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User environment management helps VDI shops control the chaos

VDI shops need a way to strike a balance between control and user customization in nonpersistent deployments. User environment management can help.

Virtual desktop users require some degree of personalization and customization, even in nonpersistent deployments. As a result, VDI shops need an effective user profile management method.

Adding yet another management tool, however, can end up creating more complexity. It's tempting to try and manage user profiles with built-in Windows features, such as folder redirection and local machine permissions. IT can use these features to take administrator rights away from users, but some users actually need them for certain applications. And Group Policies can easily contradict each other especially as the user base grows. In short, these built-in features are sufficient in smaller organizations, but if administrators deal with more than a few dozen users, this approach to profile management can quickly become untenable.

User environment management helps admins manage settings so users feel like they are working with their own personal desktops, even though they really aren't.

What can admins do with user environment management?

Admins must ensure that they can deliver a high-quality user experience.

User environment management allows admins to deliver personalized information, including bookmarks and browser histories, to users on nonpersistent desktops.

Admins can customize user privileges on an app-by-app basis and grant admin rights for specific periods of time. IT can also apply policies that override Group Policy, disable specific peripherals and limit each user's resource consumption. From a security standpoint, admins can include logon scripts to automatically enforce certain features.

What should a user environment management tool look like?

A strong user environment management tool delivers the correct profile data quickly, whenever and wherever users need it, all while keeping login times in check. It should personalize the user experience based on the type of device and include multi-platform support. Scalability and availability are also crucial, as is ease of use. Admins should be able to implement and manage the tool with little to no issues.

Citrix, VMware and Microsoft include some form of user environment management in their VDI products. Ivanti, Liquidware Labs and RES Software are among the third-party vendors that offer user environment management tools.

How well do you know VDI user profile management tools?

Take this quiz and see if you're a pro when it comes to Citrix User Profile Management, VMware View Persona Management and some of the other top user profile management tools.

What about roaming profiles?

Roaming profiles are a type of user environment management in which user settings live in a centralized location, such as a file server, rather than in the operating system itself. When users log in to desktops, the operating system looks for their profiles in the centralized location and downloads it to the device. Users then go about their business, and whenever they finish their sessions, any changes they make are saved back to the centralized location.

The problem with roaming profiles is that they can quickly become enormous as users make more and more customizations. The larger the files become, the longer login times become, which only leads to unhappy users.

Next Steps

What's next for user environment management?

VMware's push into the user environment management market

How roaming profiles work

This was last published in April 2017

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