Profitability as a managed services provider (MSP) isn’t just about increasing sales. Driving efficiencies and cutting costs play important roles as well. That’s why adding virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) to one’s service portfolio can be a true revenue booster.
VDI offers numerous benefits to end users, particularly among small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) across most verticals, making it an appealing proposition for prospective customers. For MSPs, VDI entry costs are low, and maintaining the service after the sale requires little time and resources. With the right VDI system, it’s easy to boost efficiencies and generate cost reductions — for MSPs as well as their customers. That’s a win-win for certain.
Early on, many MSPs didn’t see a role for themselves in the VDI market even though the benefits of desktop virtualization for their customers were there.
With virtual desktops, the operating systems and applications that once ran directly on a user’s desktop computer (or other device) would instead exist virtually, residing on a central server — typically on the SMB’s premises. A single server could potentially run dozens of virtual desktops, and customers could use thin clients or zero clients instead of fully loaded PCs or laptops. Moving processing chores to a server would also reduce client-side hardware costs.
In addition, centralization would make it easier, more efficient and more secure to manage operating systems and application — something extremely desirable given increases in worker mobility, BYOD, and the growing demand for multi-device remote access. Rolling out patches and upgrades would be simplified since IT could work with a few “gold” desktop images as opposed to wandering around an office to update physical machines. Freeing up time for more important IT tasks.
The use of virtual desktops would also make it much easier to keep company information secure since it wouldn’t be stored on employees’ individual devices (usually not a good combination). Which also means an improvement for data protection.
Few SMBs, however, could justify the expense of building and maintaining their own virtual desktop infrastructure. Nor could MSPs. There were also software licensing hassles, the need for new skills sets among IT staff, and the concerns of end users over slow networks and application latency.
To get in on the VDI business and overcome the challenges that overshadowed the potential benefits, MSPs needed a cost-effective means of delivering desktop virtualization. Enter cloud-based packaged VDI solutions.
Packaged VDI solutions include everything needed to deliver virtual desktops. The early VDI packaged solutions typically had Windows desktops living on virtual machines (VMs) on a customer’s on-premises server. Today many are cloud-based, which reduces much of the infrastructure and labor costs for both MSPs and their customers. No servers are needed, and no staff is required to install, configure, and maintain them. There are, however, numerous variations among the cloud-based VDI offerings on the market. Some use VMware or Microsoft’s virtual platforms as the underlying virtualization product, while others employ proprietary platforms. Thus, ease of integration with other technologies can vary. Some systems make it easy to add more users to a VDI environment, while the process is more complicated with those that offer more choices for desktop provisioning – such as pooling or streaming.
One of the biggest differentiators among packaged VDI solutions lies in the implementation and management aspects. Some VDI solutions require installation of a number of different components, including web interfaces and provisioning services. Some require separate consoles for management and monitoring. Others can be installed as a package onto one server and managed through a single URL and console. That alone can be a big efficiency driver for both the end user and the MSP.
When evaluating VDI platforms, MSPs should look for advanced features, such as offline support, simplified, single console management, and application virtualization capabilities. These are the areas that help make certain VDI systems a better value and an easier sell.
Positioning for ROI
Selecting a VDI solution to sell is one thing. Selling it is another. For both the MSP and the end customer, ROI matters. As it pertains to VDI, ROI hasn’t always been easy to justify — particularly for earlier renditions because of the infrastructure costs. Being cloud-based reduces some of the infrastructure costs required for VDI, but there are still expenses for storage and virtualization. Fortunately, storage acceleration technologies and deduplication have reduced storage costs. Free virtualization technologies have also contributed to more cost-effective solutions.
The development of a packaged, cloud-based VDI platform has made ROI justification easier. The required infrastructure is part of the total solution and is delivered “as a service.” Capital expenses are replaced by more predictable operating expenses for both the end user and MSP.
Where the real ROI comes in is the increased efficiencies and cost reductions. As noted earlier, those benefits are generated in numerous ways. Among them: VDI frees up IT staff to focus on more strategic IT endeavors rather than supporting desktops in the office and out in the field (which is appreciated by IT admins). Rollouts of new applications or software is less time- and labor-intensive. VDI also frees up budget for other IT initiatives. Security is built into the systems, providing greater peace of mind and the benefits of more advanced security technologies than many companies could incorporate themselves. In addition, VDI better meets the needs of today’s increasingly mobile workforce, providing them with secure access to the applications and data they need to do their jobs from any device and from anywhere.
MSPs also benefit from the increased efficiencies and reduced costs associated with cloud-based. Many MSPs exist in the “break-fix” world. It’s a time- and labor-intensive mindset that eats away potential profits. With cloud-based, packaged VDI solutions, MSPs don’t have to devote time and labor to patches and other traditional “hands-on” IT needs. That can typically be handled from a central management console, such as Nerdio Admin Portal (NAP). Instead, they can position themselves more as “problem solvers” and “business accelerators.” They can help their customers meet real business needs, like supporting employee mobility and speeding up roll outs of new software and applications. That makes it even more important for MSPs entering the VDI market to understand how to position VDI as part of a broader business solution.
Not all VDI solutions are created equal. Some offer greater efficiencies and the potential for more cost reductions than others. Nerdio is one of them.