Drawbacks and Benefits of VDI
Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) is software that separates the desktop environment and its applications from the physical device used to access and run the desktop. VDI desktops run on centralized servers, which deploy a desktop to an end user when requested. VDI gives workers anywhere/anytime access to their computing environment, which is pre-determined by IT based on employee role. Most IT organizations maintain several application sets and operating systems (called golden images), each aligned with an employee role type.
VDI Benefits for IT
Simplified Software and Endpoint Management:
Before VDI, IT had to manage every physical end user device and the applications on that device. Software upgrades, patches, new software, anti-virus, etc., had to be applied at the device level, which required considerable time and patience from IT and end users. With VDI, software updates, etc., can all be done centrally, saving huge amounts of time and trouble.
Before VDI, troubleshooting end user computing issues had to be done at the individual device level. With VDI, many issues can be solved by updating the base image and having end users restart a session.
Reduced Endpoint Hardware Costs
Before VDI, end user devices needed to be periodically updated or replaced in order to support new application releases or operating systems. With VDI, because the desktop environment and applications run separately from the physical machine, physical endpoints don’t need to be replaced as often.
Easier Disaster Recovery
Before VDI, when users stored corporate data on their work device, that data could be lost as the result of a disaster. With VDI, applications and data storage are centralized and backed up, retaining precious corporate data.
Before VDI, IT could not prevent end users from personalizing their work devices with screensavers, storing personal files on the device, downloading unauthorized software to their work machine, etc. The consequences of end user personalization ranged from compromised device and application performance, to licensing issues, to cybersecurity issues. With VDI, IT controls the work desktop. Period.
Faster End User Provisioning
Before VDI, IT had to provide newly-hired users with a fully provisioned work device—which meant maintaining an expensive inventory of new machines and software. Supply chain and shipping issues could mean that new workers, whether local or remote, could lose a days of productivity waiting for their new device. With VDI, a user can run a virtual desktop on a personal device from day one, reducing the pressure on IT to have a fully-configured device available on day one for every new employee.
VDI Benefits for Users
Work from Anywhere
Before VDI, even though employees often relied on the productivity applications installed on their physical device, access to legacy applications and corporate data was only possible by being on the corporate network or corporate VPN for remote workers. With VDI, users just need an internet connection to get access to the computing tools they need to do their job. Employees can live and work where they want; organizations can hire the best talent regardless of location.
BYOD (Bring Your Own Device)
Before VDI, employees had to use a corporate-issued device. For many users, that meant learning a new OS and navigating new hardware. It also limited the devices a user could utilize and stay productive. For IT and the company, it meant a significant investment in end user hardware. With VDI, employees can use the device they prefer and are most comfortable with, making them more effective and efficient—and reducing company expenses, too.
Use Multiple Devices
Before VDI, users could be fully productive on their corporate device only. Working using other devices (while traveling for example) was possible, but hampered by limited functionality and clumsy workarounds. With VDI, desktops are optimized for use on many devices, making employees productive on the device that makes the most sense for the situation.
Before VDI, IT would need to engage with an individual end user to diagnose and solve issues, trying the patience of IT and the user. After VDI, many issues can be solved at the image level—all the employee needs to do is restart their session, and the problem is gone.
VDI Drawbacks for IT
Implementation, Deployment, and Management Costs
VDI is highly complex, and startup costs are high in terms of hardware, software, people, and time. Planning and implementation can take many months of focus, to the detriment of IT’s other myriad responsibilities. Employees need to be trained on the new computing paradigm. VDI rollout can also take months and meet with significant employee fear and resistance.
Requires a Specific IT Skillset
Planning, building, implementing, managing, and maintaining VDI requires a specific skillset that’s rare and highly sought-after—and thus highly expensive.
Endpoint Security Concerns
While VDI enables centralization of corporate data, which can be secured more easily, the device an end user utilizes to access a corporate desktop and data is less under IT control than it was before implementing VDI and as such is vulnerable to attack.
Requires an Internet Connection
This may seem obvious, but internet connectivity is fundamental to the success of a VDI implementation. Every user needs a good internet connection in order to access a corporate desktop and have a good user experience. With more employees moving away from corporate headquarters, IT can no longer be confident that every worker has corporate-level internet service.
VDI Drawbacks for Users
Lack of Personalization
If IT is utilizing non-persistent desktops, end users used to personalizing their work machine with screensavers, shortcuts, etc., may chafe when presented with a “vanilla” desktop every day. Persistent desktops retain an end user’s personalization, but managing those desktops creates additional cost for IT, which may not consider the benefit to users to be worth the cost and time to maintain those desktops.
VDI is notoriously bad at enabling local printing. What employees don’t realize is that successful remote desktop printing is the result of the alignment of multiple requirements and dependencies. Unfortunately, most end users don’t care about those dependencies and find the inability to print a constant source of irritation necessitating workarounds that take extra time and may even compromise endpoint security.
Ease of Use
Most end users have only a cursory understanding of VDI and find it difficult and rigid to use (see Lack of Personalization above). This can result in one user opening multiple sessions or resorting to using their local desktop and trying to completely work around the system. Some are unwilling to wait for what can be a lengthy login. This user unhappiness translates into helpdesk calls and reduced productivity.
Requires an Internet Connection
As noted above, VDI will only work with an internet connection—the higher the bandwidth, the better the performance of the desktop. For employees working in a corporate office, high-bandwidth access is not an issue except in unusual circumstances. For traveling and work from home employees, however, high bandwidth is more expensive, or it may be unavailable. Employees working in areas with inadequate internet infrastructure will not get the great user experience their colleagues working at corporate headquarters enjoy.
Resource-intensive applications, like graphic tools, can generate latency, slowing application performance and employee productivity.
As noted above, implementing VDI is a huge and expensive undertaking. IT organizations considering VDI or currently managing a VDI implementation should be prepared to manage and mitigate VDI challenges within the organization to ensure success.
VDI is best for medium to large enterprises where employees use a variety of productivity applications to get their work done. But what about organizations that need to make one or a few applications available to end users—for example, Windows® ISVs? Will an investment in hardware and software infrastructure and employees skilled in managing VDI environments pay off?
If your organization wants to make Windows applications available to customers, consider GO-Global® instead of a VDI solution.
GO-Global enables organizations to publish Windows® applications from any public, private, or hybrid cloud, to any device that supports a browser. Using GO-Global, IT can deliver Windows applications at up to 70% less than VDI solutions. Despite its low cost,GO-Global delivers enterprise-level scalability but is easy to install, configure, and use, with considerably less technology overhead required for implementation, and provides a great user experience, even over a low-bandwidth connection.
To request a demo, click here; for a free 30-day GO-Global trial, click here.