The Pros & Cons of VDI Adoption

(This was originally published on Optimal Partners’ blog.)

We’ve all heard our fair share of headlines about Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) success stories at specific universities, but there are still some that advise others to avoid the project at all costs. The problem with VDI adoption is that the benefits are very appealing, but depend heavily on investments that may vary based on the specific institution that’s funding the project. We’re here to break down the pros and cons of VDI to see whether it’s worth the costs.

Shifting Costs

Each individual client will cost significantly less than a PC.

Easily the most attractive quality of VDI is the reduction in costs compared to a university’s traditional PCs. Instead of each client having its own expensive hardware, the bulk of the costs for installing and maintaining VDI is instead shifted to your institution’s data center. This means that each individual client will cost significantly less than a PC, with the added benefit of being able to convert older computers into VDI clients once they’ve reached the end of their lifespan. This may seem like a win-win, and in most cases it is, but you should also consider that your data center may need upgrading to compensate for the additional load of supporting those virtual desktops.

VDI is also popular for helping institutions save money on energy costs. Since each individual client has less hardware, they require less energy to run and therefore, cost less money to power. Having less moving parts also means that there are less individual pieces that will need fixing, making VDI clients last longer overall.

Added Convenience

You also don’t need to wait for spring break to roll out changes on VDI.

Virtual desktops bring with them the convenience of virtual support. Just as users are able to access their applications from any VDI client or personal device on campus, your IT department should be able to manage your virtual desktops from anywhere. You also don’t need to wait for spring break to roll out changes on VDI; your team can seamlessly change, upgrade, or install new applications for your users anytime without interrupting their work. If users need their desktops personalized with specific versions of software or they need access to apps that others won’t need, that can be done without leaving your office.

While the convenience of VDI for users is substantial, it’s what they won’t notice that may benefit them the most. Since nearly everything is stored server-side, your IT department won’t need to worry about users downloading viruses or stealing sensitive data from individual clients. That’s not to say that security is a non-issue, of course, but having your data center’s security deal with everything means less work for your tech support team in the long run.

A Lack of Processing Power

A classroom of graphic designers may require more processing power than a VDI client is reasonably suited to provide.

While it may seem like the benefits of adopting a VDI outweigh the costs, there is a reason why not every university is taking advantage of it: not all computing processes are created equal, which is easily demonstrated by what should and shouldn’t be done over VDI. A classroom of graphic designers may require more processing power than a VDI client is reasonably suited to provide. This is why most of the institutions that have adopted VDI do so gradually with a few clients at a time while maintaining a healthy supply of traditional clients.

Before adopting VDI, you should ensure that your institution has the framework to support it. The workload that would traditionally be done by an individual PC is instead transferred to your data center, meaning that your VDI clients will require a fast and stable network, both wired and wireless, to transfer all of their information, and a data center that is up to the task of handling the extra traffic.

If all of this sounds great to you and your IT department is ready to take on the project, then we suggest you take the time to consider your university’s specific needs. Long-term cost benefits, energy-saving, and convenience are all well and good, but in the end of the day, the decision of whether to adopt VDI is entirely based on what problems you aim to solve by implementing it.

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