Desktop virtualization has been an option for most organizations since 2010 but few utilized it until the technology became more reliable. In March of this year, Evolve IP did a survey and found that 36.5 percent of organizations are now using virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) and 32.5 percent of those not using it said that they will be using it in the next three years. This increased use is being driven by organizations projecting long-term cost savings when switching, as well as other excellent benefits such as enhanced user mobility, better security, and faster updates. But with all of these great benefits there are still many organizations that fail their VDI trials and go back to their old system. Here are 10 reasons why your VDI integration will fail:
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1. The explanation for the cost-effectiveness of VDI was not convincing
VDI is cost effective; the long term benefits greatly outweigh the upfront costs of the switch. The quickest way to derail your virtual desktop project is to make a poor case for how the system saves costs. If you are an advocate of the new system, you need to be vigilant and resilient, especially when financial problems arise. Frequently outlining the long-term benefits is paramount. This will be necessary from the planning stages through to full integration (when nobody wants to go back to the old system). Controlling costs is vital, which we will talk about later, but making an argument for the cost-effectiveness of the switch is very important.
The cost savings for VDI aren’t exclusively from hardware and this is a reason why the debate can get complicated. There are potential hardware savings from a “bring your own device” or BYOD program you can institute, which saves money and improves productivity. One unique component of VDI is that any device can connect securely to the system, so employees’ personal computers can easily connect. The bulk of the savings comes from the management of the system and the productivity of users. It is estimated that VDI technology can save over 30% of the current cost of IT administrators. IT management and support are streamlined and centralized resulting in faster and more cost-effective service with fewer IT personnel. Since data security is improved, the task of data security will necessitate fewer employees. Users will spend less time dealing with IT problems because administrators will be more efficient in their maintenance. VDI saves on energy costs as well, especially if more employees are able to switch to remote offices.
2. Employees were not included in the process
Users, not administrators, are usually the employees who are most resistant to changes in their desktop experience. A full mutiny by employees can negatively influence the process and potentially hinder VDI integration. If employees are part of the planning process of the program they will feel a sense of ownership and advocate VDI throughout its implementation. Include them in the initial planning and continue this through full integration and beyond. If feasible, explain the program’s costs and benefits beforehand and get a consensus for VDI implementation.
An exciting way to improve employee participation in VDI implementation is to give them new gadgets during the rollout. When new systems come in, employees expect new gear but with VDI all they get is a new interface. If you give them gadgets at the start, they might have an easier time adjusting. This method similar to how a change occurred in their old system: when an update came along, employees got new devices. This familiarity will help the transition feel more natural.
3. You assumed all of your employees interacted the same way with VDI
Employees have different functions with unique relationships to technology. Human resources representatives access the virtualized desktop differently than sales personnel who travel a lot or graphic designers from the marketing department. Keeping this in mind when planning and implementing virtualization can preclude common problems that have a tendency to disrupt the workflow and jeopardize the project.
Make sure you are careful in your identification of the different groups who will be using VDI and design a rollout plan to accommodate as many employees as possible. When considering how to include everyone, it is important to think about where employees access the virtualized desktop, which applications they require, and whether they need to access the network offline. Human resources representatives almost always work at the office, have standard applications, and don’t need to work offline. Traveling sales personnel access the network from different geographic locations, use standard office and CRM applications, and work offline. Some graphic designers work from home, they need very specialized applications, and most likely never work offline. Once all of the groups are identified it will be important to get a representative from each group to be included in special planning meetings. Here they can give feedback on their respective jobs as they relate to virtualization. These meetings will be a forum where you can identify problem areas that IT and management had not considered. The representatives from each group will be great educators once the project is underway.
4. Employee training was not thorough
VDI integration requires some training for employees; they will be exposed to new terms and different steps to complete tasks. As with costs, the initial time/money investment in education will be significant, but in the long run less training will need to be given because knowledge will be centralized at an administrative level where there are fewer employees to be trained. The real hurdle will be the initial training because of a general resistance to change that occurs within organizations.
Making a great case for the benefits of VDI to employees is an excellent way to frame their training in the program. Weaving the argument of the benefits into the entire training program will help your case. It would also be helpful to articulate the interesting and fun aspects of virtualization. Make sure employees have multiple training sessions as well as access to materials pertaining to VDI they can read on their own. Try to keep the new terms to a minimum and explain any technical jargon, don’t assume they know many of the terms. Doing training sessions after the rollout will be essential and a great place to answer common questions.
5. Collaboration with IT was not sufficient
As discussed above, IT administrative costs are reduced with VDI integration. This savings comes from a reduction in labor costs in the long run because you’ll eventually be able to reduce the number of IT personnel managing your system. This makes the argument for switching difficult with IT personnel, but their support in the process is essential. If you can make a great argument to them you might be able to get them to buy in to the process, which is helpful for when technical arguments need to be made in meetings.
Most IT employees will be retained after the switch because there will be a lot of work to do for years before VDI is fully integrated into the company. A lot of things can happen until then and some IT personnel will retire or switch jobs so the fear might dissipate after this explanation. IT employees who work the service desk will have a less frustrating experience because they can fix many problems from a central location and won’t end up at the actual workstation of the user as often. IT employees will need to learn different functions and training will be vital to the survival of your VDI integration. In large organizations, external training of an IT team would be helpful. A representative from different IT sections could receive specialized training and all of these members could form a special VDI integration taskforce. This team would train other IT employees on procedures and attend company meetings on VDI.
6. Operational costs were not controlled
Underestimating operational costs can ruin your virtualization project. If you have a clear understanding of what sort of hidden costs are associated with VDI implementation, and stay vigilant in controlling those costs, you can ensure success when unexpected problems inevitably arise. A very common underestimated cost with VDI is Windows licensing costs. The VDI administrator will need to track Windows licensing requirements to ensure costs are controlled.
There are different ways you can approach controlling Windows licensing costs and the method depends on the needs of your company. The good news is, if you have newer devices already in use then you don’t need pay for new licensing because they already are equipped with it. If you’re buying in bulk going with Software Assurance (SA) is the best policy. If you think that thin clients or BYOD are more suited to your needs then you need to purchase the licensing agreements for every device, which costs $100 per device. It is important to read over all of the guidelines and figure out what your company needs beforehand so costs are budgeted and controlled.
7. You didn’t have a solid contingency plan in place for system outages
System outages are costly but on virtual desktops they can be much more damaging to productivity than on your old system. System outages are generally due to hardware problems or software bugs and if you don’t have a great plan in place these problems can be even worse. Remember, these will happen more frequently during the trial period where you are most vulnerable to discontent from employees or supervisors, so getting something in place well before the rollout is imperative. You need to make the case that outages are unavoidable and should be factored into the budget, but also have a solid plan to control the costs associated with them.
When the inevitable outage occurs in your VDI, it is essential that you as the representative of the technology stay calm and ensure others that this will pass and there will be fewer outages in the future as the project progresses. You can accurately make the case that with virtualization there will be fewer outages in the long run. As the company deals with an incident it is vital that everything pertaining to the problem is documented. This might improve the system because there will be a written set of instructions that solve that particular issue. The documented resolution will be helpful during the unavoidable discussion of the problem at a meeting where you need to be able to tell colleagues and supervisors what the issue was in a cogent manner.
8. Security precautions were not adequate
There are some great security features in VDI that help solidify the case for virtualization. Reductions in hardware make it less likely there will be a breach because there are fewer devices to be attacked. Because the system reduces the amount of information transferred, it is less likely that information will be intercepted. If a device is attacked it can be identified and isolated. The improved security that accompanies virtualization safeguards valuable company information, but there still are dangers and complacency can possibly result in the collapse of the project. Making a great argument for the enhanced safety features of VDI is helpful but a security breach will make a more convincing counterargument.
Virtualization has unique security risks that should be understood and mitigated as much as possible. The system relies heavily on software and this provides more software vulnerabilities for attackers. If your company is using file sharing, an attacker could gain access to the host file system and alter the directories used for sharing. This could devastate your system and leave your company vulnerable to data theft. A widespread issue known as virtual sprawl, which refers to the dynamic nature of virtualization, can cause security difficulties. These potential dangers, along with others, are why it is important to have a great security system in place well before the rollout. You need to have sprawl management so you can check what is necessary and what isn’t. Make sure that you have a built-in auditing system so you can program automatic security checks. Keep up with patching and have a patch manager who oversees the schedule. This person should also track the company’s offline devices. These and many more security measures can ensure the security and success of virtualization.
9. Too many of your applications were left out of virtualization
Before implementing VDI, companies should be aware of the complexity associated with virtualizing applications. Virtualizing your desktops is the first step in the process but application virtualization is a very important yet often overlooked aspect of full VDI usage by your employees. Once you have identified the applications you need virtualized (see number 3) you must download them and get them working. Make sure you plan ahead for this process and ensure your IT staff know the complexities and limitations associated with it.
Something that surprises companies in the process of virtualizing is that many applications are unable to be virtualized. Antivirus applications as well as applications with very convoluted setup procedures, like printer and scanner applications, are often among the most common applications that cannot be virtualized. This can frustrate users and shift their opinion towards going back to the old system. Another VDI surprise is that some applications are not recommended for virtualization. Among these are any application with required physical hardware, systems that require extreme performance, applications with license agreements that don’t permit virtualization, any app that has not been tested, and quite a few more. Your research must be thorough to ensure there are no mistakes in virtualizing difficult applications. Some applications are difficult and time consuming to virtualize. There are simple applications like Adobe or WinZip that are small in size and therefore need few modifications before virtualizing. Moderate difficulty applications require modifications and alterations, like special scripts and additional parameters. Then there are some really difficult applications; they are large and require a lot of customization and possibly a file scanning program. Attempting to virtualize difficult applications could result in time wasted working on them internally or money spent on external consultants.
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10. You didn’t plan for the future
The mutability of the modern business environment necessitates constant adaptation for survival. A problem with many VDI rollouts is the company designs the project to fit with the current business climate and doesn’t take into consideration what their future needs will be. For instance, if a company is aware of the possibility of new product superseding a current viable product, then future applications or hardware purchases should be reflected in the initial rollout. If your company will grow or shrink as a result of market forces then initial purchases and designs need to be modified to account for this potential change. They at least need to be mitigated by some cost safety measures.
If your business is volatile, it might be better to rollout slowly and see where future costs lead. A great way to do this is to take one of the groups mentioned above (see number 4) and test the technology with them first. The group that should be tested first is the group that has the least likelihood of shrinking or growing in the next few years. After this group is finished, try implementing one group at a time starting with the next most stable. When you get to the last groups, you may find they have changed in size or have been eliminated entirely. This will either cut costs or ease the company into a more costly rollout than anticipated.
Is moving to VDI the right choice for your company?
Companies should research whether VDI integration is right for their business before transitioning. There are many pitfalls associated with it but virtualization saves companies money if integrated correctly. Follow the guidance of professionals who can elaborate the difficulties and set your company on the path to virtualization. If your company decides VDI isn’t right for them, check out other virtualization methods and see if they are a better fit.