Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) is a technology used to store virtual machines (VMs) on a centralized server in a data center. VDI splits up servers into multiple virtual desktops that users can access remotely from different devices. It is an alternative desktop for cloud solutions that hosting technologies like VMware, Microsoft, and Citrix provide. Virtualization introduces a range of benefits and facilitates a secure platform that is virtually accessible from any location by using a single server to host user desktops. Examples include, but are not limited to:
- Simplified end-user support.
- Cost reduction for software licenses.
- Centralized management and backup.
- Remote access from virtually anywhere.
- Fully secured and monitored the virtual environment.
- Business continuity and disaster recovery efficiencies.
VDI is a proven technology that has helped thousands of organizations around the world lower IT costs by using inexpensive Thin Clients, Zero Clients, or repurposed PCs. However, some VDI deployments do not meet the mark, and for good reason.
This post covers the most common virtualization pitfalls that you can avoid by planning ahead. We shall also talk about how to fix specific mistakes in case they do happen.
Not Seek Professional Assistance
Some businesses are of the view that they can take on any project without external help, and this does not always work out well when planning, executing, and managing a VDI deployment.
Selecting the best solution demands an in-depth technical assessment. Other than considering features, setup, maintenance, licensing, and ongoing support, one should also identify the resources their enterprise needs. For example, Company A plans to provide stateless desktops, Company B prefers to deliver applications via a virtualization tool, while Company C is interested in DaaS (Desktop-as-a-service). Clearly, there are many tools and techniques to factor in.
What to do: the system you opt for should support industry-grade operating systems on the VM and endpoint sides. Here is a case in point: some services can host Windows but not Linux. When it comes to the endpoints, virtualization tools support a wide range of operating systems, including Linux, Windows, and Mac OS. Several VDI products also support mobile endpoints such as Android and iOS devices.
Next, confirm if your clients require a display control other than Microsoft RDP. Do you need to support Web-based access to your virtual desktops? What about integrating support Microsoft Hyper-V or graphics processing unit virtualization?
The list does not end here. Include availability and reliability in the formula and evaluate the architecture you need to support desktop virtualization. For example, what level of Active Directory integration do you require? Would you like to choose between IPv4 and IPv6, or will you go for both?
Only the best vendors can answer all these questions. So, your checklist should look something like this:
- Customer Support
A good company must provide both onsite and remote services. Although service providers can resolve most issues remotely, they should be able to send a technician to your location if need be.
- Proven Experience
At the end of the day, experience matters. Partner with a professional vendor that ideally matches your project scope.
- Engineering Know-How
Work with experienced network engineers who can keep your systems running consistently and securely.
Your vendor must understand the importance of information security and the consequences of compromised intellectual property. Make sure they document their security policies and processes to protect client data, financial records, email, and similar details.
What not to do: fall for sales pitches where vendors convince you to go for unnecessary products, solutions, and management software. You can prevent this once you have a clear understanding of user-profiles, needs, and objectives. Everyone interacts differently with VDI, so customize the technology accordingly and monitor performance to see how accurately you have addressed their demands.
Neglecting Staff Training
Assume you have implemented VDI, and you are figuring out what to do next. Understanding how to use it to its full potential is as important as knowing the features and benefits you receive. Failing to set user expectations can lead to many problems in the future.
What to do: inform your teams about the changes you plan to introduce in the workplace and ask for feedback. Once everyone is on the same page, train them to use virtual desktops, whether from smartphones, over the VPN, with their respective credentials, and where they can save their files. Ask users to communicate any issues they may experience along the way, such as slow logon times, application latency, etc. In a pilot test, create a ‘VDI Challenges’ page on your intranet if you have collaboration capabilities via Google Sites for Sharepoint. This provides an outlet for your end-users to log problems on.
Conduct research on how to mitigate the risks of system outages. Use redundant servers, storage, routers, network connections and switches, and images. While a virtualized environment is nearly flawless, figure out what you need to do if it crashes unexpectedly. Do you have backups such as on-site maintenance, support contracts, and a Plan B for employees to access their virtualized desktops? Perhaps, the IT department can set up a physical server for them to connect and work from.
At the end of the day, recognize your users as project stakeholders and map their activities into a VDI rollout for optimal results.
What not to do: never jump the gun when it comes to deploying VDI. Divide the process into stages, work around each, and request continuous feedback. Once again, highlight your priorities and understand user habits and end goals to make the most of your initiative.
Poor Resource Management
Generally, businesses make the move to virtualization because of the cost savings it brings. Sometimes, in an effort to save money, companies do not spend on the resources required to achieve optimal results. As a result, they set themselves up for disappointment when they encounter VDI performance issues and challenges along the way.
Remember that your VMs require sufficient CPU, memory, storage, and network bandwidth. So, do not facilitate the resources they need today or tomorrow because this can result in under-provisioning or over-provisioning. Planning on the basis of current usage is not as complicated, but things do get tricky when taking the long run into account. Conduct research on VDI storage and networking and build out your infrastructure for a whole year or three from now. Check how your technologies are utilized before, during, and after the rollout. This will provide valuable insight into what your VDI components should be doing versus how they are actually performing. Familiarize yourself with your network traffic, subnets, and the host and applications that run across these. In this way, you can stay prepared even if any discrepancies do arise.
What to do: do not worry about incurring slightly higher costs at the initial stage if you want to prevent IT pain and anxiety in the long run. Prioritize end-user acceptance, experience, and satisfaction, and you will find yourself investing in the right resources. For instance, an architectural company putting more upfront money into graphics virtualization avoids the long-term expenses of managing unhappy employees struggling with managing low-resolution workloads.
What not to do: purchase all-new hardware to accommodate data centers and end users if there are existing resources. This does not mean that you should skimp on having adequate IT assets. The key is to make full use of what is currently available where applicable. For example, in a BYOD initiative, an employee can connect to a Windows virtual desktop from a tablet or mobile device, and not necessarily a computer. Note that this also depends on your network and remote access abilities.
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