Reposting Citrix Blog

Thanks to Monica Griesemer

Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) is a technology that allows organizations to run operating systems on virtual machines, enabling users to access resources remotely. It has become highly important in the era of hybrid work. To make the most of each benefit a VDI implementation offers, it’s essential to consider several best practices for successful deployment.

How does desktop virtualization work?

Put simply, virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) enables organizations to deliver user desktops and apps by executing functions on virtual machines hosted in datacenters. Each virtualized environment simulates a physical infrastructure, including an operating system and applications.

A VDI environment usually includes virtual machines (VMs), a hypervisor, an access method, and a connector to help users connect to the VDI workspace.

Advantages of Using VDI

There are several key advantages to implementing virtual desktop infrastructure.

Remote Access

With the significant growth of remote work in recent years, it is critical to implement a platform that can support anywhere, anytime work. VDI systems help organizations provide a seamless and secure digital workspace for employees, regardless of location and device — while also offering robust security, better performance, and more scalability.

Improved Security

One of the top advantages of VDI is robust security. Today, organizations are distributed and constantly expanding digitally across multiple platforms and devices. A single cyberattack can compromise thousands of users, costing millions in damages and reputation loss. VDI security can protect your IT infrastructure by hosting the data in a central system instead of end-user devices. Since all data is centralized, it’s easier to protect it and apply security policies.

Long-Term Cost Savings

Virtualization technologies optimize hardware investments by getting more users on fewer servers. VDI doesn’t require a significant investment in end-user devices, and you can get more life out of the devices you already have. In addition, VDI offers long-term savings that make it worth any initial costs associated with deployment. Licensing costs are lower using VDI because users can share a single application license across multiple virtual sessions.

A Seamless Experience

Another advantage of VDI is that it offers a seamless work experience for employees, with easy remote access to applications and resources. Delays and downtimes from maintenance or upgrades are minimal, since these are rolled out automatically to all virtual desktops. And with specialized optimization technologies, you can ensure voice, video, and graphics apps run just as smoothly in virtual desktops as they do on native devices. Employees can stay productive by becoming more agile and focused.

Centralized Management

With a VDI implementation, everything is managed from a centralized system. This means end users can have updates and new applications deployed to the central desktop image and automatically appear on authorized devices. IT admins can control application usage and permissions, and add or remove users when provisioning from a centralized dashboard.

How to Use VDI Effectively—7 Best Practices

Organizations that plan to implement desktop virtualization should consider the needs of the user and company as well as the user experience. Factors like availability are critical, as VDI performance relies on the server, not local processing power. Here are some tips to ensure the VDI’s best performance.

1. Understand end-user requirements

Before deploying VDI, consider how end users will interact with the virtual app or desktop. Map and evaluate usage patterns or different categories of users. For instance, what time of day do most users log in? Other factors to consider include:

  • Applications: Think about which applications end users will need to do their tasks. Each user, team, or department may require different applications and solutions for their job. Be especially mindful of unified communications applications and their correct redirection configurations to prevent server overload.
  • Number of users: Once you know which applications are needed for each team, it’s essential to know how many people will use each application. Traffic volume will impact your deployments and hardware requirements.
  • Equipment or hardware: Some use cases, such as 3D graphics, have specific requirements and may require high-end hardware or GPUs. Equipment requirements may also include peripherals like USB drives, printers, and scanners.
  • User profile needs: Identify which users require privileged access and where you need consistent profile settings between desktop sessions.

2. Ensure VDI is highly available

High availability is critical for a successful VDI implementation because employees and third parties use virtualized desktops for their daily activities. Modern hypervisors have characteristics that make them resilient. When using virtualization, all desktops depend on the backend VDI solution to be reliable. To prevent a single point of failure, you should have redundancy of resources to support reliable access and disaster recovery.

3. Monitor server performance

In addition to evaluating your users’ requirements, you’ll need to monitor server performance issues. Monitoring tools provide essential insights into a server’s workloads, resource shortages, and peak loads. Monitoring server performance can also help you identify which users or applications are placing an extra burden on the server. Monitoring can also help you plan for future improvements.

4. Upgrade server resources

Upgrade when necessary. From time to time, evaluate the server requirements according to your use case and scale accordingly. You have the option to leverage horizontal scaling, adding machines to your resource pool, or vertical scaling, adding more power to an existing machine, to expand your environment. For instance, if you have hundreds or thousands of users, the servers will require more CPU, memory, and network bandwidth than smaller networks. Your server resources need to be adapted to your organization’s needs. If your requirements are higher than your server resources, here are some tips:

  • Add more servers and divide the workload among them
  • Leverage public cloud hosted workloads to easily scale up and down based on user load
  • Add more processors, memory, or connectivity to the server

5. Reduce desktop display demands

VDI renders the screen on the server and then sends the image to the endpoint for display. So, when specific applications are visually intensive, they can put a strain on the virtual desktop performance. Reducing the visual requirements of the application can reduce the traffic demands of virtual desktops.

For instance, reducing the display resolution from 1920×1200 to 1280×1024 bits per pixel (bpp) can reduce the bandwidth needs from 2 gigabits to 629 megabits.

6. Use network performance monitoring

It’s also essential to monitor network performance. Network monitoring can help you identify the bandwidth demands of virtual desktops. Identify bottlenecks and demand peaks, traffic trends, and bandwidth usage and adjust your services accordingly.

7. Be mindful of endpoints

VDI enables organizations to deliver a consistent desktop experience to diverse endpoints and devices. This is especially important with the expansion of BYOD (bring your own device) policies. But while VDI is device agnostic, different users may need different resources.

How can you ensure device and user control for many device types? First, determine the device types you will support to access VDI. Once you have determined the devices, identify how you will secure them. For instance, you can establish clear policies that state which activities users can and cannot do.

It’s critical to monitor connections to the VDI from third-party devices to ensure anyone trying to enter the network follows security procedures. This way, you can detect any anomalous behavior and prevent data breaches.

How to choose the right VDI

Choosing the right VDI implementation for your organization will depend largely on your organization’s specific needs. Some of the best use cases for VDI include:

  • Remote workforces: Remote and hybrid environments are typical use cases for VDI. These workforces require connectivity to access resources and applications on their virtual desktops. VDI deployments offer a centralized location for the apps and data and offer high availability.
  • Task or shift work: Task workers can benefit from VDI when using non-persistent desktops, meaning they don’t save any personal settings. Shift workers, like mobile health professionals, typically use the same applications. Another example is contact center workers, which require frequent changes of station. VDI deployments make it easy to take a new station and access documentation and resources.
  • Graphic-intensive applications: VDI options that come with specialized optimizations can be a good fit for power users such as architects, graphic designers, and other teams that use graphics-intensive software. VDI deployments support GPUs and GPU resources that can be shared with multiple desktops.
  • Highly regulated industries: Companies in highly regulated industries, such as financial services firms and healthcare organizations, require a high level of security. VDI provides the comprehensive security policies these organizations need to prevent unauthorized access—and to protect against malware and other threats.
  • Shared resources: In many industries, sharing resources is a common practice. For instance, in computer labs or hospital kiosks, several employees can share the same desktop equipment in the same shift. VDI can help with the flexibility required to change users while keeping secure access to data.

For many organizations, there are also instances where desktop as a service (DaaS) is the best choice. Because this form of VDI is hosted in the cloud and managed by a third-party provider, it can be an ideal option for companies looking to lower upfront costs and offload maintenance.

Boost Productivity and Security with Citrix Virtualization

Citrix DaaS and VDI solutions are designed to meet the needs of an increasingly flexible workforce, and make it easy for companies to provide secure access to digital workspaces.