In my last post, we reviewed what VDI is, why it’s growing in popularity, and why VDI may be a great option for law firms. Now let’s explore the cost and deployment considerations you should be aware of, and whether it can save you money in the long run.

Cost to implement VDI

VDI is actually very cost-effective. It comes at no added cost to the firm unless you wish to activate it.

It is inherent in any new Server 2012 server operating system, waiting to be utilized. There is an annual VDI license cost of $100 per user. You can enable for one firm user, or all firm users, so it scales.

Savings EXCLUDED from analysis below

Since it’s easier to set up a new VD than a new traditional desktop, you’ll save money on the labor needed to install. You’ll also save money on remediation services since VD’s are easier to fix, especially if remediation requires a reinstallation of the operating system.

Moreover, you save over traditional remote access solutions like Remote Web Workspace and GoToMyPC, since those solutions all require two PC’s, a dedicated physical PC on-premise which is required for a remote user to log into, and a PC to log into that on-premise machine. More simply, VDI allows you to connect directly to the virtual desktop, like Terminal Server does, instead of having to connect to another physical desktop first, meaning you need one physical PC, not two.

Where this becomes especially advantageous is for firms with a number of remote-only users, since it allows the firm to buy one PC instead of two, a 50% savings per worker. For firms that have hybrid workers, it’ll be less cost effective (but potentially still a better value than the other solutions) because the hybrid worker, who works both onsite and from the road, usually needs an onsite machine anyway (whereas a remote-only worker doesn’t need an onsite machine).

Terminal Server is a very similar technology which has been in use for years now. Just like VDI, you connect directly to a completely virtual desktop for all computing needs. VDI, however, allows you to better manage your fleet of virtual desktops, allowing for better group management, whereas Terminal Server requires more extensive, disjointed work on each individual VD. VDI is also easier to remediate and will drive down IT management costs.

Savings INCLUDED in analysis below

You save money in part because VDI allows you to buy a Thin Client workstation, rather than a traditional PC workstation. A thin client is a terminal PC that is made to do nothing other than to connect to the VD. Because the thin client essentially does very little, it’s an inexpensive machine that costs just $500.

Add Microsoft Office, because every firm and every user needs it, for $350 and your cost is $850, plus $100 for each year of VDI service. After five years, your cost is $1350. Compared to an average workstation, which costs about $1500/unit (includes Microsoft Office), this saves you $150 per PC over five years.

That said, as frequently mentioned in Part 1, regular workstations and the thin clients on VDI will both last longer than a traditional PC that doesn’t utilize VDI, meaning you save additional money on your fleet. A normal PC lasts about 5 years; a PC or thin client using VDI will last a solid eight to ten years though. This results in significant cost savings.

Analysis

Think of every PC you own not as a commodity, but as a service. You will need desktops, rain or shine, every day until you retire, there’s just no way around it. So really each time you buy a PC, you buy desktop services, i.e., the ability to connect to your firm’s IT services, like central document management, Outlook email, practice management, document automation, and so on. Including MS Office, the average desktop will run you $1500 over five years, so about $25/month/unit.

But if we buy a thin client for $500, which can go ten years instead of five, add Microsoft Office for $350, and add $1000 for ten years of VDI licensing, since VDI’s last ten years, not five, then our cost per PC is economized to $15.42/month/unit. This creates a savings of $9.58/desktop/month, or about 38%.

Calculate it now

Multiply $9.58 by the number of desktops you employ at your firm. This is the money you could be saving each month on desktop services for your firm. 50 PC’s = $479/month, or $5748/year, or $57,480/decade.

Conclusion

As you can see, a lot of firms will be interested in learning how to save almost 40% on their desktop purchases while simultaneously adding tremendous efficiency gains (see part one). Even if you cut potential gains in your analysis, i.e., you factor five-year replacement for each thin client, your cost per unit per month is $22.50, a savings of $2.50/unit/month, or 10%.

We believe it is reasonable to factor a 18%-20% decrease in total desktop services spend (i.e., spend on just workstations alone) by utilizing a VDI strategy.

Accordingly, it’s never too soon to implement a desktop replacement strategy that improves performance, security, mobility and scalability, while decreasing total technology spend. VDI potentially does that, allowing firms to both save money on desktop services and enable valuable productivity gains.