Create Your Virtual Desktop Checklist: A Guide for Asking Tough Questions

Gartner analysts see Desktop as a Service (DaaS) market growth accelerating, predicting growth of 95.4% by the end of 2020. There’s good reason for this. As organizations are faced with unprecedented numbers of people working from home, DaaS is a promising avenue for modernizing end user computing and gaining operational flexibility. The challenge for IT teams is to determine their organization’s unique needs and then find the solution that fulfills them.

In this blog, I’ll outline key considerations to help you identify your requirements and create a checklist for evaluating virtual desktop solutions. In each section are questions to ask vendors and internal stakeholders to help ensure your requirements are fulfilled. With so many approaches to virtual desktops, it can be difficult to even know the right questions to ask, but each approach has major differences and therefore significant implications for your success.

Which Virtual Desktop Operational Model?

For virtual desktop implementations, there are essentially four operational approaches you can take:

  1. You can implement the virtual desktops on-premises in your own data center.
  2. You can outsource your virtual desktops to a Managed Service Provider (MSP) who will implement them in their data center.
  3. You can implement virtual desktops in the public cloud using a vendor’s VDI broker.
  4. You can employ a turnkey SaaS platform to implement virtual desktops in the public cloud.

Within each approach, different vendors offer various capabilities that may or may not be important to your organization, depending on your IT budget, the skillsets of your IT team, where your end users are located, and your business goals. Options 2 and 4 constitute DaaS solutions, which many companies are finding to be more flexible as they look to support remote working for the long term. Options 1 and 3 are “do-it-yourself” approaches that come with hefty complexity, requiring significant IT resources to deploy and operate.

Our experience with enterprise customers as they explore these options tells us there are three primary requirement categories CIOs and CFOs want to discuss. Within each category are specific criteria you’ll want to consider as you narrow your list of solutions, along with important questions you must ask vendors.

Single-User or Multi-User Windows 10?

Some vendors only offer a Windows 10 “experience”, which is essentially a slice of a Windows server made to look like Windows 10. There are performance and app compatibility considerations here, but a “multi-user” Windows 10 experience that is shared among workers can be a good solution for specific use cases, such as call centers. The more important issue is that in any enterprise, there are many roles in the company, and the computing needs for each use case vary. Some people need a dedicated Windows 10 desktop, and others need high-performance GPU capabilities. Chances are, you need a solution that offers a range of configurations.

The following are the key questions for this evaluation category that can help you uncover whether your requirements can be met.

Windows 10 virtual desktop questions to ask of vendors and stakeholders:

  1. Does the solution offer a range of virtual desktops, including single-user, multi-user and high-performance GPU workstations?
  2. Is the Windows 10 virtual desktop delivered as a turnkey service where the vendor is responsible for the infrastructure?  Or does your in-house team need to manage infrastructure? Does your team have the necessary skills to manage cloud and virtual desktop infrastructure?
  3. What is the pricing model? Will your virtual desktop costs be predictable? Is it a CapEx or OpEx? If a cloud solution, are cloud compute costs included? Are implementation and support costs included? Would a flat-rate pricing model be helpful to eliminate complex billing analysis?
  4.  Who is responsible for virtual desktop reliability? What is the service level agreement (SLA) and who owns it?  How does the vendor go beyond the desktop SLA to contribute to your business SLA? Would your business benefit from relinquishing the desktop SLA to a vendor, so you can assign IT resources to more strategic projects? Would a service that can monitor both virtual desktops and adjacent systems and proactively alert you to potential issues be of value?

Optimizing Virtual Desktop Price/Performance

Especially for large enterprises, there are several factors that contribute to optimizing the price/performance of virtual desktops. One is the ability to implement a mix of Windows 10 desktops  – single-user, multi-user (windows server-based) and high-performance GPU desktops to match exactly the right computing capabilities with all the use cases in your organization. As we noted in the previous section, a call center worker typically has very different requirements than a CAD engineer, and meeting their unique requirements requires specific capabilities that come at different price points. A once-size-fits-all proposal should make you run away – fast – from that vendor! Intrinsic to the price/performance discussion is the actual user experience, and the key to ensuring outstanding performance is the ability to place the virtual desktop close to each user. The desktop should not be more than 50ms away, otherwise productivity can suffer and that’s an expensive problem. Here are essential questions to ask about price/performance.

Price/performance questions to ask vendors and stakeholders:

  1. Does the solution offer a range of capabilities and configurations to suit all your use cases? Is it easy to deploy any mix of single-user, multi-user, and GPU configurations?
  2. Can you place the virtual desktop within 50 ms of every user, globally?
  3. Does the solution require investment in and management of infrastructure? Do you want to spend IT resources this way?
  4. Does the solution deploy across multiple public clouds? Can it scale across multiple cloud regions in minutes? Can the global deployment be managed through a single admin console?
  5. Are you able to deploy your virtual desktops across both on-premises and in the public cloud to meet data sovereignty requirements? Can the hybrid deployment be managed globally via a single admin console?

Virtual Desktop Enterprise-Readiness

Enterprise organizations have very specific needs for end user computing. Essentially, they need to be able to customize virtual desktops to comply with security policy, operate within existing IT processes, and meet regulatory obligations. Another core element among these enterprise capabilities is how the virtual desktop solution strengthens your business resiliency. Achieving all of this and more requires the ability to customize the virtual desktop environment. Here are some important questions to ask about enterprise-readiness.

Enterprise-readiness questions to ask vendors and stakeholders:

  1. Are you able to customize the virtual desktop with your existing corporate image? Are you able to use your existing desktop management tools, such as SCCM?
  2. How does the solution enforce and augment your Zero Trust Security policy? Can the vendor see/access your company’s data?
  3. What are the business continuity attributes of the solution? Does the vendor offer built-in backup and restore and cloud desktop redundancy across cloud regions?
  4. Does the solution offer workflow automation such as integration with existing ITSM systems?
  5. Is comprehensive auditing and reporting available and can data be exported for analysis in existing SIEM systems?

Next Steps

While this is not an exhaustive list of questions to ask, they should help you begin to craft a virtual desktop checklist of requirements and then tease out key differences in approaches to virtual desktops. If you have a cloud-first strategy or you need a hybrid solution, your operational choices narrow to either a “do-it-yourself” cloud desktop implementation in which you maintain responsibility for managing infrastructure and ensuring reliability (Option 3) or employing a turnkey cloud desktop service such as Amazon Workspaces or Workspot, where the vendors take care of desktop delivery and reliability for you (Option 4).

We’d love to have a conversation about your unique requirements and prove to you why Workspot is the only choice for Option 4. We can deploy your cloud desktop solution in days, it can be implemented across Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud, it scales globally across multiple cloud regions in minutes, and global management is simple through a single admin console. That’s the kind of flexibility and agility that’s possible today. Ready to see how it works? Schedule a demo now!