
Deploying Chromebooks is expected to help the council save £200,000 by avoiding the cost of upgrading from XP, but another driver for the choice was that CESG, the information security arm of GCHQ, listed the device as an approved device for government use in its most recent security guidance.
Although staff were able to work remotely using Windows XP laptops before, Hays-Campbell added that now even more staff can work flexibly, which will allow the council to use its 60 buildings more flexibly.