Recovering from Failed System Offers VDI Insights

Ready, set...your IT department has to recover a PC that is trapped in a BSoD (Blue Screen of Death). Do you send a tech deskside for a four-hour troubleshooting allotment, or do you spend five minutes sending down a new desktop image from your data center?

One recent morning I sat down to work and got a "blue screen of death." Of course, I was on deadline and the last thing I needed was a long troubleshooting session. So I went to the lab, pulled out a test laptop and was up and running in less than five minutes. All the while I was wishing I had a production version of my VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure) set up for office use.

How was I able to do this? I just fell back to the cloud.

Several years ago I stopped composing stories on my desktop and started using Google Docs. I had anywhere-access to my work without the muss and fuss of carrying a USB flash drive. Our corporate e-mail system is easy to access via a Web browser. Twitter and Facebook were still available to me on the Web as was my Chatter account and other social media tools including IM.

And the cool thing is that even without ready access to a spare laptop, I could have (somewhat painfully) accessed all these services via my smartphone.

All of this is possible because I don't work in a regulated environment. None of the information I generate or use on a routine basis needs to be audited or controlled for legal purposes. I don't work with news sources that require stringent protection from the government and I don't create content that has an immediate financial impact such as mergers and acquisitions. Thus, I feel quite comfortable keeping my daily work in the cloud and off my laptop.

Even with my cloud-based applications and data storage, I may have, in the past, been missing my PC before my first coffee break. But again, due to the unregulated nature of my work, I haven't stored work-related materials on my laptop for quite some time. For example, large graphics files, product documentation (you'd be amazed at what great stuff is in a user manual) sound recordings (I record nearly every interview I conduct) and test results get stored on an external hard drive that is backed up to the cloud.

This is why I find VDI so interesting. If I did work in a regulated environment or in a workplace where corporate policies dictated tight control over workplace data, a VDI solution to my dead desktop PC would have been just the ticket. Instead of worrying about diagnosing the problem or tearing my hair out over lost data, the help desk could have just reset my desktop session. All of my data would have been stored in the data center. In fact, it's a pretty safe bet that whatever I did to cause this BSoD would have been prevented if I had been using a VDI desktop because of tighter controls over user rights. Well, maybe not, but the recovery would certainly be a lot easier than the clean up I'll eventually have to go through.

Today, I can use the cloud and personal tools to make data recovery easy for me. The question IT managers need to ask is, "how can IT make desktop computing more like the cloud?" Virtualization techniques that speed graphics performance and deduplicate data are rapidly advancing. While some of these advances, especially when it comes to graphics, are still bound by hardware, the strategic implications for IT managers have never been more clear. The days of "desktop" workloads running on a single, physical desktop are rapidly coming to a close.