This question is one I am frequently asked, but unfortunately there isn’t an easy straightforward answer! There are many considerations as to whether a company should use VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure) or stay with full desktops or other alternatives. So what do we really mean by VDI? What should a business consider before deciding if it’s the right solution for them and what other options are available?
VDI as a concept encompasses many things but essentially it’s when the desktop in use by the user is virtualised and running from a server as opposed to running locally on a desktop/laptop or device they have in front of them. It isn’t just virtualising the applications or streaming some data to an existing 'fat' client desktop or laptop, although these are alternatives that may provide a better return on investment for your business.
Historically VDI was for businesses with lots of workers that needed to access data and applications from anywhere, but those applications needed to be lightweight and the user always needed a good internet connection. This is no longer the case. With hardware and software improvements from multiple vendors, like for example the 3D acceleration to allow CAD type applications to now run smoothly, as well as offline abilities so users no longer need constant or fast internet access, a VDI solution may now be appropriate to a whole host of new businesses and sectors.
Traditionally VDI infrastructure was seen as large and very expensive. Yes, there is still expense to implementing a new VDI system, as there is when implementing any new system. However, new cloud offerings are available that can reduce the physical infrastructure footprint – even if you wish to keep the data, applications and control on-premise.
For a business to decide if VDI is the correct route for the business, it’s imperative that a well-defined set of use-case scenarios is set out. For example, what type of applications do the users need? What data do they access? Do they work remotely? Will they only ever use one device, or will they hot desk or use their own devices? Answers to these important questions will help determine whether VDI is the right road for a business to take or whether other options may be more suitable, for example streamed applications or 'fat' clients.
There are other considerations to make too. For example, do you centrally manage your desktops or devices? Do you know and understand what applications users need? Are updates to these applications, your operating systems and data controlled centrally? If not, then VDI can also help you manage this and may be an additional benefit.
VDI, in its various forms, is now right for a lot of companies, even those with high powered applications and those who work offline. But, if all your users sit at their desks or laptops using just one computer, with low powered applications, the business case for using VDI may just not stack up. Technology should not be implemented for technology’s sake, only when it addresses a real business need or solves a business problem.