Choice and Efficiency: The 2 Things Your Users Want in the New Desktop

Much ado has been made about the “new desktop” – the desktop that is something sleeker and lighter on power usage, or used at home or on the road, or accessed via VDI. The new desktop isn’t one-size-fits-all – it’s a customised animal that serves the many different users in your organisation, not the masses.

If there’s one commonality amongst these new desktops, it’s that they’ve moved away from what IT is willing to support and provide and towards what end users want. Smart organisations have realised that force-feeding a working style and device type can actually do terrible things for employee satisfaction and, as a result, productivity and creativity. Here are the two things your workers want in this new desktop.

1. Choice in their desktop

While Bring Your Own Device has been a bit slower to catch on in the Asia-Pacific region than in places like the United States, Gartner predicts that by 2013, 80 per cent of organisations will let workers use tablets. By the following year, 90 per cent of organisations will allow corporate applications on personal devices. The catalyst for this change is employees, who are initiating the discussions about incorporating their tablets and smartphones into their work life before their managers have even figured out what BYOD means. Rather than the prescribed desktop, users want a seamless computing experience between work lives and personal lives, which are increasingly becoming blurred.

Whether it’s a tablet, smartphone or laptop, Gartner believes most organisations are still in the initial phase of the consumerisation trend, where the focus is on devices and applications. Post-2014, they expect employees to concentrate more on data and peer-to-peer interaction.

2. Efficiency in their desktop

“Wait, I let them bring in their iPhones and now they want me to make sure they work OK?”

You might think it’s too demanding, but here’s a news flash: if employees can’t access the desktop applications and tools they need to do their jobs on their corporate desktop, whether it’s a corporate PC or a smartphone, they will find ways around it. Left unchecked, employees at organisations around the world are signing up for cloud services so they have a more efficient way to get things done. A third of employees are using their own cloud-based services for file-sharing, according to a survey sponsored by EMC. That’s your data being used in a most likely public cloud service over which you have no control.

Cloud isn’t the only answer, but it does lend the agility, speed and on-demand provisioning workers want to tap into. And doing cloud on your terms means you won’t have to worry about security and compliance issues. The overall point is to listen to what your employees want in their applications and services. If you don’t, you will have an organisation being run by the technology whims of your workforce and not your IT-business strategy.

What employee needs or wants will you be considering as you further implement your desktop strategy?

5 Bring Your Own Device Best Practices

By Julian Buckley

Just because Bring Your Own Device is new to your organisation doesn’t mean it hasn’t been done — successfully — before. We can learn from those businesses that immediately jumped on the BYOD bandwagon. Use these lessons of right and wrong to do even better with your BYOD programme.

1. Give controlled freedom

Yes, BYOD is all about the employee and what mobile device and platform he or she wants to use. That doesn’t mean your IT department can’t implement some restrictions, such as allowing workers to choose from a pre-approved list of devices it has already “tried and tested.” The hard truth is that IT will only have capacity to support certain devices. It’s the organisations that let their workforces choose from a BYOD buffet that tend to see support costs soar; locking this down to a known list of devices can help organisations baseline these costs.

A best practice identified by the International Data Corporation (IDC) involves IT letting employees choose from a shortlist of mobile devices that can be supported in-house. How do you create this shortlist? Do something bold — actually talk to your employees. Ask them about the devices they use at home, why they use them and how they differ from the devices offered at work. You’ll be able to get an early picture of what your BYOD programme will look like — and how your IT department can support it.

2. Don’t put all your apps in one basket

Do you really need to make all your legacy applications available to your mobile workforce? Focus first on business-critical apps that carry solid value, such as dashboards covering metrics and goals and workflow charts. You can use the same survey approach here that you did with the devices: which tools and applications help employees get their jobs done best?

Also keep in mind the need for ongoing mobile app development, especially if different versions need to be written.Outsourcing application development to a provider that can tackle mobile device integration and connectivity so all your employees can take advantage of the custom mobile application is one way to avoid sucking up your IT staff‘s resources.

3. Innovate and compromise

Many organisations are finding that an innovative, supportive BYOD strategy helps retain staff, attracts new hires and ensures better use of technology within a workplace. Just because there’s a new operating system (Mac’s Mountain Lion or Microsoft’s Windows 8) out on the market doesn’t mean your organisation should ban or block it from entering into your BYOD strategy. Enabling your workforce to use the latest and greatest can be a great productivity-improver and assist with staff morale and greater freedom.

4. Secure the data and the device

Treat the device as the first barrier to entry and lock down the data where possible. What if the worst happens and a hacker or street-side thief does get into the phone or tablet? If corporate data is inaccessible — sitting in the data centre instead of on the actual mobile device, for instance, — the rogue individual won’t be able to steal it. Leveraging technologies such as Citrix XenApp or VMware Horizon can bring the applications to the users whilst retaining the data centrally in your environment. Having user policies in place that restrict access to corporate information and applications for certain employee groups also prevents sending too much sensitive data into the world.

5. Reduce support costs by educating users

Your new BYOD-inspired workforce might have some legitimate tech support issues. Many others will stem from a lack of self-help enablement and complex guidelines for things like user enrolment, switching approved devices and password reset. Give users the ability to do as much as they can on their own so they aren’t needlessly flooding the help desk with inane enquiries.

What BYOD best practices would you add to this list?

Julian Buckley is the Business Manager of Professional Services for Datacom in QLD.  Julian leads a team of solution architects, project managers and consulting engineers that evangelise, design, scope, deliver and implement purpose-built, client-focused infrastructure and virtualisation solutions for our customers. His team in QLD focuses on long-term relationships with clients, building end-to-end enterprise ICT architecture for corporate, education and government clients across Microsoft, Citrix and VMware technology sets. A local leader in virtualisation in the QLD market, Julian’s team can help all clients achieve greater return on investment, reliability and performance through best practice, industry-leading solutions.

Have Your Considered Virtual Desktop Infrastructure to Manage Bring Your Own Device?

There isn’t a single approach to managing Bring Your Own Device at organisations. A slew of different mobile device management and mobile application management tools exists for allowing access to apps and data on employee-owned devices, and organisations can choose one or several of these tools to work in tandem to cover all the different devices and platforms.

Other organisations are managing Bring Your Own Device through virtual desktop infrastructure. There’s some debate in the IT industry and the media over whether using VDI for this purpose is smart. You can decide for yourself by reviewing the benefits and disadvantages to this approach.

The pros

VDI delivers desktops through the data centre to any mobile device. This means all devices can essentially be managed from one location, providing easier administration and deployment and a more streamlined way to enforce compliance for all users. It also gives the end users better ability to connect to their virtual desktops from any device whenever they want.

Security is also strengthened because no corporate data is actually sitting on the employee’s phone or tablet—it’s all in the data centre. If an employee device falls into the wrong hands, the thief won’t be able to access work information.  IT retains complete control over both the operating system and the apps on the device.

The cons

With VDI virtualisation, users have to connect to the data centre to access the corporate desktop. This means network connectivity and bandwidth become factors the IT team needs to worry about for anyone in the company trying to do work from a personal device. Network performance can affect even the most basic of tasks if the network is sluggish. VDI also presents issues with running rich media on virtual desktops, which can prevent users from accessing certain functions, such as video, and can cause screen resolution problems.

There are also issues related to the lack of desktop customisation that crops up when you’re provisioning an image to a user’s device. In this way, VDI runs the risk of defeating the purpose of BYOD: allowing employees to have the user experience they want on their device of choice. The act of turning mobile devices into desktops via a VDI image means users won’t get the native experience of the device. There could also be problems when certain users need access to different apps and extra licensing costs for accessing the desktop through VDI on personal devices.

How to decide if it’s right for you

Deciding how to manage BYOD is a big decision for your organisation. Doing it in a way that allows your IT department to retain the right level of control while also letting users work the way they want on their personal devices is crucial. The right IT outsourcer will be able to assess your current infrastructure and systems to determine if your environment is right for both VDI and BYOD. If VDI isn’t the way to go, your IT provider will be able to make recommendations on the right approach and guide the design and implementation process.

How do you manage BYOD at your organisation?

Smoothing the Transition to Virtual Desktop Infrastructure

By Julian Buckley

Virtual desktop infrastructure can benefit organisations by allowing more centralised, standardised deployment and management of virtual desktops. Because everything is stored and managed in data centres, thisdesktop virtualisation delivery method allows IT to complete all troubleshooting, security patching and adding of applications without affecting the end user’s computer. VDI also allows easier security and backup of data through the data centres and faster deployment of desktops to remote users.

That doesn’t mean transitioning to VDI is a cakewalk. To avoid having your VDI solution turn into a hassle, designate the right people to lead the build-out and piloting of the implementation, get user input and conduct an audit of the applications you want to include in the VDI image.

Carefully decide who will manage the project

VDI projects will bring together the IT staff managing servers in the data centres and the staff managing the desktops. Some elements of the project can get lost in translation between these two groups. Both teams have very different roles involving management of different resources, and sometimes these employees aren’t even based out of the same office.

One of the ways around this potential struggle is to designate one person to oversee both groups – such as the CIO directly – to ensure each is doing its bit to get the project done. The designated manager can make sure desktop staff is given access to the data centre and its resources to complete the project, for instance. Organisations may also be able to avoid these issues all together by choosing an IT outsourcer to design, build and implement their VDI solution.

Keep the users happy

In a recent ZDNet story, research firm Longhaus cautions against IT departments designing their VDI plan and pilot without their end users in mind. Any transition to virtual desktops will bring about pain points and some disgruntled users who were happier with the previous setup. If accessing critical applications becomes a major problem during the pilot phase, and if users can no longer customise their desktops, the IT department will risk losing employee buy-in for VDI.

To help keep most of the end users happy, organisations should choose the most enthusiastic VDI supporters to try the pilot first. These users can then be VDI evangelists for the rest of the company and show, from a user perspective, how the technology works and how it can benefit the organisation. Allowing staff to move between the pilot system and the production system will also cut down on user down time and allow users to keep working as the organisation makes thetransition to VDI.

Put the right applications on the image

Some organisations falter with VDI when it comes time to build the image. IT must choose which applications to put on the image, but this is easier said than done if the team leading the project doesn’t knows which apps are the most relevant and used. The worst-case scenario is that IT mistakenly leaves critical apps off the image, resulting in users being unable to access the systems necessary to do their jobs.

A way to work around this is by having the IT department take a thorough inventory of all the applications in use prior to building the VDI image. This task may involve assessing if any apps were installed locally on certain users’ computers to ensure every person in the organisation will have access to the apps they need. Taking the time to complete this task now can help avoid project delays and user issues when you get into the pilot phase.

How have you ensured a smooth transition to VDI at your organisation?

Julian Buckley is the Business Manager of Professional Services for Datacom in QLD.  Julian leads a team of solution architects, project managers and consulting engineers that evangelise, design, scope, deliver and implement purpose-built, client-focused infrastructure and virtualisation solutions for our customers. His team in QLD focuses on long-term relationships with clients, building end-to-end enterprise ICT architecture for corporate, education and government clients across Microsoft, Citrix and VMware technology sets. A local leader in virtualisation in the QLD market, Julian’s team can help all clients achieve greater return on investment, reliability and performance through best practice, industry-leading solutions.

The Resurrection of VDI for Desktop Virtualisation

By Lauren Fritsky

It costs too much. It’s too hard to implement. End users aren’t happy with it.

These have been some of the top complaints surrounding traditional virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). In fact, many enterprises seemed so dissatisfied with the technology that IT experts and media outlets predicted it would become nearly obsolete.

Early into 2012, VDI’s future seems to be looking a bit brighter thanks to better education around alternative delivery methods and new technological capabilities that make it easier for IT departments to manage and better for end users to experience.

The management issue

Moving all the desktops into the data centre for traditional on-premise VDI implementation saw costs surge dramatically because of the SAN storage and data centre infrastructure required. For all that expense, IT departments then had a more complex environment to manage, plus users squawking about a cookie-cutter desktop experience.

Software as a Service (SaaS) and Desktop as a Service (DaaS) cloud deliveries have emerged as ways around these hurdles. These cloud approaches alleviate the pain of central storage management, software or hardware procurement and in-house technical support for the IT department. They can also slash CAPEX investments and typically give the enterprise lower, set monthly costs. Companies such as Microsoft and Citrix have partnered with cloud service providers to offer DaaS VDI hosted either onsite or in the private cloud.

Easier on-premise deployment

Other VDI providers have found ways to reduce the amount of infrastructure needed when virtualising the desktop onsite.

Through consolidating desktop provisioning and management, connection brokering, load balancing and availability without the need for shared storage, businesses can reduce about 60 per cent of their traditional VDI infrastructure. Companies like Citrix offer this delivery method through grid architecture reliant on local storage of off-the-shelve servers, which removes the need for individual management and connection servers. The company’s VDI-in-a-Box is targeted at SMBs, which research shows have traditionally hedged on virtualising the desktop due to cost and complexity issues.

A more personal experience

Easier access for mobile employees was the second most common reason listed for looking at a cloud-based VDI solution, according to users polled in an InformationWeek survey. But employees bringing their own devices to work want customisable experiences, which is where traditional VDI has struggled. Providers such as VMware have found a way around this by including persona management technology. IT management can create an individual desktop experience whether it’s being accessed from a traditional PC or a mobile device.

VMware View 5 offers persona management so IT management can centrally manage the desktop through an on-premise cloud while giving a personalised experience to users.  Employees can also access their work desktop on other laptops, PCs or thin clients from home through VMware View Client or on mobile devices through VMware View Client for iPad or Android.

The Datacom team works with a variety of vendors to deliver desktop virtualisation solutions, including VDI or alternative VDI delivery methods. We will reverse engineer from your current environment to develop a customised desktop virtualisation solution that makes sense for your business goals. We have a proven track record of large-scale desktop deployment for enterprises around Australia.