How Landform Turned Working From Home Into a Competitive Advantage

By Kevin A. Walgren
Landform
Technology Lead

Landform Company Background
Landform is a Minnesota land development and civil engineering firm with 40+ employees. Their engineers access and share large CAD files from multiple offices, throughout the region, across the country, and now from the comfort of their own homes.

Working From Home Business Challenge
During the initial phase of the Stay Home/Stay Safe order we found that our larger CAD files caused slow-downs and inefficiencies for our teams. This immediately led to frustrations and a loss of productivity. Some files were taking over 20 minutes to load. The typical home broadband speed and capacity was simply outmatched by the size of our CAD files.

What Was The Most Challenging Aspect of Managing Work From Home?
At the time, we thought we were reasonably positioned to be successful. We were already using Microsoft Teams and Microsoft 365 pretty efficiently, but the Stay Home/Stay Safe order demonstrated that we needed a better solution. Our work from home VPN’s turned out to be slow and with limited productivity. Everyone working from home had internet solutions that were all over the board but not as fast or efficient as what we were used to in the office. During the COVID19 crisis our challenge became clear: how can the Landform team work remotely and not be limited by their cable bandwidth and our VPN and what could we do to make sure our team was still as efficient as they were in the office using the LAN?

Why is WAN Acceleration So Important to Landform?
As a land development and civil engineering firm with over 40 employees, we need to access large CAD files. But, during the initial phase of the Stay Home/Stay Safe order we found that our larger CAD files caused slow-downs and inefficiencies for our teams. This immediately led to frustrations and a loss of productivity. Some files were taking over 20 minutes to load. The typical home broadband speed and capacity was simply outmatched by the size of our CAD files.

What Were Some of the Key Considerations When Evaluating the CSG Solution?
I had worked with Mark and CSG in the past and was familiar with their style of work and the products they represented. I contacted Mark to explain what we were up against and after listening to my story he simply said, “I’ve got a solution for you.” Everything was easy and their approach was smart. Our first step together was to complete a site assessment with our multiple Landform offices from downtown Minneapolis to Elk River and Eagan – where we identified our current technologies, platforms, apps, equipment, and employees/users. Mark then provided me a proposal that would meet our needs and was more affordable than some of the other solutions that we were looking into.

CSG’s SteelHead solution came pre-configured for our system. The pre-configured set-up is, in my estimation, worth its weight in gold. Having CSG pre-configure it for Landform based on the site assessment saved us so much time. I think CSG is one of the few companies that actually configures the devices for their customers.

CSG’s solution included a Client Accelerator and licenses for SteelHead Mobile Client. It was a simple set up. The installation took us less than 30 minutes from the time it arrived until we were up and running. It would have taken even less time but there was an error on my part during install. So I called Kevin from CSG and he easily walked me through correcting the issue.

Our agreement with CSG included a “Proof of Concept” to test it out on our system to make sure it worked as promised. I tested it on my workstation in our downtown Minneapolis office and it worked as promised. After the test I literally moved it from my office to the data center. Nothing had to change on our network. Procedures didn’t need to change. It’s just a simple, cost-effective solution that begins working immediately.

Then, we tested it with one of our heaviest civil engineers with some of our largest CAD files. During the early days of the Stay Home/Stay Safe order, he had experienced CAD files taking 20 minutes or so to load. Like most people, his home internet connection was about 100mb down and 10mb up. Once our client was installed, he discovered that he could access his files just like he was working in any of our Landform offices without increasing his bandwidth. LAN-like speeds from home.

How Has Your Landform Team Benefited?
For our CAD team at Landform, CSG’s SteelHead solution was a Hail Mary. The client accelerator solved 90% of our working from home frustrations by utilizing de-duplication and bandwidth optimization. The Client Accelerator turned out to be the difference maker. We needed a way for our work from home team to experience that same efficiency and productivity that they were used to whether in the Elk River, Eagan or Minneapolis office. The Client Accelerator enabled us to do that.

For example: for one of our engineers to open one of our largest CAD files, the difference was now 90 seconds to open versus over 20 minutes before the CSG SteelHead/client accelerator solution was installed. The rest of the Landform team has also noticed that their home connections to our server are noticeable faster too.

One of the other challenges we faced was that we didn’t want to take any additional room on our infrastructure to host another VM for the Virtual Mobile Controller. CSG resolved this issue by hosting it on their infrastructure for us. Our Controller on their infrastructure simply hands out client accelerator licenses as our users connect to our VPN.

In What Ways Does the CSG Solution Enhance Your Competitive Advantage?
As we look forward to the future with our clients, we can see so many possibilities for this solution to increase our productivity, to share larger files in real time from anywhere, anytime. Whether our civil engineers, landscape architects or urban planners are working from home, partnering with consultants regardless of location, to engineers working in the field––we finally have a solution that is in alignment with how we really do business. It brings us all together as if we were in the same office––enabling us to create memorable places for our clients whether we work in our Minneapolis, Eagan or Elk River office.

Kevin, Any Final Thoughts?
I shared with Mark that this solution was ultimately going to make me a zero or a hero not only with Landform’s clients, but with our team. I can honestly share that I feel like a hero. The entire team with Landform is very happy with CSG and the SteelHead solution. It’s like the “secret sauce” to help us be successful, efficient and seamless. It was the right choice with the right cost at the right time!

Mark Schlicher from CSG Added a Few Insights From his Perspective:

Kevin explained his business challenge to me and it was one that we had already helped other customers resolve. Kevin’s challenge, however had a little twist in that he did not have any additional server space available to host his Steelhead Virtual Mobile controller, and a physical controller was outside the scope of their budget. Since this is essentially a license server, we offered to host the Virtual controller for them, while also giving Kevin login access to view the performance reports provided in the Virtual Steelhead Mobile controller.

CSG offered Landform a “Proof of Concept” for Two Reasons:
1. We know that companies can’t afford to make a mistake.
2. We believe in this solution so we had every confidence it would resolve Landform’s business challenge.