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How to make virtual desktop images easier to manage

There are several common mistakes VDI shops make, including allowing users to gain elevated privileges, that make it more difficult to deliver a quality end-user experience.

Many VDI shops do things when managing virtual desktop images that just make life harder for everyone.

For example, if an organization's decision-makers have a habit of buying the cheapest laptops and PCs to keep costs down, it can cause major problems for IT pros. It becomes particularly problematic when the organization simply buys whatever the best deal is at the time, so the network becomes inundated with a cocktail of endpoints from different vendors.

If IT pros take the time to make a few changes they can simplify their virtual desktop images to make everyone happier and actually save money.

How does a lack of standardization hurt VDI shops

With a host of different endpoints, managing virtual desktop images becomes more difficult because building a new image is like reinventing the wheel. IT pros must use specific build disks for each and every rebuild, and then remove any unwanted applications installed from the reinstallation media.

To make matters worse, developing and building virtual desktop images isn't a single event. As a result, IT must continuously review and update the image to make it more mature and stable.

Each endpoint also has a particular video chipset and a different basic I/O system with different options and settings. This complicates support because each machine varies slightly, which makes troubleshooting harder.

IT pros must keep track of the keys and installation media for all the different systems. That means maintaining a filing cabinet full of disks and keys that IT must retrieve if it has to rebuild an image.

Many business decision-makers only see the bottom-line cost, so they don't understand the other costs that pop up when each endpoint has its own problems. It's ultimately a time-waster for IT pros and prevents them from having master virtual desktop images to deploy from.

Standardized virtual desktop images on standardized hardware can reap major benefits for virtual desktop image management, including:

  • Rebuilding an image to the standard without variation becomes a very simple affair. IT does not have to worry about configuration drift.
  • IT can automate builds. Rebuilding laptops manually is labor-intensive.
  • Selecting and choosing a specific hardware supplier can offer many benefits. Most major manufacturers provide a guarantee of the length of support for various lines of hardware so the change between one version and another is not something that will totally break the configuration. Vendors also generally work in a bit of a discount, as well, for loyal or bulk customers.

What other opportunities are organizations missing?

Not appropriately locking down the VDI is one major missed opportunity when it comes to virtual desktop image management. Take time to ensure that users cannot gain elevated privileges. They should not need them on properly configured virtual desktop images. The last thing IT pros want is users installing their own software or changing settings that they then have to remediate.

Also, IT pros must help themselves. Create scripts on users' desktops for simple tasks, such as retrieving their IP details, so IT pros can remotely connect with their devices. In short, make support easier.

Install the OS layer first, then add the application layers.

When it comes to installing virtual applications such as Microsoft Office, don't include them in the OS installation because not every virtual desktop requires every package. Perform the installation and configuration in layers. Install the OS layer first, then add the application layers.

IT pros should also read the documentation for the applications and automate the installation process with batch scripting and configuration files. It then becomes a simple task to install the required applications. It saves time and enforces consistency.

An IT pro could even choose to chain together base applications into a fire-and-forget installation and leave it running while he does other things.

To round out virtual desktop image management, IT should encrypt all the endpoints and enable remote wipe. Security should be one of the top concerns for any VDI shop. The ability to manage and control virtual desktops and the data associated with them is critical. The security products IT pros choose should allow them to centrally manage everything.

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