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.