What is our primary use case?
My primary use cases for Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops are for:
- Anyone who wants to modernize their business continuity plan
- Anyone who wants to deal with data regulation compliance
- Anybody who wants to promote a work from home or remote-first strategy for their employees and team members.
In terms of the hardware and software that the service requires our company to make use of, we can typically decommission if our client has existing servers. We can decommission after moving the data off of them.
My firm is hardware apathetic. I don't care if it runs Citrix Workspace. If our clients want low cost and high performance, we generally point people to the Ncomputing RX420(HDX) which is a Raspberry PI 4 device that mounts very neatly onto the back of the monitor and it can link into their network via wifi or ethernet connection.
It's a fantastic little device that is very manageable, cost-effective, and tends to last for quite a long time. Every time I've put them into place, the desktop environment is a little bit different than what people are used to. The mouse movements are not quite as good as a full house computer, but we're spending a couple of hundred dollars for something that's going to last five to 10 years, versus buying a desktop or even a lightweight desktop for $600 or $700 which is going to last three to five years. Most of my clients have been pretty excited about that trade-off.
How has it helped my organization?
There have been radical improvements in IT efficiency. Cost savings are on a case-by-case basis. Some of my clients were not going all-in on any kind of management solution, so their initial monthly cost was higher when they went to Citrix. In most cases, it's a push. They're spending about the same money in either direction. But in a lot of cases, when you start to factor in the cost of downtime, the cost of inefficiency, the cost of a data breach, everyone is realizing much lower costs of management and ongoing costs to their IT department.
It's difficult to approximate how much it has saved because on one hand, I have a client that has 45 or 50 users and they realized a much higher increase of efficiency. A task in the previous model took half an hour, and under the new model, it takes five minutes.
When you spread that over 50 employees, that's a much higher percentage of drop than if a client has 10 employees. It's difficult to approximate but averaged across all of our clients, there is around a 25-to-30% reduction in costs.
What is most valuable?
We leverage the following technologies:
- Application virtualization capabilities
- On-premises, desktop virtualization
- Cloud-hosted desktop virtualization
- Citrix managed cloud-hosted desktops
The fact that we can work from any device from any location is the most valuable aspect of the solution for us. In the last year, people have been restricted in their movements and we haven't been allowed to just show up to work. The fact that my clients can leverage a remote-first workplace that allows them a greater ability to recruit from a larger geographic area is valuable for us.
You don't have to be able to commute to a major Metro in order to work there, you can work from any location. If you want to take a few days with your family but you have some projects that you're working on, it's going to take some of your time, but not all of it. You can just go to your Airbnb or wherever your family is staying and work remotely, do your job, and spend the rest of the time with your family.
Team members are relieved that they can continue to work and put bread on the table. They are relieved in the dichotomy that says they can put their family's needs ahead of their workplace's needs or vice versa. Maybe a child has a medical appointment or a social engagement that they would like to be at. You can fit those around your work schedule, work it out with your children and with wherever it is that they're going. In that way, both the employer and the employee realize a lower cost of operations. They realize increased flexibility and agility in their life. That dichotomy is either minimized or removed entirely. That's been very, very groundbreaking for them.
The deployment and management of hybrid Cloud Apps and Desktops is not 100% seamless, although it is very good. When you start mixing a third-party or a cloud-hosted app, it is generally pretty seamless. You don't notice a difference between a web-based app that you run on a physical machine, on a virtual machine, or through a Workspace. I have not seen any problems with that. A legacy application or a computer-aided design program has very specific requirements that can be a challenge. But with a little bit of research, once you settle on the solution, it's pretty good.
Security is a shining point of the Citrix Workspace. Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops is a very robust solution when security is a concern. Furthermore, the content collaboration data-hosting that Citrix integrates with Virtual Apps and Desktops is among the best there is.
It is the same for the security of clients' intellectual property and data when remote employees use the solution. Content collaboration allows you to share data securely and is supported with two-factor authentication. You can have a consolidated data set with a widely distributed workforce and they can all be on the same sheet of music, all accessing the same data. Version control, access control lists, anything you could wish for, is available in their solution stack.
Citrix simplifies the adherence to industry regulations for data protection and for compliance. HIPAA, for example, if you share that data over two or three different clinics or facilities, you have to create and maintain some sort of SD-WAN or VPN in order to make sure that those applications and those datasets are shared only between those locations. With Virtual Apps and Desktops, that either reduces or removes the need for either the VPN or an SD-WAN, because they aren't actually sharing between various locations. You are accessing that data set through various locations. The benefit to that is that you have reduced complexity at the infrastructure level so there's less to troubleshoot. There's less to go wrong.
What needs improvement?
Templating the deployment process could use improvement. When you start, there are a large number of details that are quite client-specific, although they do share common themes. To get somebody up and running in a day is very difficult to do. They should streamline by use case.
There's always going to be an outlier that doesn't really fit neatly into any one use case, so that's going to have to be more customized. An accountancy firm has sensitive data. They are prime targets for identity thieves that are always looking for an easy target and low-hanging fruit. If they were to template a deployment for an accountancy firm with all the needful things that every accountancy firm is going to have to have, it should be that you can just radio button the Apps so that accountants can tell the backend that they're going to need certain things. Then you can say, "We have this number of users and they need this number of spare desktops - go." And it just built the Azure environment. That would be really great. I don't know that it's actually possible, but it would be really good.
The other issue is the stocking orders and the monthly reports. They're difficult because we don't do it every day. We do the stocking order once a year and there's always confusion on the backend.
For how long have I used the solution?
I've been using Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops for Azure for a little more than a year now.
How are customer service and technical support?
I would rate their support highly. They're very good and very responsive. We had an incident last year that dragged on and on but that was in the thick of having half the workforce that they were used to having and a radically increased call for service because of the pandemic. That's not really a true representation of what they could do.
Most of the time, if there's an issue, I can fire it off to one of my account managers or through the Citrix portal and get a response back within, depending on the severity of the incident, a few minutes or up to the next business day. Depending on the severity of the problem, the next business day might be just fine. If it's just a little slow and it's irritating, but it's not causing anybody to not be able to work, the next business day is fine. If we're down and we need help right now, having 24-hour support would be excellent but that's kind of impossible.
Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?
I've had a client on board with me that was moving from another Citrix provider. They were working on hosting their own Citrix environment and they needed something that wasn't going to fall apart on them. Their customer service really flagged over the last year or so. They moved from a Citrix provider to me.
How was the initial setup?
The deployment strategy widely varies between clients because, on one hand, I have an accountancy firm as well as another very similar solution for a defined benefits management firm. They have very similar needs but their business model is such that even though they've got the same needs, the way I have to meet those needs for each different client throws a monkey wrench into it.
On the other hand, I have construction companies and engineering firms that could not be more different and customizing the solution for each of them and their needs is challenging. I can get the bones of the infrastructure up in two or three days. Then it takes another two or three days, at minimum, as much as maybe a week or two, to get everything dialed in just the way they like it before we start going into production.
The shortest amount of time I've seen it take to complete implementation is a week but it has taken a lot longer.
What was our ROI?
I have seen ROI. It's opened me up as an outsourced IT department to seek and win much more lucrative contracts. Citrix has allowed me to pursue larger clients. Because when you are all on the same sheet of music with how this solution works, how it's supported, where you can deploy, and how onsite support really becomes almost a non-issue, you can seek clientele from every location, not just where you can drive to. It's allowed me to scale quite a lot.
What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?
My pricing advice would be to watch your Azure costs. If you're not used to it, like I wasn't last year, they can get very high very quickly and you can go upside down on your agreement very easily.
What other advice do I have?
There is a steep learning curve. In the Cloud-hosted Virtual Apps and Desktops model, as a general rule, there's a high learning curve. If you're going from only providing local assets to your clients, a local server, local workstations, and you're going straight into Virtual Apps and Desktops for the Cloud in Azure, really do your homework. Really learn the tool, really understand how it's supported because you'll save yourself a lot of trouble down the line if you do. If you've got the resources available, throw one person at cost analysis for Azure. So that at least one person in your organization really understands how much something is going to cost to deploy and keep running so that you can size your agreements correctly.
If I could, I would rate Virtual Apps and Desktops an 11 out of 10. I will rate it a ten out of ten.