We’ve started getting a lot of questions from people wanting to learn more about VDI, or Virtual Desktop Infrastructures. As the workforce becomes more mobile and remote access demands increase, VDI offers a solution for anywhere, anytime access for all of your system applications and documents.
In this two-part series, I’ll explore what VDI is, why it’s growing in popularity, and why VDI may be a great option for law firms. In my next post, I’ll explain cost and deployment considerations law firms should be aware of before investing in this model.
What is VDI?
Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, hereinafter referred to as “VDI”, allows users to access their full Windows environment running in a data center, from any device.
Simply put, a virtual desktop, or “VD”, is a completely virtual machine with its own operating system, set of applications, and desktop explorer. It’s all controlled by the firm, just like the current fleet of PC’s are. When a user logs on to their existing desktop, they get a screen similar to this (just like they do today):
When you enable VDI capabilities at a firm, the user will still login to their work PC as normal except once on that PC they double-click a VDI icon on the desktop which launches a completely new desktop over the top of the normal desktop. Moving forward, the user does all computing in the VD desktop, not on the local machine. This is almost the same as using VPN, Terminal Services or GoToMyPC, which firms have been using for over a decade now.
How Law Firms can benefit from VDI
- Eliminate need for dedicated, on-premise PC for each remote access user
- Decrease PC refresh frequency
- Decrease average PC replacement cost
- Easier to manage and deploy new users
- Increase mobility and security
- Ensures uniformity across all PCs
- Highly scalable for growing firms
- Less complex, less costly to manage (vs. Terminal Server, VPN or GoToMyPC)
- Safely figure that VDI can offer 18% decrease in total lifetime PC spend (see part 2 next week)
How users benefit from VDI
For users, a VD delivers all core services like email, practice management, time & billing, word processor, document management and more. Instead of needing to be at work, logged into the work PC, a user can connect from anywhere on just about any device. This means that they can work from the road and still access 100% of all firm IT-services needed to execute their duties. This is a huge mobility boost to the firm and enables significant productivity gains.
Also, if the user gets a virus or some other type of malicious content, remediation is much simpler because you can much more quickly restore the machine and/or reinstall the OS, driving down IT management costs and increasing remediation speed (a driver of uptime).
Users also benefit from a uniform computing environment, allowing them to work from any location, on almost any device, including coworkers peripherals, and everything still looks the same. This means they always know where everything is, regardless of what device they are on. This drives down training costs and reduces learning curve, which also boosts productivity at the firm.
Additional benefits for Law Firms
VDI will give law firms a number of strategic advantages over the traditional model of buying new PC’s every 3-5 years. The primary takeaway is that VDI utilizes the server for all processing and RAM needs for all desktops at the firm. This is different than the traditional model where each PC is responsible for its processing and RAM requirements. By offloading this requirement to the server, the firm gains advantages such as:
- Each terminal PC, i.e., the dummy device that connects to the VD, can be scaled back from a hardware perspective, since the device only needs minimal performance boosting hardware. This drives down acquisition cost across the entire PC fleet, sometimes significantly.
- Allows old computers to operate like new ones. This provides users with better performance while also decreasing the speed at which performance degrades over time.
- Since each PC is constantly underutilized, from a hardware-performance perspective, the PC lasts longer, reducing total PC-fleet spend
VDI for Law Firms: Summary
Deploying VDI means you can purchase less expensive replacement PC’s, you can keep each PC longer, and you can expect better performance from each PC through the duration of their lifecycles. Keep in mind, this is in concert with the security, mobility, scalability, cost and uniformity advantages.
Whether you manage technology in or out of house, everyone will love the VDI setup. It’s easier to control, easier to manage, easier to scale, easier to remediate. This reduces IT management costs for everyone, especially the firm. Stay tuned for my follow-up post next week which will explain the cost to implement VDI, the type of law firms VDI may (or may not) work well for, and the long term considerations you should know before pulling the trigger.
Michael O’Neill is the Client Development Manager at Accellis Technology Group. He is highly experienced in Worldox®, Time Matters®, Amicus Attorney® and the N-able® IT network management platform. Michael has a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and will be pursuing his Master of Applied Politics.