- Managed DaaS
- Happy End Users
Virtual desktops are popping up on school campuses around the country, typically in the form on on-site virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). Northeast Mississippi Community College implemented their VDI in 2013 and the University of Arkansas and Biloxi Public School District both followed more recently (just to name a few).
The benefits of virtual desktops are appealing to educational institutions:
These benefits hold true for both in-house (or on-campus) VDI and desktop as a service (DaaS) – a solution schools might be over looking to their detriment. As implied by the “as a service” name, DaaS is a fully-managed virtual desktop solution that in many cases may be a better fit for the education field.
In-house VDI requires the installation, monitoring, maintaining and eventual upgrading of infrastructure specifically tuned for virtual desktop deployments. (Retrofitting existing infrastructure isn’t a good idea because virtual desktops have very unique requirements to ensure high performance.) Additionally, on premise infrastructure typically needs to be refreshed every three to five years, increasing the school’s capital expense. This could put a large strain on the project budget and have on-going cost implications.
If the student population swells, new infrastructure may need to be added. This unpredictable capital expense can leave many schools in a bind if they’re unable to find the money in an already tight budget or secure a grant.
With a DaaS solution, highly-tuned infrastructure is already in place and ready for your use. When upgrades need to be made to the infrastructure, that cost is incurred by the DaaS provider. DaaS represents a more predictable, service-based cost that schools can work into on-going budgets, drastically reducing the potential of unexpected sticker shock.
While scalability is important to many industries, it’s a requirement for educational institutions. Why pay for infrastructure you don’t need and aren’t using during long breaks, like summer vacation. The size of each incoming class also fluctuates, meaning you may not need to support as many students next year – leaving the infrastructure you already paid for sitting idle. With DaaS, you can easily spin up the exact number of desktops you need and spin implementations down during quiet seasons. You only pay for what you need, maximizing your investment.
Going the other way, a large spike in need (such as a large in-coming class) can be hard to meet on short notice. One of the major benefits of DaaS is its scalability. In-house VDI has natural scaling limitations based on the infrastructure in place. Since it’s a service, DaaS gives you more infrastructure to tap into whenever needed.
Among the IT crowd, VDI is known as being notoriously difficult to implement well. While many IT professionals are well versed in a vast array of skills, VDI requires a special degree of expertise to ensure it meets performance standards. With VDI experts increasingly difficult (and more costly) to hire, many schools are likely left without in house expertise.
DaaS essentially lets you “outsource” the expertise needed to properly implement and maintain virtual desktops. Fully-managed DaaS vendors also provide post-implementation support, helping the school’s IT team ensure the virtual desktops continue running as expected.
Virtual desktops require specific licensing (particularly around Windows) as well as the traditional security software such as antimalware, antivirus, etc. When implementing an on-campus VDI solution, the school is responsible for attaining, implementing and maintaining all these components.
With DaaS, vendors can provide guidance on the necessary licensing and even acquire Microsoft licensing on your behalf via their Service Provider Licensing Agreement (SPLA). Management of antimalware and antivirus are also provided as part of the DaaS service, taking this crucial component off of IT’s list of concerns.
The demand for mobility is increasing world-wide, and schools aren’t isolated from this consumer trend – that’s clear with the rise of student portals and mobile devices. Couple that with increasingly strapped school budgets and institutions may find it hard to make technology changes to keep up with demand.
Virtual desktops offer a way to both contain costs while giving students and faculty better access to the software and resources they need to be successful. The key for schools interested in implementing virtual desktops will be making the right decision to help maximize the return and increase the longevity of the program. Understanding the ultimate cost and responsibilities associated with both on-campus VDI and DaaS solutions gives schools options that can lead to a more successful program best fit for that campus’ needs.
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