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How to nail your VDI migration from pilot to production

To transition from a VDI pilot program to a full production environment, move users over in waves and keep your old PCs, at least for a while, to handle any unexpected problems.

When moving from a VDI pilot program to the production phase, the absolute worst option is to perform an abrupt switch where every user moves to virtual desktops at once.

A pilot program is a critical part of any VDI migration, but when moving from physical to virtual desktops, eventually organizations have to transition to a full-blown production environment. But when it's time to switch, remember that virtual desktop infrastructure does not always deliver predictable levels of performance or linear scalability. Mass migrations put organizations at risk of serious problems, such as hardware failures and storage shortages that didn't show up during the testing phase.

It's more prudent to perform a VDI migration in batches because it's easier to track virtual desktop usage, manage the user experience and address problems in a smaller group. Administrators should transition users to VDI in groups and keep old desktops available until they know how the production environment performs.

Batch transfer options

The transition from a VDI pilot program to a full-scale VDI environment requires just as much planning as the pilot program did.

The first people admins should move to VDI are any power users interested in being early adopters, and then gradually move on to other subgroups. Another popular approach is to transition users one department at a time, because then IT migrates workers who probably use the same applications or possibly even share the same master image.

Suppose admins decides to transition a small department to virtual desktops first, with the goal of transitioning other departments later on. They can focus on training only those users rather than enduring a massive, organization-wide retraining program. Similarly, starting small allows admins to see what types of questions users might have and anticipate the users' needs better in the next group.

How to handle leftover hardware

To ease any VDI migration, IT has to come up with a plan to temporarily store, process and eventually dispose of the leftover physical hardware.

A VDI pilot program should confirm that virtual desktops are reliable, but sometimes issues, such as traffic overloads, happen in production that admins can't anticipate through testing. If something unexpected occurs, admins must be able to provide a way for their users to do their jobs while they fix the problem. This means IT should make physical desktops available until it is absolutely sure it no longer needs them.

A plan for dealing with physical desktop hardware should not only include how long IT will retain the hardware, but also how it will dispose of it. Some organizations choose to securely reformat desktop hard drives and donate the desktops to charity. Other organizations smash the hard disks and ship the hardware to a recycling center.

The transition from a VDI pilot program to a full-scale VDI deployment requires just as much planning as the pilot program did, but IT can't slack off midway through a project and expect it to succeed. Establish a plan for gradually transitioning users to the new environment, and for moving users back to physical desktops should something go awry.

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