Windows Insider

Why You Need User Virtualization

User virtualization offers IT shops more control, makes remote management easier and improves the overall experience for end-users.

Think about how you treat your users' workspaces. When a problem occurs with their desktops or laptops, what do you do? Do you "rebuild" the computer to return it to a base configuration? When you're forced to do that rebuild, do you save their personal items? Is that preservation a painful process, involving manually locating their personal data and uploading it to a remote file server?

Expand this situation beyond just the simple desktop. Do users' workspaces automatically transfer to their laptops when they go out on the road? Are they present when users connect to a RemoteApp or a published desktop via Remote Desktop Services? Do the workspaces synchronize themselves into their virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI)-hosted virtual desktops?

For most of us, the unfortunate answer is no. Today's technologies with Windows profiles give IT environments a limited set of tools for maintaining a user's access mechanisms on roaming workspaces. Users find themselves repeatedly wasting productive time simply getting their workspaces arranged to their liking.

Personality and Control
The primary problem here is that the combination of local and roaming profiles no longer serves the needs of today's business climate.

That's why third-party companies are creating solutions for managing user states. Different than Windows profiles, these tools take a vastly different approach to delivering the users' workspaces to whatever access mechanism they need. With buzzwords like "user state management," "user workspace management" and "user virtualization," among others, these add-on solution sets make sure users are always presented with their comfortable workspaces no matter how they connect.

User virtualization solutions often leverage an external database for storing workspace characteristics. By eliminating the transfer-the-entire-folder approach of Windows profiles in favor of a database-driven architecture, it's possible to compose each workspace on-demand. Individual personality settings are delivered to the users' connections as they're demanded, as opposed to users waiting on profiles to download. Further, because the user state is virtualized outside the desktop, the solution can manage personality customizations across all simultaneous connections at once. Should a user make a desktop change in one session, that change can be seamlessly synchronized to every other session to maintain the comfortable workspace.

The ubiquity of user virtualization solutions also gives IT an incredible amount of control. When such a solution is always present at every user connection, you can centrally enforce IT and business policies at those connections. Access to applications can be limited, operating system functions can be locked down and network connections can be filtered. A user virtualization solution lets you control the workspace and, at the same time, enable a subset of settings to remain personalized -- and, thus, comfortable -- for each user.

Finally, user virtualization supports rapid desktop refresh. If you've ever been faced with replacing a user's desktop, you know the pain of manually locating and storing the user's personal data. With a user virtualization solution in place, refreshing that desktop requires little more than rebuilding it and asking the user to log in again.

You can find user virtualization solutions from a number of vendors today. AppSense, RES Software, Atlantis Computing, Tranxition and RingCube, among others, are all vendors with products in this space. While their services come at a cost, their productivity benefits and enhanced control often greatly outweigh their prices. And who wouldn't mind a little extra comfort as they sit down to do their jobs?

About the Author

Greg Shields is a senior partner and principal technologist with Concentrated Technology. He also serves as a contributing editor and columnist for TechNet Magazine and Redmond magazine, and is a highly sought-after and top-ranked speaker for live and recorded events. Greg can be found at numerous IT conferences such as TechEd, MMS and VMworld, among others, and has served as conference chair for 1105 Media’s TechMentor Conference since 2005. Greg has been a multiple recipient of both the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional and VMware vExpert award.

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