Top 5 VDI questions your help desk will get

If you've implemented virtual desktops, your help desk is sure to get an influx of VDI questions from users.

Once you implement virtual desktops, you're bound to get more than a few help desk requests from frustrated or confused users. Here are the top five VDI questions you'll get and how to deal with them.

1. Why can't I connect?

One of the most common VDI-related help desk calls is from users who are having trouble connecting to a virtual desktop session. If properly constructed, VDI deployments tend to be reliable, but there are a number of different reasons users might be unable to establish a connection.

A lot of VDI questions from users who can't connect are from those who are working off site. Even in this day and age, there are users who don’t know how to connect to a Wi-Fi hotspot. Plus, some hotels have firewall configurations that block access to virtual desktops unless the user pays for a premium Internet access package. More often than not, solving a desktop connection problem involves making the Internet connection or, in the office, ensuring your network is up to speed for VDI.

2. Why can't I print?

Printing from a virtual desktop is another source of frustration for VDI users. For example, a friend of mine works from home and often calls me because she's having trouble printing.

When my friend "can’t print," it's because the print jobs are actually being sent to the corporate headquarters over a thousand miles away, instead of being directed to the printer three feet away from her. To keep this from happening in your environment, make sure printer redirection is in place.

3. How can I connect from my personal device?

VDI environments are actually ideally suited to bring your own device (BYOD), because virtual desktops can provide the illusion of Windows desktops and applications running on a device that is not natively Windows compatible.

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However, your help desk can expect lots of calls from VDI users who want to access their virtual desktops from personal mobile devices. It's the "Monkey See Monkey Do" factor. In other words, if one person gets his tablet connected to his virtual desktop, that user's friends will want the same thing. Once they do, IT will be responsible for applying security policies, training users on how to establish connections to the desktop, etc.

Once you start supporting VDI on mobile devices, you can expect calls from those same users getting new devices. Mobile devices have a relatively short lifespan, and they tend to get lost, stolen or damaged. Constant device turnover will lead to a steady stream of help desk calls as you'll have to reconfigure endpoints and re-provision virtual desktops or applications to the new devices.

4. Where did my stuff go?

Although some VDI implementations create dedicated personal desktops that belong to specific users, most assign a user's connection to a random virtual desktop within a virtual desktop pool. This virtual desktop is reset to a pristine condition at the end of each session, so that users can always be guaranteed a healthy virtual desktop.

Resetting virtual desktops at the end of each session goes a long way toward preserving the overall integrity of the VDI environment, but it can be a source of confusion for end users. If a user changes the desktop background or installs an application, those changes might be undone when he logs out. At the next logon, they may call the help desk wondering where their customizations went.

To preempt this issue, determine whether you want to use persistent or nonpersistent desktops when you implement VDI. If you decide that desktops will be refreshed after logoff, make sure users know that they can't personalize their virtual desktop.

5. Why isn't my password working?

Passwords can be another source of confusion.

Organizations often use technologies such as Exchange ActiveSync to enforce device security (including passwords). The nice thing about ActiveSync policies is that they work on a variety of platforms and can be used without joining the device to a domain. Conversely, the virtual desktops themselves are usually domain joined and therefore authenticate into the Active Directory. The result is that the user has two separate passwords and uses two different authentication mechanisms.

The fun begins when the user is required to change a password. If the user is required to change his VDI password, he might assume that the change applies to the password on his home PC or mobile device as well. Likewise, if the device password is changed, then the user might have trouble logging into his virtual desktop because the Active Directory password remains unchanged.

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