Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops Review

Provided us the flexibility to seamlessly get people working from home, even though that model wasn't the norm for our company


What is our primary use case?

We deliver mainly desktops to all of our offices, using thin clients. Since we've been working from home during the pandemic, people just use their home computers to access their desktops. We deploy a desktop full of a standard set of applications, and we have a few published applications that are not on a desktop. People access those from that desktop, and some people access them as a published application and not a desktop.

We have people who have laptops and some of them just use one or two applications, so they don't get a full desktop. They'll just VPN from their laptop and use Citrix to access those few applications.

The following represent how Citrix technology is leveraged in our organization: application virtualization capabilities, on-premise desktop virtualization, and Remote PC access or remote access to physical desktops. We don't do the latter a lot, but we do publish remote desktop as a published application. Some use remote desktop to get back to their machines. We don't use the remote PC functionality. I wish we did, personally, but those are decisions that unfortunately get made elsewhere, and RDP was chosen versus publishing them as an ICA app to people.

How has it helped my organization?

Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops provides the flexibility of being used on any device, which makes it easier to work for many anywhere. The transition from people working in an office every day to working from home was seamless, for the most part for us, because almost everybody has a personal computer, whether it's a PC or a Mac. We had a lot of people go out and buy Chromebooks and any other type of device that they saw fit for themselves. They just logged in to our portal and launched their desktops, like they always would. It's very flexible.

The biggest benefit was when we had that transition when offices were closed due to the pandemic. We had thin clients in the offices, so people were already using Citrix whether they were in the office or not. The flexibility provided by that alone was invaluable, in just getting people able to work from home. That's what the product is supposed to do. We didn't really have work-from-as a model. People could do it, but it wasn't a big thing for us. It was more along the lines of when you were done for the day you went home, and if you had to log back in, you could. But for the most part, people were done with work until the next day.

Citrix also plays a part in our business continuity strategies. We have in-house applications and, since we have data centers in various regions, we need the ability for a given application to be live in other data centers, even though we only currently have it running from one. vSphere is the platform that we use for virtualization so we have infrastructure that's the same in every data center. We have a Citrix environment just for DR that we can copy our vDisks into, in Provisioning Services, from one data center to the next. We can then just spin up a Citrix desktop that has access to that DR environment. The other teams then spin up their pieces of infrastructure within that DR bubble and test it. Citrix gives people the ability to quickly get into that DR environment once it has been stood up.

Another aspect is that the solution has resulted in IT efficiencies because we can be pretty agile with quickly reverting changes and quickly implementing new changes. It provides a lot of flexibility for us.

What is most valuable?

The Provisioning Services are the most valuable feature. We have Premium licensing, so Provisioning Services is huge for us, along with the Virtual Apps and Desktops part. It allows us to have a vDisk for every region, one that can easily be copied between them if we need to, to limit the amount of updates we have to do. 

The ability to deploy shared, hosted desktops and published applications, is also important.

And I would rate the user experience, when using the solution’s technology remotely, as high as it can be. We have offices all over the world, and some of them are in areas that have absolutely terrible internet service. For users in those areas, while we do get complaints that the experience is bad, on most days it's tolerable, and that's even on the bad days when there is extremely high latency. Especially not knowing where people are going to be working from, I would say the user experience is very good.

When it comes to the solution’s centralized policy control, as in the policies you apply to ICA sessions and session hosts or virtual desktop agents, you can control those through group policy, in addition to group policy, or put them in from the console. But either way, as a central management point for the Citrix sessions, in general, it's very good. It gives us flexibility. For example, with the users who are in the bad internet service areas, those policies give us the flexibility to lower their user experience, to dim down the graphics and sound quality. We can do that on-the-fly when they report problems. That generally helps their experience a little bit. So the policy control is good.

And if you have the full line of Citrix products deployed—NetScaler, MAS, all of those items tied together—the visibility is second to none from a monitoring perspective. We use the NetScaler and the MAS and the data that comes through there is almost invaluable, if you have the licensing to use it.

In addition, the security of your intellectual property and data when remote employees are using Citrix, is very high because, with Citrix you can limit access to the local device and access to the network, so you can't copy files if you have certain policies set between the Citrix session and the endpoint. You can prevent printing. You can prevent any data from ever leaving that desktop. And if you're licensed for it, which we are not, they've recently added the ability to watermark screenshots and to have keylog protection in Citrix sessions. If you're licensed for it, that's just an added bonus to the security features that are built-in by default.

What needs improvement?

The version of Director we're on, the 1912 version, has improved some of the monitoring capabilities that went back to what EdgeSite used to be as a product, when it comes to real-time analytics. If anything could be improved, it might be some of the Director functionality, and some of the dashboard customization, or the overall Director customization. We're limited in what we do. We use Director, as administrators, more than the service desk does, and we limit their access to Director to a few screens. They don't even get to see the full scope of what we see in there. Director is one thing that could be improved upon.

For how long have I used the solution?

I've been using Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops for about 10 years. My first experience with any type of virtualization technology was with Citrix. My first helpdesk job was supporting a company that deployed Citrix applications specifically, not desktops. I started out doing it from a support perspective and then got into the administration and engineering side, at that same place. I've never worked on any other products like Citrix.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

I would rate the stability very highly, as high as it can be, due to my long-term experience with the product and how it's evolved to the point that it's at. That rating is based on my firsthand knowledge and experience of seeing it used and implemented, day in and day out, not only here, but at other places I've been that are larger than where I am now. I have a high opinion of it in general. It's been my career choice to work specifically with Citrix products.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

It scales very well. The limitations we face are our own hardware constraints, because we purchase what we need and we don't generally provide much overhead. Our scalability problems come from limitations on hardware purchases, probably due to budget. If our company doubled in size, we would not have a problem scaling what we have today to meet that. We could probably do it in a couple of days and be just as fine.

We're licensed for 3,000 users. Our primary usage is in the U.S. and the AMEA region. We have about 2,400 users in that region who are active on it at any given time. The rest of those licenses are used in the Asia Pacific region. They're not as active in Citrix because a lot of their stuff is not as centralized as our other infrastructure is. They still don't use a lot of the same stuff. But they do use Citrix for email and for a couple of other things.

How are customer service and technical support?

We haven't used them recently, but I generally have a high opinion of Citrix technical support. They have the knowledge and give us access to the expertise. I've worked with them in the past on a lot of things and, in some instances, if not for working with them, some of the problems we faced wouldn't have been solved. We didn't have access to anyone else with that level of knowledge.

How was the initial setup?

I just started here about a year ago, but I was involved in setting up the 1912 environment. The process was straightforward. While they've changed the product names over the years, the underlying architecture and the technology, for the most part, has remained the same. I know there have been technological advancements and changes in the underlying architecture, but the overall end result, and some of how it does things, has remained the same. The setup was very easy for me and I think it would be easy even for somebody who is slightly new to the product.

Our most recent deployment did not take long at all. The longest part of it was the formal requests to the other teams and having them provision the virtual machines that we requested for the infrastructure. The longest thing about the deployment for us is getting to the point where we're comfortable putting a desktop out there for user consumption. It's getting them to test and validate that we built that desktop the same as the current one they're using. It's not so much that the deployment takes long because of any Citrix product problems. It's more due to user acceptance testing of the functionality of the desktop itself and the software we use.

Four or five people are involved in deployment, between the ones on our team who build, install, and configure the various infrastructure pieces, and the people that we make requests to who build the database servers and the other virtual machines.

We deploy according to the best practices. We don't follow any specific guides, but we deploy with the minimum specs, plus what we know we need to scale for the user base that we have.

What about the implementation team?

We did it ourselves.

What was our ROI?

Citrix provides everything in one integrated platform—even the lowest licensing version. It depends on your needs. But if you have the Premium Edition, it provides absolutely every tool you could need to virtualize and deploy.

I'm not involved with the licensing, purchasing, or cost-comparison types of discussions. I'm primarily on the technical side. But I would imagine the integrated platform plays a large part in providing value. Citrix is a leader in this space. Our company has to see some value in the product to pay for it as it is. I would always advocate for it over other similar products.

What other advice do I have?

If you're looking at implementing it, plan as best you can at all levels. Citrix has its consulting methodology for how to properly plan and deploy an environment. I've been in a lot of places where I haven't seen the planning phase happening. Planning goes a long way towards a successful deployment, because you test a lot of things during the testing phase of that, in particular. You see things that you wouldn't otherwise see if you just built it and threw it out there and said, "Hey, use this." You would run into a lot of problems that you wouldn't understand, things that need to be tweaked for any deployment, no matter where you're deploying it. There is a set of standard things that you need to do. Planning goes a long way towards making sure that it's not only accepted by your end users but that it's supportable.

Access control comes into play because we have different Citrix environments for different regions and they don't really cross-talk. We do limit certain things to certain environments, or some things are only available from one environment. People from the other environments have to access it from a different environment, but to them it's seamless because they're all behind the same store-front environments.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

On-premises

Which version of this solution are you currently using?

7.15 LTSR
**Disclosure: IT Central Station contacted the reviewer to collect the review and to validate authenticity. The reviewer was referred by the vendor, but the review is not subject to editing or approval by the vendor.
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