While we at CDW are in the business of providing IT solutions and services to our customers, behind the scenes we deal with the same operational issues that other enterprises face. This was never more true than when, earlier this year, our leadership made the decision to close our offices and arrange for all non-essential CDW coworkers to start working remotely.

Learn how CDW can assist with your work from home technology needs.

Over the course of a weekend, our Information Technology teams gained firsthand knowledge of what our customers were either already going through or soon would be. It was a tall order to tackle the enterprise networking, storage, security, collaboration and communication needs to allow 7,100 coworkers to work from home, but our teams rose to the task. Now, we’re sharing our experience with our customers.

CDW’s VDI Deployment Plan

In 2019, we started to migrate to a new Citrix VDI platform to help with scale and performance, working in partnership with CDW’s IT team, our Integrated Technology Solutions team and our partner, Citrix. At the end of February, CDW leadership asked us to start planning for expanded work from home. We quickly looked at our platform and what it would take to scale that to support all coworkers working remotely.

The original plan laid out a four- to six-week timetable to arrange for staff to work from home. But the situation rapidly deteriorated and we suddenly had to accomplish this monumental task over a weekend. Between Friday and Monday, we had to enable thousands to work from home for the foreseeable future.

Like so many organizations, CDW’s remote work infrastructure was built to support approximately 25 percent of the workforce, not CDW’s entire coworker base. While our virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) solution could support 4,000 seats, we never anticipated more than 1,500 to 2,000 people working remotely at one time.

Network Upgrades for WFH

An initial challenge was to implement the necessary upgrades to network infrastructure, firewalls, internet connection, servers and storage to accommodate more than doubling the workload of remote access. Within our data center, we then needed to build out the necessary server, storage and license capacity for up to 7,500 simultaneous VDI users who would be hitting over 6,000 sessions a day.

We were expecting a large increase in the internet traffic from our now-remote coworkers into our environment, so we increased the internet bandwidth from 1 GB to 5 GB to accommodate this. We also moved our website, CDW.com, to a separate 1 GB circuit to remove contention and to support expected higher web transaction volumes.

Extending our network out to so many locations opened us up to new security threats, so one of our first fixes was to roll out new Cisco Firepower next-generation firewalls. Using our web content filtering tools, we blocked access to websites that are not critical to conducting business. We wanted to ensure that bandwidth was available to support our customers.

Collaboration Upgrades for WFH

CDW’s IT and Services organization engineers quickly partnered to develop a plan to deliver a seamless work-from-home experience to our coworkers. To ensure coworkers were able to stay connected to CDW customers and support day-to-day collaboration needs, our combined team upgraded our Cisco phone system to enable coworkers to use Jabber’s remote phone capabilities, allowing our coworkers to take and make calls from their CDW phone using their mobile device.

We worked to ensure that the documentation for all our collaboration tools was up to date, knowing now more than ever these tools would be critical to help support the work from home efforts. With many tools available, we wanted to be sure our coworkers knew about all the options, including Cisco Webex and Microsoft Office 365 tools like Skype, Teams and SharePoint.

Serving Our Customers

Our success can be attributed to the early planning phases when we brought in our services team and our vendors to design the necessary changes to our systems. We would not have had succeeded in such a short time frame without the partnership of these teams. This quick success put our coworkers in a position where they could serve our customers as they struggled to adjust to the new challenges in their businesses and personal lives.