In recent years, there has been an increasing demand for universities to provide students with wider access to software, apps, and resources both on and off-campus. Providing students with the ability to work wherever and whenever is now expected of higher education organizations, which has led to many implementing a range of solutions.

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) has become a popular cloud-based solution for higher education organizations. When considering using a VDI solution for facilitating remote study and moving away from physical desktops on-campus, it’s important to understand the best way to implement VDI for your organization. In this guide, we’ll explore the key considerations that must be taken into account when implementing VDI.

What is VDI?

VDI is a virtual desktop solution that allows students to connect using a virtual setting and access university software and apps in the same both on and off-campus, in exactly the same way as they would use a physical machine.

For higher education organizations, this cloud solution helps to provide continuity of education and maintain the overall student experience. It can also help to save costs and resources for IT departments who are left with more time for issues that are not related to physical desktop technology.

Read Citrix' article on VDI: What is VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure)?

The key VDI considerations

Before VDI deployment takes place, there are several key factors that should be considered to determine whether it’s the right solution for a particular organization.

Sizing and storage

The sizing and storage required by virtualization solutions, as well as user needs should be taken into account. This includes an IT department with the capability to implement and manage a new system.

An incorrectly designed VDI deployment without adequate capacity will lead to performance issues and will have a negative impact on user experience. In traditional desktop systems, the memory, storage, and performance of a desktop are distributed across each individual machine. As long as each individual machine can provide the performance needed, user experience will not be impacted.

However, with desktop virtualization, all of these elements are centralized in the VDI environment. This system must be able to handle the performance requirements of each individual end-user, all of whom may be using the system at the same time. If the system is not adequate and a huge number of users access the system simultaneously, performance issues will occur.

BYOD policies

VDI complements BYOD policies. It allows users to access the virtual desktop using their own devices so understanding how the VDI solution will work alongside it will help with the implementation process.

Ensuring that user acceptable use policies and security policies are in place will not only help students to get the most from both solutions, it will also ensure that the university’s resources and data are protected and used properly.

Article: BYOD guidelines and policies in higher education >


Costs and licensing

Costs and licensing should be carefully considered. Although VDI provides a number of benefits, it also carries high costs. In addition, the IT department will require dedicated time to setting up and understanding the solution in order to offer support and implement updates when needed.

Article: How much do VDI style solutions cost in 2020? >

Article: Exploring the hidden license costs in application delivery and VDI solutions >


Costs and licensing for VDI

Staff and student requirements

One of the largest considerations to make before implementing a VDI solution is the needs of the end-users (staff and students). Every campus and organization is different, with a diverse range of needs and expectations. The solution must meet as many of these as possible to provide the most benefits.

Each end-user will have different requirements so understanding these is key to properly designing and implementing the solution. One of the key aspects to consider is the applications being used on the network. One application may have higher performance requirements than others so taking this into consideration will help to determine the sizing requirements of the VDI.

Student and staff requirements for implementing VDI

Persistent or non-persistent desktops

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure can provide either persistent or non-persistent desktop. A persistent desktop means that each end user’s desktop is customizable in a way that persists (remains the same) in each session and the customized data is saved.

On the other hand, non-persistent desktops give users a generic desktop, which does not retain customization. After each session, the desktop will revert back to its original state. This makes it less unique on a per-user basis, offering less functionality and adaptability.

Understanding user needs and requirements across the organization will be key to whether a persistent VDI or non-persistent VDI solution the best.

Persistent desktop VDI vs non-persistent desktop VDI

Why is it important to make these considerations?

It’s vital to make these considerations to ensure that a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure is implemented properly and well, with all of the functionality required from the start. A failure to do this can result in a poor end-user experience and additional costs incurred late when the system needs updating or expanding to ensure that all students are provided with the access they need, when they need it.

Taking the time to assess the organization for suitability will ensure the best student experience, keeping them engaged and providing them with the ability to stay up-to-date with their studies, no matter where they are, the device they’re using or the operating system they’re using.

One of the most important reasons to carefully consider desktop virtualization as a solution is the overall cost and continuity. If the original solution does not work or is not adequate, additional costs will be required in order to change it.

Some useful & related reading...

The ultimate guide to VDI

The ultimate guide to VDI

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