Nightmares of Supporting Windows 8 BYOD - Part Two

In my last post of 2012, I described the external pressure that many of you would be feeling when your users starting walking in the door with all the new Windows 8 goodies that Santa brought them for Christmas. Your users got hyped on the sugar high from getting those cool new devices they were dreaming of – and you got the potential of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) support nightmares – so I gave you ideas about the role that desktop virtualization could play in turning the situation into a win-win for you and your users..

Today I’ll focus on the modernization pressure building up inside your firewall.

The Windows 8 push from inside

Here are a few of the realities facing many organizations as IT spending inches back up again in 2013:

  • Your business is expanding, and you face a mixture of replacing old machines and buying new ones.The new applications you’re installing just to keep your business moving require OS support found only in new versions of Windows (think Microsoft .NET Framework, Java, Visual C++ runtime components, media players).
  • There’s a limit to the number of times you want your users to see messages like this popping up:

  • The only thing moving faster than your organization is the Web. I hope you’ve moved everybody off of Internet Explorer 6, but even IE9, which is already almost two years old, requires Windows Vista or newer.
  • Support for Windows XP is ending on April 8, 2014. That means no more security patches or updates.

In a lot of ways, it’s the same situation we faced with Windows 95, Windows 2000, Windows XP and Windows Vista. You might have solid arguments for buying shiny, new devices with a shiny, new version of Windows on them, but as I pointed out last month, that’s no magic bullet: Your corporate apps won't be compatible with the new version for a while, and your support team probably isn’t ready for it anyway. Besides, you were just getting used to the last version.

What’s different now?

But as you take your shopping list into the marketplace for new hardware in 2013, you’ll find that a couple of important things are different now.

First, there’s the impact of user preferences and BYOD. Users walk into your office with their new Windows 8 devices and say, “This laptop is cool. I want to use it for work.” It’s not like the days when you told users what they were going to use, when you had just a few hardware configurations and drive images to maintain. But think about it this way: If your director of sales wants to use her own laptop at work, that’s one less machine you have to purchase.

Second, alternatives like desktop virtualization are more viable now, both financially and technically. Going the virtual route used to mean spending even more money for a lower-performing alternative, but now it’s better, faster and much less expensive – and you can deploy it without compromising your IT standards.

This time you’ve got new cards you can play.

Desktop virtualization and Windows 8 devices

Do you see yourself in either of these scenarios?

You need to buy and replace computers. Why buy Windows 8 devices filled with functionality your users won’t be able to take advantage of when they’re at work? Instead, consider high-performing virtual desktop access devices (thin clients) that run your standardized Windows 7 image from a centralized PC/Server.

Your users want to choose their Windows 8 devices and run them on your network. Again, they won’t need Windows 8 functionality to get their work done, but they will need to access network resources. You can give them that access by installing desktop virtualization client software on the new PCs and enabling them to work using a centrally hosted and managed Windows 7 session. It’s the best way to allow BYOD into your organization while still supporting a single OS – Windows 7 – and one set of applications.

So you can articulate your policy on new devices like this:

“For the time being, we in IT are going to commit to using and supporting Windows 7 in everything you need to do your work. When you need a new computer, we’ll pay for a virtual desktop access device (thin clicnt) running the centrally managed and delivered Windows 7 environment because it cuts our costs and improves manageability. If you want to BYOD or pay for a new computer, we’re not ready yet to support Windows 8, so we’ll install virtual desktop software on it to give you the current Windows 7 standard as always, but by accessing it on a centralized PC/Server over the network. When you disconnect from the corporate network, you can use Windows 8 on your new device any way you like.”

Tough love? Maybe. But it’s a safe and effective way to deliver on your service level agreements and keep your customers satisfied in 2013.

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