Commentary by Ruben Spruijt, field CTO at Atlantis Computing
June 07, 2016
5 Questions to Ask Your VDI Vendor
Whether you’re a mid-sized enterprise that’s work-from-home-friendly or a large corporation based largely on remote workers, there will come a time when you’ll want to consider how to optimize your workspace technology for the way your employees work. One solution is virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), a technology that provides a consistent desktop experience across devices and locales. First introduced in the mid-2000s, VDI has expanded the definition of the office to include everything from an Uber ride to a flight.
If you’re in the market for VDI, you have several options, but know there is no one size fits all solution. I’ve worked with thousands of organizations globally and have seen the different methods companies use to select their VDI solutions. In my experience, there are a handful of questions that can help you save time and money. Here are the top five questions I recommend you ask your prospective VDI providers:
1. How do you envision the digital modern workspace?
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The golden rule for any software salesman is to “sell the problem you’re solving, not the product.” Likewise, a VDI company should demonstrate an understanding of the modern worker and the business consumer. Out of 75 IT professionals, 48 percent expected to see their companies expand BYOD policies in 2016, according to a survey
by our partner Workspot. Meaning, the modern worker is expecting companies to provide a secure, fast and easy solution to fit their work needs no matter where they’re working. VDI is a fit for many types of workers, including IT pros and designers specializing in high-end CAD, PLM and 2D/3D graphics.
You’ll want to work with a vendor who understands your vision for how VDI will address challenges specific to your business. Requesting a few case studies from the vendor will give you a sense of not only what the company can deliver, but also what they perceive as the value-adds for your business. If the results they are showcasing vary widely from what you’re trying to achieve, it may be best to look elsewhere for your VDI solution.
2. What are the top three challenges businesses want to solve in the context of the modern workspace?
Any reputable vendor should be aware of and offer realistic solutions to issues like data security, workforce connectivity and inefficiency. Asking this question will give you an additional sense of the vendor’s proficiency in enterprise operations and specific use cases.
For example, if you’re a company in a regulation-heavy space (think health care, finance, military and government) one challenge may be ensuring secure connection whether the employee is an accountant in the U.S. or a high-end designer in Asia. VDI should be as secure as physical ware, and in fact, vendors have spent the last decade perfecting the translation of hardware functionality to the virtual desktop. Make sure the vendor is familiar with processes for integrating VDI, access and network security solutions, which are essential for creating a strong, and safe, virtual workspace.
In industries where employees often work off-site or in remote locations — like consulting or land surveying — a major challenge is keeping workers connected, while keeping it simple. One of the benefits of VDI is that it relieves IT of the tremendous burden of supporting personal devices and remote access for any employee who asks. It gives IT time back to invest in the network, after the potentially costly and lengthy process of implementation, of course. Given the possible challenges of set-up, your vendor should be able to speak to VDI’s value to technical staff — you’ll want this ammo in your bargaining arsenal.
Another issue VDI can address is productivity loss for workers in the field. For example, an insurance agent going out to accident sites will fill out several forms, and then return to the office just to fill out those forms again because the mobile form isn’t compatible with desktop. VDI lets the agent access the same form across devices. It’s helpful to ask which companies your vendor has worked with in the past to gauge their understanding of areas for productivity gain. If they have several customers in your industry, they may have more insight into the myriad of ways VDI can help your organization run more efficiently. Ask: How do you solve historical challenges around cost, complexity and performance? Then listen for a detailed and tailored answer.
3. What are the main challenges in deploying VDI and how do you support the organization throughout implementation?
The answer to this question is critical to your success integrating VDI technology into your business operations. Some vendors offer to deploy VDI that day, while others will expect you to wait a few months — or many months — for proof of concept. Some will promise scalability, and others will demonstrate it. Finally, some will work with you shoulder-to-shoulder, while others will take a more hands-off approach.
You should consider your preferences carefully when choosing a VDI vendor. Since problems arrive at the worst of times, I believe that VDI providers should also have experts available at any hour to ensure application delivery and troubleshoot errors. Others may feel budget or familiarity with the company are top priority. Whatever your must-have is, make sure to identify it early on. Otherwise you may feel overwhelmed by choices that in many ways look identical.
4. What are two of the unique selling points/advantages of your biggest competitor?
This question may throw your prospective vendor off a bit, but their answer can be quite telling. If your provider can be open and honest about their competitors, they are more likely to be honest about their shortfalls. Keep in mind they’ll probably also counter with their own unique features. The best companies will have a deep understanding of other products in the sector, enabling them to evaluate and develop their own product more effectively.
5. What is your product roadmap?
You’ll also want to ask about the company’s roadmap and how it may shift in response to competition or the company’s own goals. We’re seeing the complete transformation of the daily life of the average worker and technology is improving across the board. These changes are sure to have an impact on the VDI technology of tomorrow.
What the impact is largely depends on the company in question. Some companies are smaller and more nimble — they’ll emphasize performance and cost-effectiveness. Others are legacy, which tend to build based on a deeply entrenched model of doing things. Whether or not the standard works for a given technology, you can be sure the legacy organization will have resources to spare.
Both big and small dogs are getting in on VDI, but the best option is largely subjective. With these questions, you’ll be able to assess what each vendor brings to the table and make the choice that will bring your workforce into the future.
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