Alaska nears completion of Citrix deployment

Alaska is nearing the finish line on a deployment of Citrix network technology that has already helped mobile employees and those in remote offices get better access to more documents.

The new technology, most of which was deployed last year, is for the state's Corrections Department. The technology has made it possible for the department to replace hard copies of legal materials at each facility with a statewide digital law library for inmate use, saving thousands of dollars.

Daniel Roberts, the department’s network administrator, said an identity management system that would allow a single sign-on to the Offender Tracking Information System (OTIS) will be completed in the next few weeks.

OTIS, which he described as the department’s “bread and butter application,” provides information about inmates’ physical descriptions, offense, booking and release dates. But prior to Citrix, retrieving data from OTIS had been “horribly slow” especially for officials in remote offices. A data request could take four minutes for the system to fulfill, and it took just as long to upload information into it, he added.

“The actual effect on our remote locations has been immense,” he said. Queries now take 13 seconds or so for the system to fulfill, rather than minutes.

Department officials are also completing digitization of archived offender records so probation and corrections officers can retrieve information electronically rather than searching for paper files at a central records office or various facilities. Roberts said the Citrix technology allowed the state to move forward with the digital imaging initiative.

State officials began exploring better ways to provide speedier access to the 1,250 users – spread throughout the department’s 13 correctional institutions and 16 probation offices--more than two years ago. Citrix’s technology centralizes applications and storage in a presentation server that displays work on thin-client devices.

The state initially released a request for proposal for a proof of concept model in January 2004. The success of that initiative prompted the release of a second RFP that June for the actual implementation. Actual implementation began one year after the first RFP, in January 2005.

Roberts said Citrix's security gives department officials control over who can gain access to the system, and what data can be encrypted.

Tushar Mutreja, senior manager with Citrix’s state and local government division, said the Alaska department’s use is interesting because of the geographic dispersal and remote locations of it offices.

He said Citrix technology can provide the remote access without sacrificing security. The technology allows an agency to authenticate users and no data ever remains on the device, when used with thin-client devices.

Alaska paid about $90,000 for the Citrix one-time license. But the state has already saved far more in using the technology, creating a strong return on investment.

For example, replacing the law libraries at a dozen or so corrections facilities with a single digital law library that inmates can use from any facility saves about $145,000 in yearly procurement, distribution, maintenance and replacement costs, he said. In partnering with Lexis-Nexis to provide up-to-date legal research materials to inmates, the department satisfies the state mandate in which inmates must have access to such information.

Roberts said secure terminals at each facility connect to the Citrix presentation server in Juneau, which is linked to Lexis-Nexis.

He said another benefit of the digital law library is safety. Previously, he said officers would have to look through the bound legal volumes once a week to make sure no contraband was hidden. “That was always a security concern in the jails,” he said.

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