A guide to Proper Implementation of Remote Hosted Desktops

The cloud and ever faster internet connections have changed the way we work. Today, up to 50 percent of the UK’s workforce are clacking away on their keyboards at home, in cafes, co-working spaces, or anywhere with WiFi. A large number of small to mid-sized businesses are fully supported by employees working from home. There’s even a national holiday for working remotely.

Employees aren’t the only ones who have migrated away from the traditional office cubicle set-up. Even business software has been freed from workplace computers by the cloud. Remote hosted desktops are proving to be a more cost-efficient approach, as it eases the considerable burden of maintaining end user devices on site. It also allows secure remote work, which is crucial in an era of increasingly cunning cybercriminals.

The promising benefits are tempting more businesses to shift to remote hosted desktops. However, as with most large business transformations, rolling out change is anything but easy. Organisations have to gain stakeholder approval, conduct in-depth studies, run tests, and train employees. All of these steps require careful planning to ensure operations don’t fall through the transition to a cloud-based infrastructure.

Here’s a guide to help businesses of any size properly transition to remote hosted desktops.

Study the End-User Experience

The success of your desktop virtualisation will ultimately depend on how it impacts the end user. Anything that will add complexity or make tasks more difficult to execute will probably collapse your whole set-up.

Having a finger on the pulse of the everyday workflow of your users is vital, not only for assessing the fit of different set-ups but also for evaluating if you actually have a viable business case for switching to remote hosted desktops. Some factors you’ll want to look at are the ratio of your physical and remote workers, the current security level of your remote devices like laptops and mobile phones, and how much computational power physically hosting your business applications require.

These needs change depending on the user. In a typical company you’ll have your knowledge workers, task-based workers, and contractors. This means that you’ll have to spend some time mapping the needs of different user groups. There will be no cookie-cutter solution–and if a vendor tries to convince you otherwise, walk away.

Create a viable business case

Remote hosted desktops require considerable investment. Each user is billed an average of £25 per month. That may not seem like a lot for a team with less than five people, but scaled to a workforce of hundreds the price is enough to make risk-averse decision makers wary.

You’re going to have to build a business case for using remote hosted desktops. Full support is crucial for getting the resources you need to properly execute plans from end-to-end. Stakeholders are typically not all CIOs who are well-versed in the technical aspects of the technology, and will need to be won over with good old cost-benefit analysis documentation. You’re going to want to show key decision makers the cost of managing physical desktops, and clearly outline the benefits of shifting to a cloud-based infrastructure.

Appoint Implementation Managers

Deployment isn’t just a task to foist off to your IT personnel just because it’s technical. Ideally you would want a dedicated project manager to oversee the transition. This individual understands how the technology ties together, and can efficiently communicate the progress of the deployment to non-savvy stakeholders.

Some organisations choose to completely outsource the rollout of the project to their vendors, especially small to mid-sized businesses who may not have an in-house IT expert. In these instances it’s best to ask partners for regular progress reports and check-ins with a point person in your team.

Test in a Pilot Environment

Some service providers offer appealing deals for signing the whole organisation immediately to a package. While the benefits may be tempting, starting smaller is better in the long-term. Shifting to remote hosted desktops is a large undertaking. Plans that often look seamless on paper fall apart when faced with real-world issues that are unique to your business.

To ensure that you’re getting the proper architecture for your business or organisation, run a pilot phase with a limited number of users. Purchasing additional computing resources is easier than unwittingly buying software you may end up not needing.

Identify Relevant Success Metrics

Just like with any test or exam, your pilot phase will either pass or fail based on specific benchmarks. Identifying these metrics are important for aligning your business objectives with what your chosen remote hosted desktop set-up can deliver.

Typically, you’ll want an eye on end-to-end latency, baseline bandwidth requirements, and load capacity. These are the usual criteria for evaluating the performance of remote hosted desktops. Organisations may need specified metrics based on their reasons for moving to the cloud. For instance, a business who wants to boost employee productivity may want to set more stringent criteria for average load times. Those looking to cut the cost of physically hosting software will do well to compare the savings of outsourcing against signing a long-term contract with service providers–these are typically costly and difficult to break out off.

Train your Employees

You’ll want personnel who are adequately trained to manage and troubleshoot your chosen remote desktop architecture. The backend varies from company to company, so having a knowledgeable team instead of just one expert is crucial–this way you won’t be left scrambling in the ether when that one person leaves the company.

Training end users is also important for the continuous success of your deployment. Brief workers on what they can and cannot do from home. For instance, printing won’t always be possible depending on your security configurations. Logging out properly–and not just exiting a program–is also important for ensuring that no unsaved work gets lost. Familiarising your users with these limitations ensure they can plan around their tasks appropriately, maximising productivity.