Top five ways to keep VDI users happy

One reason VDI fails is that the user experience is bad. But IT can keep VDI users happy many ways, such as letting them personalize some settings.

There are tons of things you can do to make your VDI deployment fail, but fear not: There are ways you can help it succeed too. All you have to do is keep your VDI users happy.

Keeping users happy may be easier said than done, but it is possible. You have to make the user experience enjoyable, which involves deploying virtual desktops only to users who need them, doing benchmark testing and testing with actual users and letting employees personalize their desktops.

If you're just starting a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) deployment -- or if yours is on the brink of failure -- check out these tips to keep VDI users happy.

1. Don't make them use VDI if they don't have to

There are different kinds of users in every company. Some users will benefit from VDI, but it could be a huge pain for others. Knowledge workers, such as executives, aren't the right workers to supply with virtual desktops, because they often need better remote access than VDI can provide. Code and graphics developers are power users, and they shouldn't get virtual desktops because VDI doesn't work well with the resource-gobbling software that they need. But task workers, such as call center employees or receptionists, are good candidates for provisioned virtual desktops, because their data is crucial to business functions and they usually aren't mobile workers. And you could supply provisioned virtual desktops to any of your company's kiosks.

2. Do benchmark testing 

Benchmark testing helps figure out the maximum number of desktops your environment can handle, ensuring a good end-user experience. When you know how many desktops you can handle, you won't overload your network or force potential storage and resource bottlenecks. Make sure to account for users' activities and resource consumption so they get the best experience. And remember that vendors are trying to sell you their product: The number of desktops they say their product can support isn't always accurate, so it's important to do the testing yourself.

3. Let users personalize their settings

With mandatory profiles, every user gets the same settings at log on, and everything resets when they log off. But your users aren't robots, so deploying the same profile to everyone probably won't make users happy. You can store users' personal VDI settings on their virtual desktops with Windows roaming profiles, but it takes a long time to copy the profile at log on and then copy it back at log off, so make sure your VDI storage can handle the strain. You could also use an agent on the desktop, plus a file share or database to store profiles. Being able to restore a user's profile if it gets damaged is important too, so make sure you back up the user profiles and make daily logoff mandatory.

4. Get users involved in testing

One common reason for a VDI project to fail is a lack of virtual desktop testing with users. You have to understand what users do for work and how they do it. Watch how employees work with their desktops so you can see what they expect from their machines. Then, create a testing environment that covers your individual project needs. Set up virtual machines that have the minimum requirements so that you can add functions later, rather than having to take them away. Show employees how to use the desktops and let them do some work on the desktops. Finally, teach VDI users about VDI so they understand how much faster pared-down virtual desktops are than traditional desktops.

5. Tell users what to expect from VDI

More on VDI users

Cost of VDI varies with quality of user experience

The user persona: The first hurdle of deploying VDI

Enhance VDI user experience with SSO    

Users expect control over their PCs, but VDI takes that control away, and locked-down desktops can make employees less productive, despite making them easier to manage for IT. But what users often don't know is that VDI can be better than the alternatives. It can improve users' desktop experience, give secure access from almost any PC, let users install apps they need for work, protect data, still allow for desktop personalization and make fixing broken desktops easier. If users know that VDI is better in the end, they may not be so resistant to it in the beginning.

This was first published in April 2013
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