Desktop Virtualization… The Right Way (Migration)


We’ve followed all of the best practices, did a proper analysis and design and are ready to start moving users to their brand new virtual desktop. But not so fast. We need to make sure we have the proper plan in place or else we will end up with incorrect applications, confused users, or lost files. A migration plan must be put into place providing the following for the users.

  • Personalization Synchronization: A user’s traditional desktop has become polluted with numerous application installs, updates, and patches. Blindly transferring these settings into the new environment will have unforeseen results. An alternate approach is to start with a clean environment for every user and only then migrate the required settings (example: outlook signature, browser favorites, etc). By identifying the settings beforehand, the migration process can be validated and the settings can be tested to make sure they remain compatible with the new system. By the way, there are solutions out there (like AppSense) that can help simplify this aspect of the migration.
  • Data Synchronization: In addition to the user’s settings, any data resident on the local desktop must be transferred to a location accessible by the virtual desktop, which preferably is a network share. As users have the tendency to store this data anywhere on their desktop, analysis should quickly determine two likely spots: My Documents or a folder on the local drive. When a user is ready for migration to the virtual desktop, the data is moved to the network share. Once the move is complete, the user should start working from the virtual desktop immediately. Even though these locations are often accessible from the traditional desktop, doing so would typically result in poorer performance, slow file access and potential contention issues. Because of this, it is advisable to stay within the virtual desktop once the user has been migrated.
  • End User Support: A migration is going to have an impact on the users. By identifying this as a fact, a proper support structure can be put into place beforehand. The support team should accommodate the typical issues encountered during a migration. The common questions/issues must be documented and communicated to all users who are about to undergo migration. These materials should be in an easy to find location. But these steps alone are not all that is required. During the first week of migration, there will be a flood of user issues and questions. If a thorough User Acceptance Test was completed, many of these challenges would have already been identified and a valuable FAQ would have already been created. The support team needs the tools and training in place to be able to assist the users in a timely manner. The support team is much more effective if they are able to see the user’s end-point device and the user’s virtual desktop, which is possible with GoToAssist. This gives support full visibility into the user’s challenges.

The point to remember is that the migration plan must not be set in stone. As the first users are migrated, gaps in the process will come to light. The process must be flexible to accommodate unforeseen challenges along the way. Changes to the process must be communicated and followed by the rollout team. And finally, once a user’s data/settings are migrated, they MUST move to the virtual desktop. If not, expect data/personalization discrepancies between the physical and virtual desktop worlds.

Daniel Feller
Lead Architect – Worldwide Consulting Solutions
Citrix Systems, Inc.
Blog: Virtualize My Desktop

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