If you want to fully embrace remote and hybrid working in your organization, you'll need an effective way for employees to connect when they're away from their desk.
This will usually mean some form of virtual infrastructure solution that can replicate the in-office experience, no matter where an end-user is physically located. But how should you go about this? There are a range of options for achieving a hybrid environment, from building your own in-house virtual desktop solution to embracing cloud tools such as Google Suite or Microsoft Office 365.
Whichever method you use, you'll need to make sure it's working effectively. So what best practices should you be following in order to do this?
What are the 3 main desktop virtualization deployment models?
Before deploying virtual workspace solutions, it's important to understand what your options are. There are several techniques to choose from and, while they may all have the same end goals in mind, how they go about them can differ, so it's important to understand which will fit best with your employees and way of working.
Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI)
A Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) solution runs the desktop infrastructure, including the operating system, on a virtual machine hosted in the data center. This allows administrators to manage large numbers of virtualized desktops, but it does require setting up a complex local infrastructure including a virtualization server and a connection broker to deliver services to users.
Learn more: What is Desktop Virtualization (and How Does it Work)?
Remote desktop services (RDS)
RDS solutions, on the other hand, use a single Windows Server operating system to provide multiple users with remote access to their desktop applications. Whereas a VDI uses a single virtual machine for each instance, a single RDS solution can support multiple users, with capacity only limited by the hardware of the server, making it a simpler, but more cost-effective option.
DaaS, on the other hand, takes the underlying infrastructure out of the data center and moves it to the cloud. This provides a hosted solution that users can access from any location. Advantages of this setup include quick, easy deployment, with management and maintenance handled by the cloud provider. However, it does offer less customization when it comes to configurations
How to use VDI successfully: 6 best practices
Whichever method of desktop virtualization you decide is right for your business, there are a few common best practices it pays to follow in order to ensure the deployment goes smoothly and users have no problems seamlessly connecting to their work environment remotely. Here are a few key things you need to keep in mind to stand the best chance of success.
1. Understand end-user requirements
Step one must be to have a full idea of what your users actually need - which often isn't the same as what the IT department thinks will be important. Things to consider here go beyond just what applications they'll need to have access to. It also covers areas such as the times of day they're likely to be active, how many users will need to connect simultaneously and the number of people who may need more advanced capabilities, such as high-end graphics processing units or access to peripherals like printers and scanners.
2. Ensure VDI is highly available
High availability is a critical part of any VDI deployment. Any time spent unable to connect or waiting for a response from the server harms productivity and costs money. Most modern hypervisors have built-in features that provide resiliency and high availability, but it’ll be up to you to ensure you have enough hosts in a VDI cluster to meet demand, as well as putting in place redundant storage, power and networking solutions to mitigate availability issues.
3. Monitor server performance
Availability is just one aspect of your virtual servers' performance you need to keep on top of. The right monitoring tools can give you essential insight into your loads and any resource shortages. To keep this in top shape, it's important to upgrade your server resources on a regular basis, by adding more servers, processors or memory and ensuring that workloads are effectively balanced between them.
4. Reduce desktop display demands
A common issue that can affect VDI performance is complex visual demands. Because in a VDI environment, each display is rendered on the server before being sent to the end user, this can quickly lead to high traffic volumes and build pressure on resources. To counter this, consider reducing the display resolution of virtual machines. For example, dropping down from a resolution of 1920 x 1200 to 1280 x 1024 can reduce bandwidth needs from 2Gbps to 629Mbps. For most everyday users, this won't make a difference, though you may have to audit your employees to see who, if anyone, will still require high-resolution displays, such as graphic designers.
5. Use network performance monitoring
Monitoring tools should just be limited to the performance of your servers. It's also vital to keep a close eye on your network requirements so you can see how much bandwidth your VDI systems are taking up. As noted above, display resolutions can have a major impact on this, but it's far from the only contributor to network traffic. Good monitoring lets you identify any bottlenecks within your system, as well as peaks and troughs of demand, bandwidth usage and other traffic trends so you can adjust your services accordingly.
Learn more: Are You Using These 6 Network Monitoring Protocols to Boost Performance?
6. Control BYOD and remote endpoints
Finally, it's important not to overlook the other end of the VDI system - the endpoints that users are actually accessing the infrastructure through. Often for remote workers, this may be personally-owned desktops, laptops or smartphones, which may or may not be directly approved as part of a bring your own device (BYOD) initiative.
Learn more: 7 BYOD Nightmares Every CIO Needs to Address
As well as ensuring these endpoints are secure, you need to be mindful of the user experience your VDI setup is providing. It's often easier to stick to a relatively short list of approved devices to deliver consistent performance. You also need to set up policies that spell out what activities employees may and may not do while connecting to VDI services via BYOD solutions to maintain full end-to-end control of the environment.
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