John Savill’s FAQ, “Should I use folder redirection or roaming profiles in Remote Desktop, Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI), and other environments?” (InstantDoc ID 103150) is a model of how to explain a complex subject clearly and succinctly. I finished reading it almost before I realized I’d started reading it! Bravo!
Large File Transfers
I enjoyed reading Michael Morales’s What Would Microsoft Support Do? column, “Disk2vhd: The Windows Troubleshooter’s New Best Friend” (December 2009, InstantDoc ID 102980). But I thought of one potential problem that Michael didn't elaborate on.
After using the Disk2vhd utility to create a VHD out of a physical machine, how do you suggest getting those potentially multi-gigabyte VHD files back and forth? Michael mentioned folks sending the VHD files to Microsoft for support cases. I'm wondering how to accomplish this file transfer and whether Michael's procedure can be used outside Microsoft. I'm trying to come up with some method to receive, say, a customer's VHD without utilizing FTP. I suppose the customer could always overnight a portable USB drive.
Not long ago, Microsoft had a single large FTP site where customers could upload their dump files and data. Now, engineers working on a customer's issue can create an online workspace that customers access via a web browser. The workspace is a Microsoft facility. I don't know the file-size limitations placed on these workspaces, but I do know that we've received 60GB dumps before.
Sometimes, we go the route you mentioned and have customers send us USB hard drives containing the image and/or data. Then we send them back. We've had customers send us whole machines in the past—but not as often these days with virtualization technology. There might be some places online, such as SkyDrive (skydrive.live.com), that can help with your needs.
To Deploy or Not to Deploy
I read Michele Crockett’s IT Pro Perspective editorial, “To Deploy or Not to Deploy” (December 2009, InstantDoc ID 102993), in which she asked, "What makes the most sense for your company in this launch wave?" I'm an IT director for a private, non-profit social services/healthcare company of about 600 employees. We've been using a thin-client environment since 2004. Approximately 95 percent of our employees use refurbished Wyse Winterm clients that I bought online for about $100 each. Before I convinced management to go this direction, our staff was sharing computers at about a seven-to-one ratio. The thin-client solution has worked well and helped us meet our goal of giving all ours users a computer on their desk—which was necessary for the successful adoption of our Electronic Health Record (EHR).
Considering the growing number of multimedia sources—and the fact that we could save a lot of money in mileage reimbursement—I'm looking at the Intel Atom processor and application virtualization as the next phase of our server/desktop environment. We've been looking at systems that we can build for about $150. We own more than 400 Windows XP licenses and have a lot of IDE drives left over from when we had more desktops. I'd like to virtualize the applications that I want to centrally manage. These thin-client hybrids will go to managers and meeting rooms. I plan to use the freeware tool TrueCrypt (www.truecrypt.org) to encrypt the hard drive; locally install Microsoft Office, ShoreTel Personal Call Manager, Mozilla Firefox; and virtualize the EHR. Our treatment rooms will probably always use a true thin-client appliance, with a digital signature pad attached. It sounds to me as if Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows 7 are pretty nice OSs and have a lot to offer. But I just don't see them as crucial to my strategy at the moment.
In Michele Crockett’s article, “To Deploy or Not to Deploy,” Matt Becker listed many factors that my company and its customers are considering. In this tough economic climate—many companies resorting to layoffs, and 2010 looking like another tough year—the prospect of meshing technology upgrades, refreshes, enhancements, and training with already strained or reduced budgets is daunting.
The key decision factor, regardless of the state of the economy, has to be business value. Unfortunately, these days, many IT people are neglecting to examine business value before launching a new technology; they've forgotten that money is no longer free-flowing. Making a strong business case for how an upgrade or rollout will help the business’s bottom line is always essential, and even more so now.
A positive increase in the bottom line can happen in many ways, some tangible and some harder to grasp. Return on investment (ROI), support and maintenance costs (yes, all systems still need maintenance), and training costs are tangibles that you can calculate and measure comparatively. However, increased efficiency (resulting from new technologies), transforming the information flow, and streamlining workflow processes might not be as easy to measure. And yet those intangibles—along with improving customer offerings while maintaining superb customer-service levels—should be some of our most important decision-making benchmarks. For that reason, Windows 7, Server 2008 R2, and SharePoint—at a minimum—are on our horizon.
In tough times, it's wise to be poised to grow the business when the economy does rebound. Those who keep investing and advancing their technologies will benefit from being "ready to go" when the workload increases.
—Kristy Hartman Mumma