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How to properly set user expectations about VDI performance

VDI performance can be a problem for end users, leading to a tense relationship between them and IT staff. Here's how to set expectations to prevent these issues among others.

One of the biggest challenges of a successful VDI implementation is managing user expectations. An IT team must find effective ways to determine what those expectations should be and communicate them to end users.

When it comes to VDI, end users have come to expect the same level of service they get with their consumer products, including the flexibility to use multiple devices, a high degree of availability and reliability and access to resources no matter where or how they access them.

To complicate matters, the lines between personal and business interactions are blurring. Users might check plane schedules one minute and access their virtual desktops the next -- all from their living rooms, hotel rooms or even their cars.

IT professionals must be proactive to ensure that users receive the VDI performance they expect.

The service-level agreement

When an organization turns to an outside provider for services, the vendor typically offers a service-level agreement (SLA) that includes details about the contracted services, metrics used to measure service delivery, responsibilities on the part of both parties, an explanation of how the vendor resolves issues, penalties that might apply and any other details that outline expectations. In some cases, an organization can negotiate components within the SLA. In general, however, the contract tends to favor the provider, especially when it comes to setting expectations.

IT teams that deliver VDI services might consider an SLA-type approach for their end users. VDI products, however, are complex systems that require a lot of hand-holding and cajoling. The larger the system, the more likely it will suffer from performance, reliability and availability issues. An SLA for VDI services would need to focus on what users can expect in terms of VDI performance, service delivery and desktop availability.

What the SLA approach cannot do is guarantee a specific level of productivity or quality of experience. The SLA might promise 99.99% uptime, but it cannot ensure that the user will have a good experience when moving from task to task or location to location.

Moving beyond the SLA

VDI products are complex systems that require a lot of hand-holding and cajoling.

Users need to know what to expect from their VDI services. Without this information, they create their own expectations and if those are not met, they will feel frustrated and uncertain as to whether they can trust the services. This can result in an antagonistic relationship between end users and IT.

IT teams can still use the SLA model as a starting point to manage user expectations. IT should describe the services and the metrics used to measure them, while setting clear and realistic expectations.

To do this, IT must first assess the VDI environment and what it takes to keep it running. The team should evaluate the VDI performance and availability limitations and take existing SLAs into account. IT cannot set user expectations based on capabilities that the platform itself cannot deliver. End users should know, for example, that a product can support only so many desktops running at peak load.

In addition, IT pros should evaluate which personnel can provide end user support and address issues when they arise. They also need to take into account the complexities of their systems and current issues that they cannot resolve in the immediate future. The physical hardware, for example, might already be near capacity with no room in the budget for new equipment in the next fiscal year. Users need to understand how this might affect VDI desktops.

To ensure user satisfaction, IT must also establish open communication channels with their users that help facilitate a better user experience.

Communication is key

Setting user expectations for VDI requires more than a static SLA document that IT teams write once and set aside, only to toss in the users' faces if they gripe about VDI services. Managing expectations must be a fluid and ongoing process with open communication.

IT should update end users on the VDI platform's status and notify them when an update or patch will affect desktop services. IT should automatically alert users when unexpected disruptions in services occur, with follow-up details about the status and efforts toward resolution.

When users submit support tickets, IT admins should give realistic and useful details about which steps they are taking to address the issue with a timeline for resolution. IT should also make information easily available for users to access. IT can set up a knowledge base, for example, to provide users with information such as how to install VDI clients or how to remotely connect to desktops.

At the same time, open communication is more than just sending messages or providing users with documentation. IT must also listen to their users. IT might consider implementing session-based desktops because they're easier to manage than dedicated desktops and better utilize resources, but users might require dedicated desktops for their particular type of work.

IT should provide users with multiple ways to contact support and open tickets, such as by phone, email, website or chatbot. At the same time, users should have an easy way to access information about the VDI services, such as a web portal that provides status information about disruptions in services.

This was last published in July 2019

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