10 Advantages to Outsourcing Virtual Desktops – VDI

  1. Setting up Virtual Desktops is not easy. By outsourcing you don’t need the expertise, or the time to design, tune and manage the infrastructure. Just make sure your provider has the experience and does dozens of these builds each year. Make sure they have a proven process and are not learning on your dime.
  2. Outsourced hosted infrastructure is highly available. Check the SLA of your provider. They are undoubtedly more scalable and using enterprise class equipment to run your infrastructure. They can keep you up and running.
  3. Reduce your startup costs. By outsourcing you don’t have to make a huge investment in new hosting infrastructure that WILL NEED TO BE REPLACED in a couple of years. You spend your OPEX (operating expense) dollars not CAPEX (capital expense) dollars. Doing this yourself internally is going to be a lot more expensive than outsourcing it. Your provider has already made the capital expenditure in hardware and software.
  4. The migration to VDI will be faster. You might be able to do it yourself but an outsourced provider can do it much faster. It might take your internal team up to a year to test and roll out a VDI infrastructure. If you outsource you can be up and working in weeks.
  5. Scaling is incremental and fast. When you build your own infrastructure, you need to plan in excess capacity for growth and outages. To add additional users, you might need to add a lot of hardware and software. Doing it yourself, you can’t just shoehorn in a couple of extra users. An outsourced provider can scale up quickly AND SCALE DOWN quickly in the event of a business downturn. If you do it yourself and need to scale down, what will you do with the excess capacity? Let it sit idle? We all know the economy is cyclic, there will be another recession. Do you want to make a huge investment in hardware now? Your outsourcer can add users one at a time without having to purchase additional hardware. For example, if you have 5 interns coming in for the summer, if you outsource you can add 5 VDIs for three months and when they leave just remove them. How would you do that if you were building your own? You would need to over-design your solution to accommodate peak usage that sits idle most times.
  6. By outsourcing, your costs are known and fixed. Doing it in-house there are always going to be unknown costs and labor. By outsourcing, you know what to expect. You also know what it will take (and cost) to add more capacity.
  7. Outsourcing makes it easier to pilot the technology. By outsourcing, you can try the technology quickly in a matter of days. You can set up a 10-person pilot and later change your mind, you don’t have to make a huge investment of time and money to try a new technology.
  8. Your vendor has established relationships with the major software vendors like Citrix and VMware and Microsoft. Choose an outsourced provider that works with the major VDI technologies. Make sure to pick a vendor that has an in-house R&D team looking at and testing the newest technology. Ask if you are married to a single solution or technology or whether you can switch platforms.
  9. Look for an outsourced provider that has proven experience doing this type of work. An experienced vendor can build an infrastructure that is more scalable, more secure, more reliable, using better hardware than you can build on your own. Make sure they have in-house experts with certifications and relationships with VDI vendors
  10. If you need to collaborate with outside firms, can your vendor quickly and easily connect multiple firms in a “project cloud” and become the “IT Hub” for everyone? Can your vendor provide a neutral collaboration technology that can enable multiple firms to work together as though they are sitting in the same office working on the same local area network? This would be very hard to do yourself, you would become the IT company for all the collaborating firms, do you want to do that?

I hope these 10 reasons open your eyes to the advantages of working with an outside vendor to test and implement virtual infrastructure and technology. For more information or for a free virtual desktop demo, Contact Advance2000.

We Make IT Easy.

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Back to Basics: Safeguarding Your Business – Backups and Disaster Recovery

How long can your firm afford to be out of business? How long will it take to recover from a technology disaster? You should protect your data and your business with a proven secure online backup and disaster recovery solution.

Other than your employees, your data is the most important part of your business. Just backing up your data is not enough. You need to have a plan to get your business up and running quickly in the event of a technology failure.

Did you know that rebuilding a file server from scratch and restoring all its data can take a week or more? Is your business ready for that? Are your clients ready to wait days while you restore their data?

How long can your business afford to be out of commission? 1 day? 1 week? 1 month? The statistics vary, but a significant number of businesses that experience a disaster do not survive. A written and tested Disaster Recovery Plan combined with data backup mitigates your risk.

Three important steps to safeguard your business

Step One: Set up secure online offsite backup. Online Backups protect your data by safely and securing replicating your files and data to the cloud. Understand what you are buying, is it 30, 60, 90 or unlimited days of backup? Make sure your backups are stored geo-redundantly, that is in more than one location. You can’t afford for your backup to be inaccessible in case a regional outage takes down your office AND your backup provider.  Get your backups OUT OF THE OFFICE.  At a minimum, do not keep your backups in the same location as your live data.  That is trouble waiting to happen.

Step Two: Create a Disaster Recovery Plan. Disaster recovery is restoring your technology infrastructure (after a disaster) to insure that your business keeps working. Consider using an online Disaster Recovery site. There are cold, warm or hot disaster recovery sites that can allow your business to keep working. Understand the differences between them and choose the right site depending on your budget and tolerance for risk. If you depend on your employees being productive and billable, you cannot afford to have them to sit idle while you repair or replace broken equipment.

Step Three: Test, Test, Test. Testing and reporting is part of any good backup or disaster recovery plan. You must regularly test your solutions to insure they work and that they are protecting your business. Don’t ASSume that you are safe, test.

If you work with a provider that offers both online backup and online disaster recovery, you can start with online backup, and later add disaster recovery along with your online backups. This way you will never pay for additional services you don’t need. You can grow from a simple online backup into a full disaster recovery solution easily and without risk. Your solution provider can also help you design and document your disaster recovery plan. Safeguard your investment in equipment and people.

Questions to ask your backup provider:

What is the RTO (Recovery Time Objective) – how long will I be down?
What is my RPO (Recovery Point Objective) – how much data is acceptable for me to lose? 1 hour, 4 hours, 1 day?
Do you have High Availability Solutions? Can your DR site take over running my business instantly?
Geo-Redundant Storage – Is my data stored in multiple locations?
Testing and Reporting – How often do you test backups and how do I know they work?
Safe Secure Datacenters – Where is my data being stored? What safeguards do you have in the datacenter?
Low cost – what is a fair price for backup? What does my downtime cost? Compare the two and decide.  Balance risk and cost.  Don’t go cheap, you can’t afford it.
DR / Business Continuity Planning Services – Do you offer both Backup and DR or just one. Can you help me write a disaster recovery plan?
Easy to use? – What is the user interface like, who monitors my backups, do I get alerts if they fail?
How long have you been in business? Will you go out of business with my data?
If I change providers, what happens to my data? Will they give it to you? Does it disappear? Most providers have a window of time they will keep your data, do you need longer term archive in addition to backup?
Can you ship my data on a drive? If you have to perform a large restore, you will not be able to do it over the Internet. Can they overnight a drive with your data? For what price?

Do you need help with backup or DR?  Contact Us and Advance2000 can help you protect your business.

January 2017 Newsletter

Benchmarking Virtual Desktops (VDI)

Benchmarking is a way to compare the performance of one device versus another using a standardized test.  Benchmarking applications eliminate the human factor to measure only the performance of a device or application running on that device.

Benchmarking is strictly a device or application measurement.  It measures performance of the hardware or an application on that hardware. It allows us to compare the relative performance of one hardware platform versus another.  We can measure whether one platform performs better or worse than another.  We can also use a benchmark to compare the performance of old versus new technology.

Benchmarking does not allow you to predict how well a person will perform using a particular piece of hardware.  A talented employee might still work faster and accomplish more on a slower piece of hardware than another less skilled employee.  One thing for certain is that giving the most talented most productive users better equipment will boost their performance even more.  When the performance difference between old and new technology becomes too great then it is time to replace older equipment to regain the competitive edge. Benchmarks can be used to measure application performance and help us judge how well an application will perform on a specific platform.  It will also allow us to compare the performance of the application between competing platforms.  Benchmarks do a good job of eliminating the human factor which is hard to control.

While testing new technologies, and developing new ways to work, we constantly benchmark new products and new technologies.  We measure overall performance as well as price/performance.  We use benchmarks to give us an objective way to compare technologies and to give us an indication of how the technology will perform in the real world compared to what we are currently using.

What DOES A BENCHMARK measure?

There are many things we can benchmark.  We can benchmark

  • Application performance
  • Storage speed
  • RAM speed
  • CPU performance
  • GPU performance

There are many commercial applications available that we can use to benchmark desktops and compare relative performance.  Here are some we use:

  • PCMark 8
  • 3DMark 11
  • 7-Zip
  • wPrime
  • Cinebench
  • Geekbench
  • Revit RFO Benchmark – application benchmark
  • Cadalyst CAD Benchmark – application benchmark

Keep in mind that a benchmark does not precisely reflect real life usage.  But it does give an indication of how well the same person will perform on one workstation versus another.  In real life, you can never realize 100% of the speed difference between competing platforms. But you can be reasonably sure the same person working on a faster workstation will be faster.  Even if the difference is minutes over the course of the day, time savings adds up over the weeks and months to yield real dollar benefits.

An application benchmark is used to compare application performance on one workstation versus another and eliminates the human factor. However, a person cannot work like a benchmark, so things that affect a benchmark might never affect the live performance of a person.  There is always going to be a human factor, but an automated application benchmark can demonstrate and measure the true device performance difference.

USING BENCHMARKS TO SHOW ROI

For example, I evaluated a new workstation for my company that benchmarked 20% faster than my existing workstations.  The new workstation was expensive at about $4500 each.  Is it worth it?  How long until I see a payback on my investment?

I calculated productivity first. I thought my staff might see 10% improvement in speed using the new workstation, about half the benchmarked speed difference of 20%.  I knew a human could never capture 100% of the difference in speed.

Productivity Measurement

480     min / day (8 hours/day x 60 min/hour)
x 95% billable time target (allow for 24 minutes of wasted time/day, bathroom, water cooler etc.)
= 456 billable minutes / day
45.6 minutes / day saved (10% savings)
x $1.67 / minute ($100 /hour average staff billable rate)
===
$76.15 estimated savings per day per person in gained productivity by using a 20% faster workstation

Next I looked at the cost of the workstation and payback / break even calculation.

New Workstation Cost

$4,300 new workstation cost
$195 labor to install / swap out (3 hours @ $65/hour)
=$4,495 total new workstation cost

$76.15 savings / user / day
about 60 days to break even ($4,495 / $76.15/day)

So in about 3 months (20 work days / month) I could recover the cost of the new workstation paid by the gains in staff productivity.  Even if I estimated incorrectly and my productivity gains were only half what I thought (5% versus 10%), I would still break even in about 6 months.  If each machine had a usable life of 3 years (conservatively) then buying the faster workstation was a no brainer. I presented this calculation to management, got the ok, ordered the new machines and our productivity shot off the charts, not to mention everyone loved me for giving them a newer faster workstation.

VDI versus Desktop PC

Advance2000 specializes in providing Cloud Based Virtual Desktops or VDIs (Desktops as a Service) to the AEC industry.  Can a VDI show comparable performance to a physical high powered workstation? Can it really compete with hardware sitting under your desk?

Using benchmarks, we can demonstrate that a VDI workstation can go head to head in performance with a physical workstation.  And, along with matching performance you also gain all the other benefits of a VDI, such as lower maintenance costs, faster to deploy, BYOD, and complete mobility.  Is it time to rethink your hardware strategy and consider going 100% cloud based virtual workstations for your workstation needs?

Let’s take a closer look…

How does a virtual workstation (VDI) compare to a physical workstation in terms of performance?

In the last 3 years, VDI performance has improved for several reasons.

  • The first and most significant change was the development of vGPU or virtual graphics card.  This allowed a VDI to use a physical graphics card shared among several VDIs.  Using a real graphics card instead of a virtualized GPU in our VDI, we can greatly enhance graphics performance and eliminate the cursor lag that was characteristic of remote and virtual technologies for so long.
  • The second development was the constant improvement in the quality and availability of bandwidth.  Bandwidth costs continue to drop and bandwidth speeds continue to improve with offerings like Google Fiber and Verizon FIOS.  This allows companies to buy more and better quality bandwidth for the same or lower cost.  Good bandwidth is essential to a good VDI experience.
  • Finally, hyper converged infrastructure, that is storage, computing, networking, and virtualization all on a single physical host greatly improves VDI performance by eliminating the network hop and also helps to control costs.

These factors have improved VDI performance making it competitive with physical workstations.

Next, let’s look at some benchmark numbers and see how they compare.

I will share the benchmarks of some of the newest VDIs we provide for our clients.  You can run the same benchmarks on the hardware at your own company and see how you compare.

For this comparison, I ran the RFO Revit Benchmark v2.1.  This is a benchmark provided by RevitForum.org.  It is available here.  http://www.revitforum.org/hardware-infrastructure/26519-rfo-benchmark-v2.html

This benchmark uses a script to run Revit 2016 (or 2017), a popular design authoring tool used by architects and engineers.  Lower numbers are FASTER and BETTER.

Workstation TypeRFO Revit Benchmark 2016 Standard
Standard Test SetRendering Test
Lenovo P50 Workstation* (32GB Physical Laptop Workstation 2016)200.83105.42
Entry Designer VDI (16 GB)193.55163.05
Designer VDI  (32 GB)191.34182.21
Cloud 3.0 VDI (32 GB)160.63103.75
Cloud 4.0 VDI (our latest 32 GB)138.3766.88

*Lenovo P50 is a mobile workstation class computer.

Conclusion

Recent improvements in VDI design have really pushed the performance of virtual machines to the point they can completely replace or even outperform a traditional physical desktop.  At Advance2000, we think the physical PC is obsolete and the future of computing is virtual desktops (VDI).   What do you think?

Contact Us for a free VDI demo and try it for yourself.