Busted! Four Myths About Virtual Desktops
By: Rob Duffy on Thursday, April 5, 2012

The last five years have all been declared “the year of VDI” (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure) by industry pundits, but in retrospect, none of those years have truly earned the title. Like most new technologies, there is a lot of misinformation and hype out in the market about the capabilities and challenges of virtual desktop technology. And some of the “common wisdom” has earned mythological status. To bring things back to reality, today I’m busting four myths about virtual desktop technology (also known as Desktop as a Service, or DaaS).

Myth 1: Virtual desktops are not cost effective

Busted! VDI can be extremely cost effective, provided it is well planned and maintained. Much of the cost of a virtual desktop environment is in the backend equipment purchase (a capital expense) and the day-to-day operation of the servers and storage equipment. And much of the savings is in the soft costs recouped through productivity and reduced maintenance of desktop PCs.

Cloud-based virtual desktop services can provide even more savings by reducing or eliminating capital costs. Since most of the capital cost of VDI is tied up in backend infrastructure in the data center, where large servers and fast storage is needed to run the desktops for users, cloud hosting companies (managed service providers, or MSPs) can deliver the backend services for you. While this is particularly useful for smaller companies who don’t have the IT staff and facilities to make VDI practical with an in-house operation, this hosted model can also deliver savings to medium and large companies.

The productivity gains of virtual desktop operation can be significant and add directly to your bottom line as well. Examples include:

  • Reducing the chance of downtime due to hurricanes or winter storms
  • Freeing sales teams from their desktops to meet with clients while still accessing corporate data
  • Reducing desktop maintenance work to allow your IT staff to focus on proactive projects

In addition, virtual desktop solutions can contribute to solving your business continuity, disaster recovery and regulatory compliance needs, all while providing your users with increased functionality to be more productive.

Myth 2: Virtual desktops offer weaker performance than a physical PC

Busted! A well-designed and implemented solution will be able to perform every bit as a well as a physical desktop computer, with more operational flexibility. Unlike a physical PC, a virtual desktop user or administrator can easily change the hardware profile based on the user’s current needs. When you buy a physical desktop now, the considerations include whether it will meet requirements over the next few years, such as your expected peak usage requirements, because upgrading physical components is expensive and difficult. But in a virtual desktop environment, users or administrators can add RAM, CPU and hard drive space with the click of a button. This enables provisioning based on current actual need, and not on anticipated needs. The ability to reconfigure the desktop capabilities with the click of a mouse makes VDI more powerful than a physical desktop.

Myth 3: Virtual desktops are disruptive to your staff

Busted! VDI is actually liberating to your staff. Once your data and applications are moved to the cloud, you are untethered from your desktop computer. Examples: you can access your virtual desktop from an iPad at the coffee shop, at your computer at home during a snow storm or with a simple smartphone while riding in a cab. You can work on your own terms.

Another factor is the user interface – there is almost no learning curve. Since the VDI desktop can be created to closely resemble a traditional desktop, there is minimal disruption at cutover from the old system to the new virtual desktop.

Myth 4: Virtual desktops are not flexible

Busted! VDI is built on a rich suite of technologies to enable full personalization of your desktops. Every company is made up of a mix of users, including task workers, power users, executives and temporary contractors. VDI can be customized for any and all of these users. Task workers can run the corporate applications that they need on an inexpensive and easy-to-manage thin client. Power users can work on a powerful virtual desktop in the cloud, where additional resources like RAM and hard drive space can be added on demand. Executives, sales staff and mobile knowledge workers are able to work on the road with small travel laptops that have access to their desktops from any network. And your contract workers can be given temporary and limited access to the corporate server to fulfill their contract. VDI can incorporate individualized operating systems (OS), dedicated resources and persistent user data, and can be customized easily for groups or individuals.

Summary

Although a small grain of truth might be found somewhere in each of these myths, they have generally grown beyond the point supported by facts. In the end, when you make logical, fact-based choices for your virtual desktop platforms and vendors, and correctly select end-user types and application workloads, you can deliver concrete benefits for your organization. And that’s no myth.

Rob Duffy is Product Manager for mindSHIFT’s cloud computing, virtualization and desktop products and services, based in our Waltham, MA office.

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