Toby Skerritt, Technology Director at Foundation IT, discusses the top 10 ways to improve the speed and lifespan of your hardware by switching to cloud-based centralized desktops such as Azure Virtual Desktop.
The laptop and desktop replacement cycle has been a burden on IT budgets for many years. Most organizations will refresh these devices on a three to five-year cycle in line with vendor warranties and perceived improvements in technology. However, older devices may be perfectly capable of providing an excellent user experience for many more years if connected to a cloud-based desktop service. There are also many alternative approaches available, such as moving to thin client access devices that offer greater longevity, reduced costs and improve security.
10 tips to moving to a centralized desktop service
- Cloud desktops, such as Microsoft’s cloud PC, are consumption-based services. As you only pay for what you use, piloting these services does not require the capital expenditure associated with traditional remote desktop services. Pilot projects should be delivered from operational budgets where possible, helping to fast-track testing and potential adoption.
- Adopt an agile mindset, pilot the service quickly on a small scale and use this pilot to tailor the service to your requirements. This process will also help to define the actual cost of the service to your business in the way you require.
- Ensure you review and understand the licensing model and how it applies to your environment. For example, accessing cloud desktops from non-Windows devices can bring additional costs. Licencing for Windows can be complex so be fully aware of the associated licensing costs before moving beyond the pilot stage.
- The re-use of older devices to connect to a cloud desktop service can reduce the device’s security risk. As the cloud desktop simply provides a window into the corporate environment, the device no longer needs any corporate data to be held on or directly accessed by it, reducing the management and oversite of the device.
- A cloud desktop service no longer relies on local processing power so older devices, including many non-Windows devices, can provide a great user experience. Rather than replace a device when due, look to spin up a cloud PC instead.
- For a more secure, manageable service, devices can be converted to thin clients via products such as IGEL’s UD Pocket, which fully repurposes devices for cloud desktop access. Another benefit of this approach is that older devices with incompatible operating systems can still be used.
- Moving to a ‘Bring Your Own Device’ (BYOD) model for home workers can reduce both capital expenditure and operational costs. Many organizations choose to provide a subsidy for employee-owned devices. These can be lightly managed by services such as Microsoft Endpoint Manager if required. However, by providing a cloud desktop, and layering all required corporate security over this service, we remove much of the need to manage and secure the physical device.
- Alternativity, the provision of thin client devices such as the IGEL UD products to both home and office workers reduces power consumption and provides secure access to cloud desktop services. Thin clients are designed for longevity and will generally outlast laptop or desktop hardware by many years.
- There are a variety of cloud desktop services available. Choose one which meshes with your corporate cloud strategy. If you are an Office365-based organisation, it makes sense to investigate Microsoft offerings first as these may offer combined benefits.
- Bandwidth is key. The single most important factor which impacts the user experience is the connection between the user and the desktop, or the desktop and the services it accesses. As best practice, desktops and the Line-of-business applications they run should be kept as close together as possible. Ideally, the desktop and the applications should reside in the same cloud region as each other. Additionally, home-user internet connections can have a dramatic impact on the user’s experience of the platform. The services may all be running optimally, but the user may be having problems due to bandwidth exhaustion on their network. Monitoring tools are critical here to identify where the problems may lie.
Finally, ensure to future proof. At face value, the costs associated with a cloud PC may look more expensive over a three to five-year Total Cost of Ownership but often the alternative excludes the upheaval involved in updating operating systems or the challenges that occur when an application is upgraded. You can be agile with cloud PCs, updating images are far simpler, and increasing resources for better performance is done in a matter of minutes. Some of the cost and pain associated with interim and enforced change is removed, which should be a feature of the justification and business case. As cloud desktops tend towards a ‘pay as you go’ model, you should look to adopt complimentary services from vendors such as Nerdio which help to reduce the overall spend. There is no benefit in running – and paying for – a cloud desktop service 24 hours a day if your users will only be accessing it from 9 to 5.
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So, when considering your next major client refresh, major operating system upgrade, remote working policies or your approach to addressing end user device performance issues, factor in the potential of cloud-hosted desktops even if that is for a sub-set of the workforce. It might just solve a multitude of issues in one hit.