Law noted that since the pilot, almost 700 students run virtual desktops with some using iPads to access the applications via the remote desktop app that is now available.
Students, who must be invited to join the scheme as it is not completely university-wide yet, can now access university computing resources while at home, in their dorms or from any location as long as they have Internet access. "No longer do students need to wait for PCs to become free or be locked out from projects when the computer labs close," said Law.
Students can now access applications such as SPSS, CAD/CAM software and other apps that could only be previously accessed on university PCs.
Another key benefit was for internal staff that needs PCs dedicated to certain functions like banking transactions or financial tasks. These required higher security and specific access to data and applications, which could be difficult as staff often moved around and worked on other machines. When a staff leaves or joins the organization, it would also create problems in reallocating hardware.
By deploying virtual desktops to staff with specific functions, they could work on any machine and it is easier to manage and deploy when there is any staff movement. Consistent security policies could also be applied to users with rules such as no USB drive access applied to certain users.
Benefits outweigh costs
Law noted that while the project is still in the test phase, there is constant reviewing and feedback being gathered. 'So far the students are very happy with the experience and flexibility. Convenience is the biggest benefit," said Law.
Performance-wise Law noted there has been little negative comment on response time and performance other than some minor issues when users connect via WiFi. But on fixed-line connections the virtual desktops have performed perfectly well.
Overall the experience has been very positive. Interestingly Law noted that based on pure hardware costs it can be more expensive to run VDI, due to the higher server requirements. But over time, the greater flexibility, simpler security and management plus the ability to roll out new "desktops" easily outweigh any cost concerns.
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