The Importance of a VDI Solution amidst the New Normal Work Life

Mehran Basiratmand, PhD, Chief Technology Officer, Florida Atlantic University

Mehran Basiratmand, PhD, Chief Technology Officer, Florida Atlantic University

Many institutions of higher learning and the SLED sector are encouraging employees to rejoin the physical office space to establish an on-campus presence. There is, however, a great deal of interest in offering employees flexible work schedules for the foreseeable future to retain and attract new talents.

While the idea of a flexible work schedule has received a great deal of traction, and organizations are scrambling to build models that are both beneficial to the employees/employers without forgoing work ethics, performance, and accomplishments, there are several challenges from the technology delivery perspective around application and desktop support that are worth outlining.

As the lockdown commenced, many employees took their office computers and other devices home to ensure a smooth transition as they were familiar with their office setup. With the advent of flexible work arrangements on the horizon, the need to set up office and home computers uniformly is becoming paramount. The idea of duplicating systems, monitors, scanners, and printers in both home and office is cost-prohibitive. Several IT organizations are now evaluating the merit of using VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure) to deliver desktop services consistently and securely to their clients since an entry-level device would be adequate to access a desktop virtually. 

"There is an increasing need for a successful VDI deployment which is becoming more common as flexible work arrangements are adopted and recognized in higher education and other organizations nation-wide"

In order to address various user communities’ needs while delivering a VDI solution, it would be warranted to form a committee consisting of IT as well as other stakeholders to outline a series of expectations from this environment. Potentially, users will be broken into two major groups: standard VDI users, and super users. Standard users generally need access to general-purpose computing applications while super users would require access to specialized non-web based applications through VDI. It is a sound practice to start the process by addressing the standard users’ needs. This would yield a better result, and it would provide a higher return on the investment. Furthermore, it will be low-hanging fruit, thus providing a winning strategy.

Given the number of VDI service providers such as VMWare, Citrix, Azure, AWS, and more, it is prudent to seek a cloud-based solution. This enhances availability, and the subscription model lowers the capital expenditure and potentially the total cost of ownership. Furthermore, resources could be adjusted in a cloud environment as-needed basis. The key to selecting a vendor should start with their total cost of ownership per user or device and the true-up cost to increase Memory, processor, network speed, and storage. In addition, the proposed solution must integrate seamlessly with a Data as a Service solution (such as Microsoft, Google, and Dropbox) to ensure the availability of user files anywhere/anytime. These DaaS also provide the ability for file sharing using encryption technology.

As for a deployment strategy, it is highly recommended to start with a proof-of-concept using a small department to gauge performance, access, security, and ease of use for the end-user community. This enables informal adjustments to resource allocation prior to mass deployment. Furthermore, it is highly advisably to build a comparison and a contrast chart between various products and vendors alike to capture best of all breed solutions, and this should be a transparent process to ensure buy-in by all individuals who are otherwise unwilling to give up their desktops.

These steps will provide a solid blueprint for a successful VDI deployment which is becoming more common as flexible work arrangements are adopted and recognized in higher education and other organizations nationwide. 

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