Shortly after its employees began working from home in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, an Evolving Solutions client experienced a slow network that caused latency issues impacting end-user productivity. When the client’s physical office building closed, more than 500 now-remote employees logged into a system that was previously used by only 30 people each day.
“After we transitioned the company to Nutanix Frame, all 500 employees accessed data and applications through a virtualized desktop simultaneously without performance issues,” says Steve Desrosier, solution architect at Evolving Solutions. “This crisis is the perfect example of how a virtualized desktop environment can help organizations scale up when their need increases and only pay for services that they need.”
Moving From the Office to Fully Remote in 24 Hours
This scene repeated itself at companies across the United States as organizations in all industries and of all sizes transitioned overnight to a fully remote workforce. These initiatives were critical as organizations strove to provide the social distancing required to slow the spread of COVID-19. Results varied dramatically based on technology.
Businesses utilizing virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) or Desktop as a Service (DaaS) immediately increased their number of users; employees quickly had access to all apps and data with a single login and could perform their jobs just as they had the previous day at the company’s physical office building. Other companies spent valuable time getting employees set up—and suffered performance issues that hurt productivity at a critical time.
“Simplicity and speed of deployment have always been a strength of Desktop as a Service, which is proving critical in the current situation,” says Desrosier. “Companies need to transition fast. They don’t have time to learn a complex process, buy new hardware, install new software, or take a two-week certification class.”
DaaS Simplifies Processes for Employees and IT Managers
Because employees access their virtual desktop through a browser, they can use any operating system or device—phone, tablet or laptop. Employees continue to have a single login to access all of their apps and data, regardless of their location. In recent weeks Desrosier has seen employees with MacBooks running Windows apps and others using Chromebooks running complex, GPU-intensive applications.
“Nutanix Frame DaaS is cloud infrastructure agnostic, meaning the product can run virtual machines on AWS, Google Cloud Platform, Microsoft Azure and on private clouds using on-premise infrastructure with Nutanix,” says Carsten Puls, senior director, Frame at Nutanix. “In contrast, if you’re using a DaaS product supplied by a cloud vendor, then it won’t work with other clouds, which limits your flexibility in the future.”
The Future of Remote Work
Many experts predict that how we work will forever be changed—even after this crisis has passed and employees are able to return to their workplaces. Puls says that previously, many employees needed to be in the office to access company systems. After working 100% remotely, he thinks both employers and employees will realize the benefits of employees working from home.
“Many people will now feel comfortable with technologies such as virtualization, that make working from home possible. And when both IT admins and end users see how well it can work, it opens the door for longer-term opportunities to optimize employees’ work-life balance,” he says.
Desrosier agrees that many companies that had never considered remote work as feasible are now finding that it is both possible and productive. “In addition to technology, I think that the crisis is helping employers transition to the management style needed for remote workers. By understanding how people work and how to measure what’s getting accomplished instead of counting noses, managers likely will see that remote work can work for a large percentage of employees,” he adds.
Creating an Efficient Virtual Desktop Infrastructure
By creating a plan for setting up a virtualized desktop environment, companies can improve efficiency for both employees and IT staff. Desrosier and Puls shared the following tips for creating a virtualized desktop environment:
- Develop best practices and processes specifically for virtual platforms. Many companies simply take their physical processes and attempt to duplicate the same steps online. Instead, review your platform documentation, carefully consider best practices, and then create a plan that leverages the benefits of a virtual environment.
- Consider backup and recovery. In addition to backing up the system and creating a recovery process, businesses must test those recovery processes. Often, companies find out only in a disaster that a portion of their system wasn’t backing up properly.
- Use non-persistent virtual machines. Use a pool of shared virtual machines with the same apps and programs, and have employees save personalization to a separate enterprise profile. This allows employees to connect to any available virtual machine. Because resources are not dedicated to specific employees, businesses save money and increase efficiency by needing fewer virtual machines overall.
- Look for a platform that delivers both a full desktop and a subset of applications. By using a platform that supports both use cases, companies can cover both simple environments for employees who only need a few applications as well as full desktops—all managed from the same interface.
- Use existing identity platforms. Instead of creating a new username and password, combine your virtual desktop login with current cloud password identities. This reduces time for the employee as well as IT management time.
As companies quickly transitioned to a fully remote workforce, time was of utmost importance. After the dust settles from adapting to the current situation, companies should review their setup and processes and make changes that lay the groundwork for remote working becoming more standard. Because many decisions were made quickly, companies likely will need to backtrack to correct mistakes and oversights before moving forward.
Desrosier says that by partnering with Evolving Solutions, companies have an ally to walk them through the best steps for these challenging times. “We don’t just implement the solution and walk away,” he says. “We become true partners and an extension of a client’s IT department by helping work through challenges and solutions.”
To help companies managing an all-remote workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic, Nutanix is offering a 30-day free trial (with self-service support) with unlimited users for companies with existing cloud service providers.
Need assistance meeting the IT needs of a remote workforce? Contact us today to learn how Evolving Solutions can help.
Author Bo Gebbie