Tips for VDI user profile management

Unique user profiles are key to a successful VDI environment, so you need user profile management techniques to create, store and secure profiles.

Could you live without your browser bookmarks, desktop background and personal computer settings? Probably not.

That's why user profile management is so important in a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) environment. For users to embrace VDI, administrators need to ensure that their profiles are properly delivered and backed up.

Desktop virtualization complicates user profile management, because virtual desktops are often built from a single golden image that's not customized for each user. Admins have to put policies in place to configure user profiles, determine when they will be updated and ensure that they can be recovered if lost or damaged.

These frequently asked questions about profiles will help you understand best practices for user profile management in your VDI environment.

How do user profiles work with VDI?

User profiles include information such as desktop display preferences and the user's application settings. In a VDI environment, admins can allow for some personalization of user profiles while still delivering virtual desktops from a master image. Vendors offer tools that can accomplish this customization, and VDI admins can even maintain control over the settings and user profile configuration.

Does my environment need unique user profiles?

If you are deploying virtual desktops to users who all perform the same tasks and don't require personalization, then you can simply use mandatory profiles. Providing identical profiles to all users keeps things consistent and is easier for IT to manage, because profile changes are deleted at logoff. Otherwise, you can implement unique user profiles and maintain those using Windows Roaming Profiles or other user profile management tools.

What do I need to do with user profiles before virtualizing?

More on user profile management

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Creating and copying Windows user profiles

When you deploy VDI, it's a good idea to make sure Windows user profiles aren't stored directly on local devices. That way, they're not lost when users access virtual desktops. You can configure user profiles to be stored on a network share through Active Directory. One thing to keep in mind about roaming profiles, however, is that Windows does not allow you to open profiles until they are completely loaded from the server. Fortunately, folder redirection can help reduce the time it takes for users to access their profiles.

How do I back up user profiles?

If you're going through the trouble of personalizing user profiles, then you need a way to back them up. Windows Roaming Profiles stores user data on a file share, so, if your file server is backed up, you're all set. Make sure users do a clean logoff of their desktop (not just powering off the thin client) so the profile share stays up to date. If you store profile uniqueness on a database, back up that database and its server. You might considering investing in file-system-based backup so you can restore individual files or folders, rather than all profiles on the database.

Should I ever delete user profiles?

Some organizations may need their users to have their own profiles but want them to be deleted after logoff. You can accomplish this by deploying nonpersistent virtual desktops in VDI software, such as VMware View or Citrix XenDesktop. Or, use Active Directory mandatory profiles and set them to re-download on login. Another option is to use Microsoft's User Profile Deletion Utility to delete user profiles.

What tools are available for user profile management?

Aside from Active Directory and roaming profiles, there are some handy lesser-known user profile management tools out there. Some of them are even free. AppSense and RES Software offer more complex options, while DelProf2 and RegShot utilities provide profile registry management and migration capabilities.

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