Business Continuity

Contributors

Author: Daniel Feller and Mayank Singh

Most organizations have defined business continuity plans. The success of a business continuity plan is based on how much it impacts the user experience, how well it scales to overcome global issues, and how well it maintains corporate security policies.

Overview

Business continuity allows organizations to enable seamless workforce productivity during any kind of planned or unplanned disruption. The success of a business continuity plan is often based on the following user and business requirements:

User Requirements

  • Ability to access all apps and data to perform job
  • User experience remains the same
  • Ability to be productive with varying network conditions

Business Requirements

  • Ability to rapidly scale to support unexpected need
  • Protect corporate resources from untrusted endpoint devices
  • Easy to integrate with current infrastructure
  • Must not bypass security rules and policies

VPN Risks

Most organizations need a way to provide users with secure remote access to corporate resources without relying on the deployment of VPN-based solutions. VPN-based of solutions are risky because they:

  • VPN Risk 1: Are difficult to install and configure
  • VPN Risk 2: Require users install VPN software on endpoint devices, which might utilize an unsupported operating system
  • VPN Risk 3: Require the configuration of complex policies to prevent an untrusted endpoint device from having unrestricted access to the corporate network, resources, and data.
  • VPN Risk 4: Difficult to keep security policies synchronized between VPN infrastructure and on-premises infrastructure.
  • VPN Risk 5: Once the VPN establishes, traditional client/server applications have extensive bandwidth requirements using native protocols that will quickly overload VPNs and network pipes. As network latency increases, the application responsiveness degrades resulting in an unusable user experience.

Business Continuity Options

Depending on the state of the current infrastructure, an organization can opt for one of the following solutions to provide secure remote access to users during a business continuity event:

Business Continuity Options

Remote PC Access

For many users, the work environment centers on a physical Windows 10 PC sitting under their desk. Remote PC Access allows a remote user to log into their physical Windows office PC using virtually any device (tablets, phones, and laptops using iOS, Mac, Android, Linux, and Windows).

The following Remote PC Access Tech Insight video provides an overview of the solution.

Remote PC Access Tech Insight

Adding Remote PC Access to the business continuity strategy assumes the following:

  • A user’s workspace is based on domain-joined Windows PCs
  • User’s authenticate with Active Directory
  • There is minimal extra data center hardware capacity to accommodate a large virtual desktop (VDI) style deployment

When the user remotely accesses their work PC, the connection utilizes the ICA protocol, which dynamically adjusts to changing network conditions and content. The dynamic ICA protocol provides the best possible experience.

New Deployment

Organizations can easily deploy Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops to provide Remote PC Access to their environment with a minimal deployment footprint, as seen in the following.

Remote PC Access - New Deployment

To add a new environment, the administrator must deploy the following components:

  • Gateway: Secures connections between internal Windows PCs and untrusted end point devices via a reverse-proxy.
  • StoreFront: Provides users an enterprise app store used to launch sessions to authorized resources.
  • Delivery Controller: Authorizes and audits user sessions to Windows PCs.

It is recommended that three components be deployed with redundancy to overcome any single point of failure.

With a new infrastructure deployed, the administrator can perform the following to enable Remote PC Access:

  • Deploys the Virtual Delivery Agent to physical Windows PCs (Automation Deployment Scripts)
  • Creates a new Remote PC Access catalog
  • Assigns users to PCs

Although the Virtual Delivery Agent can be installed on each physical PC manually, to simplify deployment of the Virtual Delivery Agent, it is recommended to use electronic software distribution such as Active Directory scripts and Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager.

Expanded Deployment

An organization can also easily add Remote PC Access to a current Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops environment. This process effectively expands the conceptual architecture as follows:

Remote PC Access - New Deployment

To add Remote PC Access to a current Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops environment, the administrator simply does the following:

  • Deploys the Virtual Delivery Agent to physical Windows PCs
  • Creates a new Remote PC Access catalog
  • Assigns users to PCs

Because users simply access their physical work PC, the organization only needs to consider additional hardware for the access and control layers. These components must be able to accommodate the influx of new users’ requests during a business continuity event.

Identity

Users continue to authenticate with Active Directory, but this authentication happens when the user initiates a connection to the organization’s public fully qualified domain name for Citrix Gateway. Because the site is external, organizations require stronger authentication than a simple Active Directory user name and password. Incorporating multifactor authentication, like a time-based one-time password token, can greatly improve authentication security.

Citrix Gateway provides organizations with numerous multifactor authentication options, which include:

Session Security

Users are able to remotely access the work PC with an untrusted, personal device. Organizations can use integrated Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops policies to protect against:

  • Endpoint Risks: Key loggers secretly installed on the endpoint device can easily capture a user’s user name and password. Anti-keylogging capabilities protect the organization from stolen credentials by obfuscating keystrokes.
  • Inbound Risks: Untrusted endpoints can contain malware, spyware, and other dangerous content. Denying access to the endpoint device’s drives prevents transmission of dangerous content to the corporate network.
  • Outbound Risks: Organizations must maintain control over content. Allowing users to copy content to local, untrusted endpoint devices places additional risks on the organization. These capabilities can be denied by blocking access to the endpoint’s drives, printers, clipboard, and anti-screen-capturing policies.

Results

Because Remote PC Access allows users to connect to their standard Windows PC during a business continuity event, organizations are able to:

  • Provide users access to all apps and data to perform their job. Everything on the user’s Windows PC is accessible with Remote PC Access.
  • Maintain the user experience between normal operations and business continuity events. Users continue to use the same Windows PC in all situations.
  • Remain productive, regardless of location and network conditions. The ICA protocol connecting the user’s end point device to the Windows PC dynamically adjusts based on network conditions to provide the most responsive experience possible.
  • Rapidly scale to support unexpected need. Once the agent gets deployed to the Windows PCs, the administrator can simply enable the Remote PC Access capability.
  • Protect corporate resources from untrusted endpoint devices. Gateway creates a reverse proxy between the end point and work PC. With session policies, administrators can block users from transferring data to/from the work PC and corporate network.
  • Easily integrate with the current infrastructure. Remote PC Access is simply a different type of virtual desktop within the Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops solution.
  • Maintain the same security profile during a business continuity event. Remote PC Access connects users to their office-based Windows PC. Users have the ability to access the same resources, the same way as they were physically in the office.

Citrix Virtual Desktops service

Organizations that want to give users remote access to their physical machines while not having to manage the underlying Citrix infrastructure, can do so by utilizing the Citrix Virtual Desktops service. This service allows admins to rapidly grant users (who go to the office to work) remote access to their workstations via Remote PC Access.

The Citrix Virtual Desktops service can provide access to remote workers or temporary workers (3rd party or consultants) to virtual desktops. The virtual machines can be hosted either in the customer’s data center or in a cloud of their choice.

Both capabilities allow the admins to ensure users are productive, during a business continuity scenario. Users that are used to desktops and workstations in the office, can access them via Remote PC Access from home. Temporary workers and even new staff get access to virtual desktops, which they connect to from anywhere and on any device.

The added benefit of the service is that all the Citrix management components are cloud hosted and are updated with best practices automatically.

Identity

To maintain a user experience similar to the traditional, on-premises model, the user’s identity continues to use Active Directory. The authentication mechanisms are the same as the ones provided in the Remote PC Access scenario.

Data Center Connectivity

For cloud hosted resources, users need to access files and back end resources from their virtual desktops. Connectivity between the cloud resource location and the data center must be established.

Using Citrix SD-WAN, organizations create a secure tunnel between the cloud of the customer’s choice and the on-premises data center. SD-WAN understands the data traversing the tunnel and can properly optimize the traffic to improve application response time and user experience.

New Remote PC Access Deployment

Organizations can easily deploy Citrix Virtual Desktops with a minimal deployment footprint, as seen in the following conceptual diagram.

The diagram shows how Citrix Virtual Desktops service is deployed with Remote PC Access workloads in the customer’s office or data center.

Citrix Virtual Desktops - Remote PC Access

To add a new deployment, the admin performs the following steps:

  • Creates a Citrix account and subscribes to the Citrix Virtual Desktops service.
  • Sets up Citrix Cloud Connectors (at least two) in the on-premises environment and adds the new resource location in the service console.
  • Configures Citrix Gateway service to provide remote access to users.

With the service configuration done, the administrator can perform the following to enable Remote PC Access:

  • Deploys the Virtual Delivery Agent (VDA) to physical Windows PCs (Automation Deployment Scripts)
  • Creates a new Remote PC Access catalog
  • Assigns users to PCs

Once deployed, users authenticate to the environment and receive Remote PC Access to their physical workstations available from any location and from any device.

Expand to the cloud

Organizations can easily extend the Citrix Virtual Desktops deployment to include resources running in the cloud, as seen in the following conceptual diagram.

The diagram shows how Citrix Virtual Desktops service is deployed with virtual desktop workloads in the customer’s cloud of choice.

Citrix Virtual Desktops - Expand to Cloud

To expand the deployment, the admin performs the following steps:

  • Sets up Citrix Cloud Connectors (at least two) in the cloud resource location and adds the new resource location in the service.
  • Deploys and configures the SDWAN instances to be able to connect the on-premises data center.

With the service configuration done, the administrator can perform the following to enable access to the virtual machines:

  • Creates a master image (with the required apps and the VDA installed on it) that will be used to clone the virtual machines.
  • Creates a new virtual machine catalog based on the master image and a delivery group for the catalog.
  • Assigns users to the delivery group.

Once deployed, users authenticate to the environment and receive a cloud-hosted virtual desktop available from any location and from any device.

Results

  • Easily deployed in an environment where no existing Citrix infrastructure is present.
  • Citrix updates and manages the Citrix components including the Cloud Connectors, with best practices. Only the desktop hosts / Remote PC Access machines are managed by the admin.
  • Can bring up an environment in just a few hours and accessible to users from anywhere in the world.
  • Additional users can be added using virtual desktops running in the customer’s data center or a variety of cloud solutions.
  • The user connects to the session over the internet for the last mile (from the nearest Citrix Gateway PoP), the ICA protocol adjusts based on network conditions to provide the most responsive experience possible.
  • Citrix session policies secure the environment by blocking untrusted endpoints from transferring data to and from the Remote PC Access or the virtual desktop

Citrix Managed Desktops

Customers who want to exclusively use cloud to host their business continuity environment can use Citrix Managed Desktops, a Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) offering. This deployment option also works when an administrator does not have time to setup or does not want to manage an on-premises Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops environment.

The entire Citrix Managed Desktops environment is hosted in Microsoft Azure. The Citrix Managed Desktops service can be spun up quickly when the business continuity event occurs. With the monthly pay-as-you-go billing (which includes Azure consumption), the environment can be shut down when no longer needed.

Identity

To maintain a user experience similar to the traditional, on-premises model, the user’s identity continues to use Active Directory. Domain-joined, Active-Directory based deployments of Citrix Managed Desktops allow users to use either of the following options:

  • Option 1: Users authenticate to the organization’s Azure Active Directory, which is synchronized from the organization’s on-premises Active Directory domain.
  • Option 2: Users authenticate to the on-premises Active Directory domain by using an Azure-to-Data Center tunnel created with Citrix SD-WAN.

In most instances, an organization synchronizes the on-premises Active Directory with Azure Active Directory by using the Azure Active Directory Connect utility or sets up trust between the Active Directory Domain Services in Azure with the on-premises Active Directory.

Data Center Connectivity

To be effective, users need to access files and back end resources from their Citrix Managed Desktop. Unless these items are transitioned to Azure, connectivity between Azure and the data center must be established.

Using Citrix SD-WAN, organizations create a secure tunnel between Azure and the data center. SD-WAN understands the data traversing the tunnel and can properly optimize the traffic to improve application response time and user experience.

Deployment

Organizations can easily deploy Citrix Managed Desktops with a minimal deployment footprint, as seen in the following conceptual diagrams.

The first diagram shows how Citrix Managed Desktops are deployed with workloads in Citrix managed Azure and authenticating to Active Directory for user authentication and connected to on-prem with SD WAN:

Citrix Managed Desktops - Citrix Managed Azure and Active Directory authentication with SDWAN

The second diagram shows how Citrix Managed Desktops are deployed with workloads in Citrix managed Azure and authenticating users to an Azure Active Directory or Active Directory Domain Services instance which syncs to or has trust with (respectively) an on-premises Active Directory.

Citrix Managed Desktops - Citrix Managed Azure and Azure Active Directory authentication with AD sync

The third diagram shows how Citrix Managed Desktops are deployed with workloads in Customer managed Azure and authenticating users to an Azure Active Directory or Active Directory Domain Services instance which syncs to or has trust with (respectively) an on-premises Active Directory. Connection to the on-prem location via SDWAN, Site to Site VPN or Express Route.

Citrix Managed Desktops - Customer Managed Azure and Azure Active Directory authentication with AD sync

To add a new deployment, the admin performs the following steps:

  • Sets up VNet peering between the Azure subscription where the machines would be hosted and the organization’s Azure Active Directory (if the machines are in Citrix managed Azure and the authentication is via AAD / ADDS in the customer subscription)
  • Creates and uploads a master Windows image, which contains the required apps
  • Deploys a machine catalog based on the master image
  • Assigns users to the machine catalog

Once deployed, users authenticate to the environment and receive a cloud-hosted managed virtual desktop available from any location and from any device.

Results

  • Easily deployed in an environment where no existing Citrix infrastructure is present.
  • Citrix updates and manages the setup with best practices. Only the desktop hosts are managed by the admin.
  • Can bring up an environment in just a few hours and accessible to users from anywhere in the world.
  • With the cloud scale of Azure, admins can bring up as many machines as needed in short time.
  • The monthly subscription model keeps the cost down by having the machines in the secondary location up and running only when needed.
  • The session is connected on over the super-fast Azure back bone
  • The user connects to the session over the internet for the last mile (from the nearest Citrix Gateway PoP), the ICA protocol adjusts based on network conditions to provide the most responsive experience possible.
  • Citrix session policies secure the environment by blocking untrusted endpoints from transferring data to and from the managed desktop.