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8 Reasons Why Your Business Should Consider VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure)
Virtual Desktop Infrastructure or VDI is becoming more and more prevalent within architectural, engineering and construction businesses because it is providing companies with new ways of working and managing their staff.
One of the main ways VDI is impacting the way businesses work is the fact that it allows companies to collaborate across large distances; even between countries and time zones. This therefore provides businesses with greater flexibility and improves productivity.
In addition to this, VDI is increasingly being adopted because technology is allowing for it eg with more compute power being provided in a smaller footprint or via cloud services. But what is Virtual Desktop Infrastructure and how does it allow for all of this?
What is VDI?
At its simplest, VDI is the virtualisation of a user's desktop on a centralised server instead of using resources via a device like a laptop, PC or workstation. VDI still requires a user to have a device to access the virtualised desktop operating system, but the workloads remain on the centralised server. This means that the only data the user typically receives is the input and output data sent and received via a keyboard, mouse and display.
VDI can be either implemented internally within an organisation on dedicated hardware, hardware within a data centre, or what is becoming more common, on a cloud service. Each of these options have their benefits and drawbacks, so like any IT infrastructure or business project, they need to be thought through. One VDI solution doesn’t fit every business case.
When it comes to VDI, there are two main methods to delivering it: persistent and non-persistent.
- Persistent sessions provide each person with their own desktop which can be customised and saved for future use, much like a traditional physical desktop.
- A non-persistent desktop provides a pool of uniform desktops that users can access when needed, very much like Microsoft’s traditional Terminal Services (now Remote Desktop Services), which reset when the user logs out.
Each of the methods above have their advantages and disadvantages, and in some instances, VDI may not be the appropriate solution. So how do you determine whether VDI is appropriate for your business? This is where a business case should be drawn up to help. The first step would be to understand the benefits that VDI can provide.
What are the benefits?
- Flexibility – VDI allows users to access their desktop from almost anywhere on any device as long as
that user has an internet connection. VDI provides the flexibilty for users to not only work from outside of the office, but in scenarios where it is difficult to set-up due to limited access or time. Examples include working within a 3rd party site where access may be limited, having a number of people temporarily assigned at different times to work, or for projects that only run for a short period or require a quick set-up.
- Access and Compatibility – because VDI only sends basic input and output data, it can be accessed on almost any device (depending on the VDI platform) eg mobiles, tablets, single-board computers like a Raspberry Pi, thin clients, Chromebook or a standard home machine. Due to the fact that VDI is accessible on almost any device, it allows you to access software that wouldn’t normally be available to you. An example would be using VDI to access Windows based software on a Mac like Autodesk Revit.
- Collaboration – by moving workloads to a centralised location, users can collaborate on files across multiple sites as if they were in the same office sitting next to each other. This can be particularly useful on large file applications like those used within an architectural design practice or remote sites where access and devices are limited eg construction sites.
- Security – as stated, VDI only sends basic input and output data so sensitive company and customer data never leaves the VDI environment. This makes VDI inherently secure as not only does it still contain all the standard security models that a desktop has like anti-virus, restricted access, sandboxing, it also means that company data is not sent down the network connection.
- Management – managing physical desktop machines can be a real headache as you have to consider hardware and system model requirements. VDI can help reduce this management by allowing you to package up specific applications which users can access individually as if they were installed on their local desktop. Not having to worry about different hardware or system models also helps with a standard driver incorporated across the VDI estate.
- Reduce costs – reducing costs with VDI can be a bold claim and needs to be carefully thought about with all areas it is involving. A true return of investment (ROI) model however can show that VDI reduces expenditure on client devices, energy costs, and even staff costs as it allows you to spend in other areas of your business.
- Migrations – traditionally, migrations for businesses can cause disruption to users meaning a
reduction in efficiency until complete. VDI can help users migrate to new platforms by allowing testing and users to move when they are able to. This could be by running different operating systems allowing users to switch simply by logging out and back in, or selecting the platform or application they wish to run on.
- Increased performance – users can see improved performance because of VDI. This will mainly be because the VDI servers are closer to the data source and therefore have a higher bandwidth available to them, but it could also be because they have a larger pool of resources to draw from. VDI works on the basis that not all users will need 100% of their resource all the time and so by balancing usage, all users are likely to see an improved experience.
Things to consider
All these benefits make Virtual Desktop Infrastructure a very appealing prospect and could pose the question
"Why doesn’t every business run a VDI solution and ditch the traditional workstation and office-based model so many of us are accustomed to?".
Well like all solutions, there is not one-fit for all and it also has its disadvantages that businesses need to be aware of before venturing down the VDI road...
The one item of infrastructure VDI is most reliant on is network connection. Without a reliable and well performing network connection, VDI doesn’t work. Some of this is difficult to control as end users could be at home or on a mobile network. Because of this, troubleshooting and incidents can be difficult to trace and resolve.
Beyond the hardware estate comes the applications installed on the VDI estate and their software licensing requirements, as not all products can be easily licensed within a virtual environment. A prime example is Autodesk which has stated that single user licenses must be used and a term within the EULA states you cannot use it over an Internet or WAN connection, which effects the bulk of VDI users.
A prime example of the software licensing but also application compliance is Windows 10. Windows 10 has very specific licensing rules when virtualising and cannot be done in a shared hardware estate, hence a majority of estates are based on Windows Server software which is skinned to look like Windows 10. The issue there is that a large amount of applications are not officially supported on Windows 10 including the majority of Autodesk products, therefore if you have an issues you may not receive the support you want.
So, from everything that has been said, it can be difficult to confirm if Virtual Desktop Infrastructure or VDI is right for your business. Even if the benefits sound a good fit to you, the work required and upheaval can sometimes be too much to investigate which is what Symetri are here to help you with.
We can look to put together simple budgets, designs and plans to examine if VDI or another solution may be the right fit for your business requirements, and we have a number of options to test the waters without large commitments both in time and money.
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