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App streaming has downsides, but they're easily overcome

App streaming can be a great way to deliver the applications users need, but there are some hurdles you'll have to jump over, such as packaging large apps, configuring servers and ensuring strong Internet connections.

Streaming applications come with a great deal of benefits, but it's not all coming up roses. There are some downsides to app streaming, too.

Most of those downsides are minor, and for many shops, they won't outweigh the benefits. But despite the fact that the pitfalls are surmountable, it's important to know what they are before you get into app streaming.

Ease of application lifecycle management, patching and updating, as well as the potential for offline connectivity, are all great reasons to look into app streaming. But know that there's some up-front work involved, as well as some potential headaches for workers.

Downsides of app streaming

Streamed applications are isolated from everything else by default, which reduces compatibility problems. But if you package an application that needs a computer's local services to support it, such as print driver or DCOM support, that application won't run when users try to stream it.

Additionally, big applications such as CAD software and other applications that need a lot of resources can be difficult to package for streaming. More complexity in an application can make it harder for you to do a good job of capturing how it runs locally, and one of the benefits of app streaming is that the apps act like they're local. If you're not accomplishing that with a certain application, it may not be a good one to stream. It's important to survey apps and decide if they're right for streaming before you start the process.

Once you know which applications you need to stream to users, you'll have to configure the servers and make sure you have enough hardware and resources to run the apps. Keep in mind that as your user count goes up, so too do the hardware requirements.

Applications can only stream to the OS that they were written for. That means you can only stream Windows applications to Windows operating systems, unless users have a client on their mobile devices. Even with the client, you shouldn't stream applications to mobile devices just because you can. Much of the time, the apps you need to stream to users are traditional mouse and keyboard apps. On the small screens of users' smartphones, using those apps may make for a frustrating -- or even impossible -- work experience.

Latency can be an issue, too. When it takes a long time for data to traverse the network, it equates to long wait times for users trying to load an application. If the app isn't done loading and the user loses connectivity, users won't receive the access they need to get work done. You can fix this by allowing the application blocks to be cached locally, but users will still need to re-download the application when you update or patch it.

Connection problems probably won't be of much concern to regular office employees, but remote workers and road warriors who need application access can face intermittent and poor-quality connections, which makes loading the application a lot of work and can degrade productivity.

Next Steps

In part one of this series, learn about some of the advantages that come with application streaming.

This was last published in July 2014

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