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What not to do when implementing a virtual desktop environment

These five mistakes are guaranteed to anger your users and wreak havoc in your virtual desktop environment.

Last week, I wrote about about the three skills you need to be a virtual desktop super admin. Now, let's focus on the exact opposite. Here are five easy ways to anger users when you implement desktop virtualization.

Mistake 1: Take away the "nonessential" stuff users do.
Desktop virtualization traces its roots back to server-based computing (SBC) environments running on Terminal Server. Most of those usage scenarios were based around applications (e.g., delivering a single business app via SBC to a fat client).

A "locked-down" environment used to be easy to justify. People thought, "We're saving money through control, and the best way to control what users can do is to prevent them from being able to control anything."

And that worked because you were essentially locking down what users could do on their secondary desktops. Since users still had fat PCs on their desks, they could still install their own applications, watch videos on YouTube and listen to CDs.

Although a lot of people use desktop wallpaper as an example for this, that's a bad example because even locked-down shared desktops can easily support custom wallpapers with roaming profiles.

Angering users by limiting what they can do goes much deeper than desktop wallpapers.

Mistake 2: Make it take longer to connect or start up.
In the old days, a user would flip open his laptop, click the Outlook icon and -- Boom! -- he was using Outlook.

How will it work in your new environment? Will the user need to click on a browser, enter your site, enter his credentials (again), wait for authentication, click the Outlook icon and wait for Outlook. How long will that take?

(And don't even get me started on virtual private networks. Please don't make your users manually authenticate to a VPN as part of this process!)

Mistake 3: Don't let users work offline.
Enough said.

Mistake 4: Don't let users have the devices they want.
It's easy to get tunnel vision around cost savings when it comes to desktop virtualization. But not letting users choose their devices -- especially in mobile situations -- is a great way to make them mad. The iPhone for email is a great example.

And the worst part is that users will typically figure out how to get around restrictions. It's easy to create an Exchange rule to forward all emails out of the corporation to an iPhone-enabled personal address. And if that doesn't work, users will just use the iPhone's browser to get to Outlook Web Access. People will use their iPhones anyway, and every time they access their email, they'll hate you more because it takes 10 times the effort it should.

Mistake 5: Buy the cheapest client you can.
This goes hand in hand with Mistake 4: If you're going to buy new thin clients, mobile devices, software, etc., take some time to use the devices before buying them.

It's amazing how a supercheap thin client can kill the user experience of a great remoting protocol on a fast network. Spending an extra $100 per client might be the best investment you could make.

There it is: Five ways to make hundreds of enemies. Don't mess up!

Brian Madden, Independent Industry Analyst and Blogger
Brian Madden is known throughout the world as an opinionated, supertechnical, fiercely independent desktop virtualization expert. He has written several books and over 1,000 articles about desktop and application virtualization. Madden's blog,, receives millions of visitors per year and is a leading source for conversation, debate and discourse about the application and desktop virtualization industry. He is also the creator of BriForum, the premier independent application delivery technical conference.

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