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Desktop virtualization adoption is a growing trend, and one of the fastest growing and most exciting areas is in higher education.
Colleges and universities present an interesting and unique computing situation. Common challenges faced by higher education IT teams today include:
All these reasons and more make desktop virtualization an ideal solution for higher education. From easier IT management to more consistent application access for students (that doesn’t require going to a computer lab or an outrageous number of licenses) to eliminating outdated computer labs, schools that have made the switch have seen ample benefits.
Schools thinking of making the leap may be wondering how long the process takes and the best time to implement the change. Every VDI implementation will be a little different (especially based on the solution and vendor chosen), but it doesn’t have to take as long as you might think. Schools that start the process now could have their new virtual desktops in place in time for the first day of classes this Fall.
The first question is whether schools will build in-house VDI or go with a managed desktop as a service (DaaS) solution. This decision will have a major impact on the cost of the solution and how quickly it can be implemented.
While VDI is the more common term used for desktop virtualization, it typically references self implemented infrastructure. This comes with a much higher price tag (you have to purchase, implement and maintain all the virtualization specific infrastructure) and requires a VDI expert for proper design and build (here’s why you need a VDI expert). Because of the hands-on nature of this approach, timelines for in-house VDI typically drag out.
DaaS takes desktop virtualization and turns it into an “as a service” offering. DaaS providers have already built the highly specialized infrastructure required to run high performance virtual desktops and have the in-house expertise to maintain and upgrade that infrastructure as needed. Fully managed DaaS solutions also typically provide antimalware, antivirus and patching, upgrading and vulnerability detection, taking these important but time consuming tasks off the plate of in-house IT teams.
Because the infrastructure is already in place and ready to spin up your environment, DaaS providers can get new clients up and running quickly, making the process of virtualizing a school’s desktops or applications much faster. (DaaS also has the added benefit of easy scaling to meet demand without the school installing extra servers, networking or storage that sit unused during the summer.)
Assuming a school is interested in the DaaS option, they could decide to make the change as late as the Spring and be ready for students in the Fall.
One of the most fundamental elements of a successful switch to virtual desktops is carefully identifying the ideal use cases and planning the resource needs. It’s typically recommended that organizations select one or two specific use cases to begin the transition to virtual desktops and build from there.
For a college or university, this may be moving to application streaming of apps required for language classes or selecting a major that is field work heavy to pilot full virtual desktops (loaded with all the apps they need). Once the use case is identified, you can specify the required virtual desktop size and resources and beginning planning the Golden Image for the build.
As long as the school has a point of contact that can working with the DaaS provider to finalize requirements and help with client-owned tasks in a timely manner, the solution itself can be built out quickly since all the infrastructure is already in place.
This timeline allows schools to perform a proof of concept and user acceptance testing during the summer months. This is ideal timing for educational institutions since IT has more time to focus on projects with fewer students and faculty to support daily. It may also be easier to run small, focused tests and gather feedback since IT can work with a select program or department. This is critical when implementing any new solution as it helps ensure everything is performing as expected and can spotlight unanticipated needs or configuration changes while there is still time for correction.
This also gives IT teams time to create an education plan that will help students, faculty and staff understand and easily adopt the technology. A solid rollout plan and communication are key to high adoption rates and reduced help desk tickets.
By this timeline, your virtual desktops will be planned, built, tested and fine-tuned in time for a larger rollout when the Fall semester starts. You can expand your starter use cases to larger user pools and start identifying phase two use cases to continue the roll out where it makes sense (every student might not need a virtual desktop). You may even be able to convert some computer labs back into usable classroom space since a portion of students can now access their required apps from their personal laptops.
When working with a DaaS provider, the scope of a project is largely dependent on client comfort level and budget (though the cost per desktop from a provider decreases as the number of desktops increases). This means schools that want to jump all in could eliminate all computer labs by the Fall while smaller or more conservative IT teams can roll out virtual desktops one program at a time. The choice is yours. Either way, it’s fast and easy to do with a DaaS provider rather than trying to build and maintain everything in house.
Nov 08, 2018
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