VDI: Not just for big business


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Though VDI is most often associated with large deployments, small business has a lot to gain as well

Time is the scarcest commodity for any IT pro. There's never enough to get everything done, whether you spend it fighting fires, rolling out new applications, or supporting the user base. And this scarcity affects IT shops of any size -- from the armies supporting Fortune 100 companies to the one beleagured employee supporting a small business.

One result of this time shortage is that many small businesses now use the same tech once reserved for large enterprises. For example, I'm seeing a growing number of small businesses adopt full-blown server virtualization, but not for the consolidation, power, or space benefits that might motivate a larger organization. Rather, they do it simply because it would be impossible for one or two people to manage the work if systems weren't virtualized, especially given the current aversion to hiring new employees.

The same is becoming true of desktop deployments. If you've directly supported even a small number of thick desktops, you already know how much time you can sink into them over the simplest of issues. You name it: malware, dead hard drives, Windows patches, application upgrades, OS upgrades. They suck up enormous amounts of time, disrupt productivity, and only get worse as the number of users grow. Deploying VDI can often solve all of these problems while also providing a range of other benefits, such as allowing employees an easy way to work from home.

Overcoming ROI misconceptions

The biggest challenge to implementing VDI in a small environment is justifying the capital expense. If you've spent time playing with ROI calculators or reading case studies, you'll see that VDI deployments are generally considered to be islands unto themselves -- that is, dedicated virtualization and storage infrastructures designed and implemented solely to support the VDI implementation. At these scales, it's generally not difficult to reflect the ROI necessary to justify the capital cost required to build the infrastructure. However, at much smaller scales, it becomes nearly impossible to show capital cost savings.

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