It's a cloudy day in Hartford, Conn., today, but this time, it has nothing to do with a host of cumulonimbus clouds rolling into town. The city's resident insurer of the same name today announced that it has signed a 5-year deal with IBM to transition its virtual desktop environment to IBM's Smart Business Desktop Cloud solution.

The Hartford agreed to take on IBM's services in an attempt to become a more cost-efficient and customer-focused organization, IBM says. The implementation of a centralized, virtual desktop cloud is designed to allow The Hartford's employees more flexibility by offering anytime, anywhere access to e-mail and applications.

With 80% of businesses expected to support a workforce using tablets by the year 2013, according to Gartner Research, The Hartford is preparing its infrastructure to support that growing mobile workforce, IBM says.

"Our goal is to simplify core processes and operating mechanisms throughout the organization as we work to become a more customer-centric and efficient company," explains Jim Eckerle, EVP, strategic initiatives & technology, The Hartford. "This technology transformation is another step forward in positioning The Hartford to compete more successfully in the future."

As part of the agreement, IBM will continue to manage The Hartford's data center operations and create a more efficient IT platform by virtualizing its server network at IBM's Boulder, Colo., facility, as well as at The Hartford's own data center in Hartford. Additionally, IBM will install a zEnterprise System to support the development and accessibility of key business applications for global users.

"IBM will leverage cross-company capabilities from research engineers and financial services experts to provide The Hartford the technologies and smarter processes it needs to streamline its IT operations," says Maureen Sweeny, GM, financial services sector, IBM. "In collaboration with The Hartford, IBM will help transform the company's complex computing environment into a more simplified model."

There will be no job impacts at The Hartford as a result of this agreement, according to a release.