VDI in the SMB


VDI in the SMB

Until recently, VDI was a technology reserved for enterprise level customers with deep pockets and an equally deep roster of expert IT staff to support it.  The expense and complexity of VDI implementations has historically kept SMBs from even considering the technology.  When the Citrix VDI-in-a-Box (ViaB) product debuted it changed the landscape dramatically by making the platform cheap and simple to implement.  By allowing the use of inexpensive commodity hardware and building in resiliency at a low cost, ViaB creates a real business case for VDI for SMBs.

Reduced Management and Support

The savings in management and support time that VDI brings to the table is hard to over emphasize. Because ViaB allows you to create standard desktop images based on department (e.g. accounting, sales, etc), provisioning new desktops with all required applications takes literally seconds. Therefore, new hires have a working environment immediately instead of waiting for staff to install the required applications and configure the operating system.

Additionally, if a new application needs to be rolled out to users it is as simple as updating the master image and setting the desktops to refresh after the next logout. You never have to worry that an app won’t install on a workstation because it’s not running the latest service pack or is 64 bit instead of 32 bit because of the standardized nature of VDI. This model also reduces support costs significantly because if someone is having trouble with their desktop, it can be blown away and a new desktop provisioned. With roaming profiles, the user will hardly notice the change and all data should be preserved.  Choosing between persistent and dynamic desktops is a subject in another post.

Information Security

When users lose laptops in the business world it can be a real problem. If sensitive customer or company data resides on the lost hardware it puts everyone involved at risk. Embarrassing disclosures to customers must be made which erodes confidence and damages a company’s brand. With a properly configured VDI environment, sensitive data never resides on laptops, iPads or any other endpoint. The information does not leave the confines of the well-controlled server environment.

Even if a company goes through the expense of ensuring that every laptop issued is encrypted, there is still significant risk of data loss. For example, it is very difficult to prevent users from copying data to a thumb drive, transferring data to their home network or simply emailing data to unauthorized locations while on external internet connections. ViaB allows companies to completely lock down the desktops and prevent every scenario described with modest effort.

Hardware Related Savings

Because everything runs on the server, extremely small and inexpensive terminals can be used instead of costly workstations. These terminals cost as little as $200 and are not much bigger than a deck of playing cards making them very cost and space efficient. Compare that to buying bulky $800 workstations every time and it’s not hard to see how quickly VDI could pay for itself. In addition to being inexpensive, these devices are extremely energy efficient. They consume very little energy, produce almost no heat and make no noise as they have no moving parts. If there are legacy workstations laying around they can likely be used as endpoints also.

Another way to quickly realize savings is by implementing a bring your own device (BYOD) policy. These days many users already have laptops and tablets that they are comfortable and productive with. Forcing users to use clunky company issued laptops when they may already have a lightweight MacBook Air doesn’t make much sense. Users can travel with just their personal laptop and still have complete access to their corporate desktop instead of lugging around two computers.

Improved Productivity

Users are more productive because they can access their desktops from anywhere there’s an Internet connection. If they wake up not feeling well and decide to work from home, they simply login to their desktop from their home computer. This will keep the rest of your staff healthy and allow sick employees to rest in the comfort of their own home and recover quickly. Workers typically appreciate this flexibility, which increases employee satisfaction and retention.

Because rolling out new operating systems is expensive and time consuming, many companies let workers deal with the inefficiencies of older software. ViaB makes rolling out new operating systems and applications a breeze which keeps workers productive. A side benefit of having everyone on a standard operating system and application suite is the elimination of compatibility issues. You don’t have to worry that someone who created a diagram in Visio 2010 will send it to someone with Visio 2003 and can’t open it. These incompatibilities also increase unnecessary support calls and cause general frustration. For these reasons, getting users on a standard image improves productivity significantly.

Next Steps

I have included a short video from Citrix discussing some of the benefits of VDI and encourage you to post questions or comments about anything I’ve touched on.  If you have questions specific to your environment, please reach out to us directly. 

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