Virtual Desktops (VDI) FAQs

Virtual Desktops (VDI) FAQs

If you’re seeking to solve a business problem and think that VDI may be the answer (but aren’t sure), you’ve come to the right place. You’re not alone on your quest to enhance your business’ IT strategy; but – as you know – there is certainly no shortage of questions that arise along the way. To help simplify a sometimes complex technology such as VDI, I’ve developed a comprehensive guide to the most frequently asked questions I’ve come across in my years as an IT professional.

What is a VDI?

A VDI is a virtual desktop computer. A VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure) runs a desktop operating system, like Windows, on a virtual machine sitting in a datacenter. A VDI is created by taking a single server-class computer and slicing it into virtual standalone independent desktop computers. The software, or hypervisor (also known as a virtual machine monitor or VMM), shares the physical resources, the memory, drive space and processors of a single large server and allocates them to multiple virtual desktops or VDIs. The hypervisor balances the demand for resources on that single shared server and ensures that each VDI has adequate resources and performance. A VDI is accessed using client software or an appliance.

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Why should I use virtual desktops?

VDI or virtual desktops should be part of an overall IT strategy. As an IT leader for your company, you must identify the business problem you’re trying to solve with VDIs.

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Common business needs satisfied with VDIs:

  • Collaboration
    • You have a large project and need several firms to work together in real time on a single network.
      • Solution: Project Cloud
  • Infrastructure Virtualization
    • You want to eliminate or reduce the physical hardware you use to run your business.
      • Solution: All-In Virtualization
  • Disaster Recovery
    • You need disaster recovery on demand at a failover site.
      • Solution: DR in the Cloud
  • Security
    • You want increased security. Increased mobility has led to increased vulnerability. Sensitive company data is stored on laptops and tablets and can be lost or stolen very easily. With VDIs, the data is stored in a secure environment: the datacenter. Antivirus and Malware software updates are easier to do and easier to track with VDIs. Endpoint and firewall protection is easier to implement. And finally, backups are centralized, georedundant, and easier to manage.
      • VDI Benefit: Improved Security
  • BYOD
    • You want to implement Bring Your Own Device (BYOD). With BYOD, staff supplies their own computers or other device used to access a VDI. BYOD and desktop virtualization allows desktop access and relieves the IT staff from having to support the endpoint devices themselves. Some firms will even subsidize the costs for users who choose to bring their own devices. This can reduce the expense of buying user laptops and desktops.
      • VDI Benefit: Reduce Hardware Cost
  • Reduce IT Management and Maintenance Costs
    • Reducing IT cost is a goal for most companies. Supporting users using VDI and reducing or eliminating desktop and laptop management costs can save significant money. Many tools and applications are used to manage desktops and laptops, like those for software deployment, inventory, OS patch management and antivirus protection. Virtualization consolidates your IT infrastructure and makes it easier to centrally manage and support users’ desktops.
      • VDI Benefit: Reduce IT costs
  • Mobility
    • Many firms need anytime, anywhere access to business computers and data. VDI provides complete mobility; the only thing needed is a data connection.
      • VDI Benefit: Work From Anywhere
  • Software Portability
    • Using VDI, you can make special software used to run your business available anywhere you have an internet connection. You can run compute intensive applications from low-powered laptops or even a tablet since all the “heavy lifting” is done on the VDI in the datacenter. The only things that travels across the data connection are screen updates, mouse clicks, and keystrokes.
      • VDI Benefit: Application Mobility
  • Finally, Lower Costs
    • Running five offices of IT equipment is more expensive than operating a single office of IT. By consolidating your IT infrastructure into a single datacenter location, you reduce your capital expenses (buy less) or convert them into operating expenses (DaaS) which creates a more favorable tax situation.
      • VDI Benefit: Reduce IT Costs

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How do I connect to a VDI? Aren’t the graphics on a VDI poor?

You connect to a VDI using a remote display protocol. Current display protocols have eliminated poor VDI graphics performance. There are many different protocols available to use. Some of the most common remote display protocols are:

  • PC Over IP (Teradici)
  • RemoteFX (Microsoft)
  • Blast Extreme (VMware)
  • High Definition Experience (Citrix HDX)
  • Remote Graphics Software (HP – RGS)

These protocols have special graphics capabilities to optimize your remote desktop experience. With sufficient bandwidth, the screen painting and mouse lag that once plagued VDIs has been eliminated.

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If I personalize the VDI, will my changes be saved?

All VDI users can connect to their own desktops and applications, like they would sitting at a local workstation. There are two types of VDIs.

  • Persistent VDIs: Users can personalize their desktops and the changes are saved and stored with the VDI. All personalization is saved.
  • Non-Persistent VDIs: The user is accessing a random virtual desktop from a pool of shared resources. All personalization is lost.

For certain uses – training rooms for example – you might want a clean, fresh desktop each time the user connects. For that, a non-persistent VDI makes sense since it is wiped clean each time the user connects.

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What do I use to connect to a VDI?

You can connect to a VDI in a variety of ways.

Thin Client: A thin client is a hardware device running a lightweight operating system. Thin clients are popular because they need less maintenance, are easier to manage, are less prone to virus and malware attacks, and have a longer life. Thin clients use less power and are less expensive than a traditional PC.

Zero Client: The zero client is basically a smaller, cheaper thin client. It needs very little configuration, uses less power and has no operating system.

Thick clients or old PCs: Old PCs can be repurposed to connect to VDIs. Using your old PCs to connect to VDI does not reduce the premise based hardware you need to maintain and troubleshoot. Old PCs also still need a local operating system and anti-virus and other local software, with on-going associated costs. Using traditional PCs to connect to virtual desktops, you lose some of the benefits of VDI, such as reduced power consumption, central management, and increased security. Reusing old PCs is a green choice, but be careful; you may end up using more power and spending more time maintaining them as they age. There are special operating systems you can load on an old PC that will effectively convert it into a thin client. This might be a good compromise.

Laptops and docking stations: Chromebooks or other laptops with docking stations can be used to connect to your VDIs. The same arguments apply to these devices as to thick clients above. Be careful of additional power usage and maintenance. Also support for multi-monitors may be limited.

Tablets and Phones: Tablets and phones can be used to access your VDI. Some tablets are equivalent to full-blown desktop PCs, but others may have limited output capability and may even lack simple mouse support, so beware. You can work from a phone, but this is a last resort; you would not want to work on it for an extended period of time.

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Why would I do this now?

  1. VDIs are easier to manage and maintain than full desktop and laptop PCs.
  2. The current generation of VDIs have better graphics and equal performance to a desktop PC.
  3. Bandwidth, required to connect to a VDI, has dropped in price. Buying a lot of bandwidth is not going to bankrupt any company. Even very small firms can afford the bandwidth needed to successfully deploy VDIs.
  4. VDI is a mature technology. In the past, using VDIs meant giving up performance and graphics capabilities. Those issues have been largely eliminated. A well-designed VDI can perform (or outperform) as well as a similarly specified physical desktop PC.

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Who are the leading VDI vendors?

Hyper-V is Microsoft’s virtualization platform running on a Windows Server. Multiple virtual desktop sessions can be created using Hyper-V. It supports the Windows OS as well as Linux and Windows Server OS.

Remote Desktop Services (RDS) is part of Microsoft Windows Server and allow users to remotely access graphical desktops and Windows applications.

Citrix XenDesktop (XenApp) is an enterprise-class VDI platform that delivers virtual desktops and virtualized applications. It uses the Citrix HDX protocol or NVIDIA GRID vGPU technologies to support virtualized graphics.

VMware Horizon offers virtual desktops, apps and other online services. The platform supports virtual machines running Windows, and connects with devices running Windows, Mac OS or Linux. It supports a number of different graphics protocols such as PCOIP, Blast, and RDS.

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How do I choose a VDI Vendor?

There are many factors to consider when choosing a VDI product. You take into account features, setup and maintenance, as well as licensing and ongoing support. You also determine which technologies your organization needs.

Consider the following questions when choosing a VDI vendor:

  • Which operating system do you need? E.g., MacOS is not available as a VDI.
  • Do you plan to provide persistent or non-persistent desktops?
  • Are you going to deliver entire desktops with applications or just deliver applications using a virtualization tool?
  • Do your users have high-performance graphics needs?
  • If a data circuit goes down, how will downtime or slow performance impact your company?
  • What types of users do you have? What kinds of VDIs do they need? Do they have special computing or graphics needs?
  • Do you have an implementation plan?
  • Will your staff need special training to use VDIs?
  • Who will support and maintain your VDIs – in-house staff or will you outsource?
  • Will specialized training or certifications be needed for your IT staff to support this environment?

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Should I outsource VDI (Desktops as a Service) or do it myself?

You can outsource the entire VDI experience to a company like Advance2000. Advance2000 provides Desktops as a Service (DaaS).  We host and maintain the back-end infrastructure to provide VDIs. Some DaaS providers, like Advance2000, can provide an entire virtual hosted IT infrastructure in addition to virtual desktops (VDI). Your servers as well as your desktops can be hosted and provided as a monthly service.

Pros: Users can access hosted desktops from any device, location, or network. Provider manages all the infrastructure. DaaS lowers the upfront and on-going costs.

Cons: Licensing can be complicated. Some software will not run on a VDI. In addition to software compatibility, you need to choose a stable, experienced desktop provider. You are relying on another company to keep your business running. Using DaaS requires higher external bandwidth requirements than an on-premise deployment since you are accessing your VDI over the internet or a dedicated data circuit.

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How do I deploy VDI?

Once you’ve assessed your organization’s needs, planned a strategy to meet your requirements, and you are ready to deploy VDI, how do you start?

At Advance2000, we recommend a Crawl, Walk, Run approach. Implementation begins with a demo. A demo allows you to try the solution for yourself and make sure that it really works as promised. The next step would be to do a single project on a small number of VDIs, a project cloud. This is the true test to measure and experience the real cost and productivity savings. Once you are satisfied that this works, you can create additional project clouds or proceed to an ALL-IN solution to replace all your onsite infrastructure with the Advance2000 cloud (ALL-IN).

When considering an ALL-IN approach, there are many ways to move your whole company to the cloud. You can do it by department, by project or by office. Depending on your needs, each approach can be easily work to get your business 100% in the cloud. Advance2000 can work with you to determine the best way to handle the migration to the cloud.

Any software that runs on a standard Windows OS will run on a VDI. There is no learning curve or training needed and the performance is equal to or better than a physical desktop PC. Some software may have licensing restrictions about running on a VDI; check your EULA to make sure you are in compliance.

When moving your IT infrastructure to the cloud, you will need more bandwidth than you typically need for internet-only access. Our VDIs require 1.5 MBPS for each cloud desktop running. For example, a 50-person office would need 75 MBPS of bandwidth.

Finally, you need to plan how you will migrate your data to the cloud. For smaller data requirements, less than 1 TB, we can upload your data over your internet connection after regular work hours. For large amounts of data, or to migrate faster, we can send you a storage appliance to copy your data and then ship it to us to load. Once we have your data and have built your servers and virtual desktops, you are ready to go live. We usually plan the final migration cutover on a weekend. On Monday morning your staff logs into their new desktops in the cloud and continues to work as usual.

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How do I calculate my VDI ROI? Is it worth doing?

Virtual desktop infrastructure can reduce costs, increase productivity, support mobility, and provide more flexibility for applications. But is it worth the investment? How can you determine the potential return on investment (ROI)? Many factors go into calculating VDI ROI: there are hard costs, like hardware, and soft costs, like training and increased productivity. You need to identify and quantify the costs and then compare that to Virtual Desktop Infrastructure.

Implementing virtual desktops won’t necessarily save you a lot of money, but if the implementation of virtual desktops is the same or similar to the cost of physical hardware, and you get all the benefits of VDI, this will help you identify your VDI ROI. There are many factors to consider before moving to VDI. You need to identify the types of users and VDIs you will need. You need to pick a vendor and platform and then start to define your costs. These are some of the typical areas of costs and savings when using VDI.

  • CAPEX – Capital purchases
  • OPEX – Operational expenses
  • Lower maintenance cost
  • Increased productivity
  • Lower power usage
  • Improved mobility
  • Better security
  • Built in DR
  • Built in backup
  • Improved collaboration
  • Support costs

For a more in depth look at Cloud ROI.

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What is the business problem you are trying to solve by moving to VDI?

There are many benefits to deploying virtual desktops, but it always returns to the question, “What business problem are you trying to solve with VDI?” Whether that is improved staff mobility, lowering IT expenses, or reducing your hardware maintenance, determine if VDI aligns with your corporate goals and meets your needs.

  1. Are you supporting remote users?
  2. Do you want to reduce hardware maintenance costs?
  3. Will you replace your current hardware with thin or zero clients as it goes end-of-life?
  4. Are you trying to virtualize an application and make it available to your staff?
  5. Are you consolidating and reducing the quantity of hardware?
  6. Do you need to collaborate better?
  7. Are you trying to allow your IT staff the time to be more strategic?
  8. Do you need your staff to be more mobile or are you looking to hire remote staff?

Identify your business challenge to see if VDI is the solution. If moving to a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure makes sense for your company, contact us and we can get you in the cloud.

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Advance2000 IT Strategy Assessment

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