With more and more people working from home during the Covid pandemic, the importance of workplace resources, particularly those that allow us to communicate and collaborate, has become increasingly apparent. For example, an outage in Office 365 recently caused numerous issues with planned meetings over Microsoft Teams, email issues, and other problems. As a remote company, these types of disruptions are a significant disruption to our daily routines.
Even if we could revert to another tool for virtual meetings or create documents on Google docs instead of Word, the problem was not that we couldn‘t get things done, but that it didn‘t feel like we were getting things done. It wasn‘t familiar; the day felt off. This feeling is also true for poorly configured VDI deployments. If the user experience is slow or uncomfortable, productivity will fall significantly.
Considering that many organizations have invested heavily in tools for remote workers, such as Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI), it is vital that rollouts go smoothly and users adopt these changes readily. These investments should not be considered a quick temporary fix. While Covid may not be around next year, the changes it has brought to work–life might well be permanent.
Increase in complete workdays at home
Would like mix of post-pandemic and remote/in-office work
HR managers who plan to allow for mixed work
For example, Forbes recently posted the number of complete workdays performed at home has increased from 5% to 22% this past year. 66% of Americans agree that they would like a mix of remote and in-office work even after the pandemic. And 90% of HR managers say they plan to allow for more of a mix of remote and office work even after the pandemic. In other words, your VDI solution is not a stop-gap measure; it is a permanent shift in the workplace dynamic.
So how do we ensure that your VDI implementation is ready to tackle not only the pandemic but the post-pandemic paradigm shift?
User Experience is Key
Users need to feel that they are NOT working remotely, and their desktops and applications are running directly on their local PC or desktop and not on a remote server. This issue is not just about performance, though this does play a key role. Previously, IT organizations believed that persistent end-to-end performance was only possible via local server resources. In other words, significant investments in centralized servers were a must for VDI. Or for larger organizations, regional infrastructure hubs to avoid issues such as latency. These infrastructure investments would reach “end of life“ after a few years, and another round of investments would begin.
VDI in the cloud is infinitely more scalable with a similar performance profile to an in-house solution running on public clouds such as AWS and Azure. However, there is a public perception, due to implementation growing pains, poor planning, or not enough investment, that cloud-based VDI is inadequate, buggy, or slow. A recent survey by ControlUp of 450 VDI administrators identified the critical challenges faced in deploying cloud VDI for various sized companies.
The top issue reported was by far excessive login times, cited by 77% of respondents. The perception this generates is that IT organizations are foisting outdated and under-performing hardware on them. But there can be numerous reasons for slow logins, including logon scripts, profiles, and group policies; however, the most significant is the accessibility of user–profiles and the files and applications behind them. To provide a seamless user experience described earlier, in which the user cannot distinguish between VDI and a work PC, a fair bit of data needs to be made readily accessible. SoftNAS provides the solution by storing critical user profile data on high-performance block storage in either AWS or Azure. In addition, this storage can be placed in the region closest to your users, avoiding latency issues. With enterprise-class data-centers storing user profiles, performance may exceed anything provided by a home office solution, especially if users are in rural or very remote locations.
The second most frequently identified issue was application performance. Applications within a VDI solution require constant and persistent access to underlying data stores. Performance depends strongly on the availability and persistence of this data. Again, the cloud storage provided to the most frequently accessed applications will largely determine the user experience and can be managed in the same manner as mentioned above – ensure the most frequently accessed data is local and high-performing. For data not commonly needed, lower-cost storage is leveraged.
SoftNAS can also reduce storage costs by providing deduplication and compression for the data in question. Bear in mind that this can impact compute (CPU) resources required to process the data. A general rule of thumb is to plan for an additional 50% in CPU resources if compression or deduplication is used.
Another top reported issue with supporting remote users (for VDI or any remote work scenario) is connectivity itself – i.e., issues with the network at the remote user location. Even with high-quality internet service, there might be numerous users contending for the same bandwidth, particularly during this pandemic. The lack of bandwidth might include children‘s remote learning (virtual video), streaming services such as Netflix, and other such contention. If in a rural location, bandwidth or latency might be an issue in itself. In either case, the best solution is to place required storage resources as closely as possible to the user to improve response time and access. Cloud services such as AWS and Azure are very flexible in this regard. SoftNAS is equally flexible in that VMs are set up as close as necessary to the target users, and the storage used does not affect the licensing cost.
ControlUp reported additional issues, and these too can be addressed to some degree by SoftNAS. Still, typically by the exact solutions reported above – slow sessions are solved by ensuring the resources required are made more accessible and served by higher-performance storage as well, for instance. SoftNAS can help implement a solution that best fits the requirements and issues potentially identified and work with you to ensure the solution comes at the best cloud service price point possible. Remote work is here to stay, long after the pandemic. A properly configured VDI solution, underpinned by SoftNAS storage, provides the user experience needed to ready your organization for the transition.