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The Virtual Desktop Minefield Part 1

Posted by: Justin McLaughlin on 12/19/2013

At the ILTA Annual Conference this year, my good friend and colleague Rick Thompson, CIO at a large US law firm, participated in a panel that delivered an excellent presentation on Virtual Desktop Infrastructures (VDI). One interesting thing to note from the presentation was that, while most all of the attendees were considering (or were somewhere in the process of implementing) VDI at their own firms, the vast majority responded that they felt quite nervous about their initiatives. As I have engineered VDI solutions in the legal industry for more than 13 years (and worked with Mr. Thompson for more than a decade on numerous thin-client projects), I'd say the concern is most certainly warranted.

The issues and particulars in implementing a VDI solution in today's law firm are not necessarily obvious for those who may have not completed successful VDI implementations of their own. Our industry is adopting Virtual Desktops at an increasingly rapid pace, as the benefits are enormous. But, while a good many vendors and consultants are all too happy to sell you cookie-cutter VDI solutions, most lack the implementation and practical, day-to-day management experience that I believe is crucial to ensuring total success.

In order for you to make an informed decision regarding a potential VDI implementation, I present to you,

The Four Fundamental Truths of VDI

1. Your users are pre-disposed to distrust VDI.

It is a given that our users are not technologists - they'd likely be earning a living in our field if they were. They will not fully understand this shift in their everyday computing environments. What they will know is that something called "VDI" or "Citrix" has been introduced, and that it is something different. As a result, most any computer problem that may occur will now be thought of first and foremost as a "VDI" problem. This is magnified when we are talking about a user connecting from home, or public Wi-Fi, etc. No end-user in the history of ever accepts the answer that "it's not us, it's you." No, that, too, is now a "VDI issue". In short, you have an entirely new perception problem.

2. Design specs from major VDI providers are staggeringly underpowered for law firms.

The majority of the capacity planning tools provided by the VDI vendors on the market do not factor in the typical legal environment. As they define it, a "Power User" might typically have Microsoft Outlook running, with a few emails open; Microsoft Word with an average-sized document open; and a few Internet Explorer pages at any one time. This is way off the mark in the legal sector. How many attorneys and other modern legal IT professionals does this describe? Most attorneys I have worked with log out rarely, if ever, willingly. They will have 6-10 large documents open in Word at any given time, some of them for weeks on end. Any number of emails will also be open, as well as a host of practice-specific applications (which may or may not programmatically run well in a multi-user environment). Add another 4-6 various browser windows at a minimum (and more during March Madness). All of this behavior has an impact that is exponentially amplified in a thin-client computing environment. You are starting to get the picture - your average legal user, in the real world, requires far, far more resources than what your VDI provider will tell you that you need. Finding this out the hard way has doomed or sunk more than a few VDI initiatives.

Check back for The Virtual Desktop Minefield Part 2 next week.
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About Big Bang Blog

There are many reasons to write a small business blog, we wanted to bring you at least a few reasons to read one. The Big Bang Blog covers the ins and outs of running a small software business, as well as a variety of small business marketing and media topics. Please leave us your comments and questions.

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About Adam Murphy -  

Adam is the President and Owner of Big Bang LLC and espouses a pretty progressive small business philosophy based primarily around hiring the right people and getting the hell out of their way.

About Nate Bauer -

Nate is the Marketing Director for Big Bang LLC and pretty much spends his days tip-toeing on the pinnacle of how to most effectively implement strategy given the wide open cookie jar of small business marketing possibilities. You can find him

About Kelley Burian - @kelleyburian

Kelley is the Sales Director for Big Bang LLC. Responsible for everything from GSA contracts, resellers and international customers, she has her hands full doing whatever she can to make sure our valued clients are thrilled with our fantastic products.

About Justin McLaughlin -

Justin has over seventeen years in IT management and consulting with Fortune 500 and AmLaw 200 firms. His creds are way too many to mention here, but in addition to reading his posts, you can learn more about him here
Justin McLaughlin Headshot

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