In a technology-centric world, innovation plays a greater role in determining the success of learning outcomes. A survey conducted by Harris Poll for Pearson Education this year indicated that most students prefer to use mobile devices in the classroom to achieve their learning goals. (Pearson Student Mobile Device Survey 2015)

With technology adoption on the rise, IT administrators in school districts, as well as higher-ed, are faced with the task of keeping their technology ecosystems at par with the latest while addressing a growing number of challenges. Take the case of University of Maryland’s data breach incident early last year, which led to an increased focus on reassessing data security for IT staff at other institutions across the US.

The solution, to a landscape that poses a greater need for learner and educator mobility, latest innovation, and most importantly administrative efficiency, all-inclusively lies in virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI).

Why Modern Education Needs VDI to Succeed

IT personnel in the education sector often face the dilemma of improving the technology ecosystem of their district or institution, while at the same time juggling tight budgets. From another perspective, thousands of mobile apps & devices revolutionizing educational concepts & delivery, essentially catalyzing a paradigm shift, require technology frameworks that are change-ready. Managing this new landscape poses more of an administrative challenge.

Luckily, virtual desktop infrastructure is a solution that delivers holistically on all requirements.

Virtual Desktop For Education

VDI Enables Learning Anywhere, Anytime, with Complete Device Independence

From students grappling with critical deadlines and workloads, to teachers managing their busy schedules between classes and meetings, mobility can do wonders for educational productivity. VDI allows for a remotely-accessible virtual desktop, hosted on servers in a data center, to be delivered over a network to scores of end-user devices.

These can range from learners accessing study materials from home via laptops to thin clients in a professional setting. A thin client is a small, no maintenance device that connects to the virtual machine that has been allocated to the user. It could be a Smartphone, a Tablet, a Chromebook or an intelligent device with a keyboard, mouse and display connected to it.

Read Out: K-12 Education Solutions Brief

Thus, VDI delivers a native desktop experience via a managed infrastructure whereby mission-critical elements such as storage, processing, and memory are delivered to devices that don’t have to worry about hosting them locally. Think about the impact this has on students and faculty that need to move about large campuses. They don’t need to worry, they just simply log into their apps, (securely of course) from anywhere on any approved device

Managing everything from a centralized location steers IT resources clear of the need to send staff scurrying over sprawling acres of campus to troubleshoot problems. Virtual desktops can be built, deployed, and managed from a central location, rather than doing it physically across every office, lab or classroom. This also leads back to the challenge of containing costs, as doing everything centrally reduces support costs significantly.

Enhancing Educational System Manageability, Mobility, & Utility Through VDI

One of the most significant benefits of implementing VDI in an educational setting is the fact that it substantially increases the utility of your existing resources. A teacher can log on to a computer and see his/her desktop, and later on the same machine, a student can log and see his/her desktop. It instantly increases the utility of every technology resource in the organization.

From IT’s perspective, the fact that the OS and applications exist primarily on the server-side, while the same image is used across all virtual desktops, maintenance and updates are very easy to do. An update done once on the server-side ensures that a simple virtual desktop reboot paves way for changes to take immediate effect.

Find More About: VDI Solutions for Education

Centralized control also prevents the need to have software such as Deep Freeze in place on individual machines to prevent any unauthorized software installation. All installation is done on the server-side, keeping the hardware and network secured against threats arising from clandestine malware that may accompany a routine installation.

Finally, centralized control means that IT controls the content and security on the desktop; what apps are being used, ensures inappropriate content is kept out and if a student does manage to add/change anything, the IT manager simply reboots to take it back to the original image. Complete control, security and efficiency.

The desktops may be virtual, but the benefits are tangible and real.

Data, Hardware & Network Security On-the-Go

VDI enables a more secure technology ecosystem in a multitude of ways. Hosting desktop images in a protected data center with multi-layer security and encryption increases the safety of user data by ending the need for insecure decentralized pockets of data spread throughout the campus, or the need to carry it around on vulnerable USBs or similar devices. Furthermore, regular backups are done in real-time, ensuring that everything is saved as it is produced. No lost assignments or test results!

Importantly, VDI solutions allow administrators to define key desktops for sensitive functions such as financial data, payroll processing etc. These sensitive desktop images minimize threats to the mission-critical data that such systems process. Looking at the organization’s bigger picture, a crucial factor with VDI is the ability to reduce IT labor costs by transitioning to centralized control.

VDIworks & Alpine ISD Team Up for Cost-Effective Virtualization

Based in West Texas, the Alpine Independent School District is a K-12 District with a mission to provide top-quality & technology-enabled education to its pupils. Like any other school district with a zeal for innovation, Alpine wanted to deploy a much-needed network & storage infrastructure upgrade, but unlike other neighboring districts, it had a key problem: more IT resources needed for deployment than any other area.

Making a case for a large budget with a unique technology challenge is no small hill to climb. So while Alpine was in dire need of a refresh for 300 desktops, the equation wasn’t adding up to easily spell simply get a new one. The IT staff took to task and started exploring solutions that could achieve the required technology ecosystem for the district, as well as take care of the crucial problem of containing the number of resources needed to deploy and manage it.

Why VDI Made Immediate & Logical Sense

According to Jesse Crim, IT Administrator for the Alpine ISD, When we started looking at VDI for the desktops, we realized the solutions could simplify deployments, greatly reduce management costs, and actually deliver a better end user experience. We also had the opportunity to make some huge improvements in mobility and security with VDI. While the need and solution aligned, the challenge now lay in identifying a vendor that could strategically and cost-effectively fulfill the requirement. Alpine shortlisted VMware and VDIworks as two potential vendors and began analyzing their solutions to identify where ultimate synergy was to be found.

Educational VDI Solutions

How & Why VDIworks Made Ultimate Sense

After lengthy and careful deliberation and analysis, Alpine ISD found that VDIworks not only met all their requirements, but also edged out VMware on a variety of levels, the smallest of them being the fact that it was only a fraction of the cost.

Strategic Benefits: Being hypervisor-agnostic, VDIworks achieved something for the district that made long-term sense and easy for the IT staff to convince management on; it allowed them to avoid vendor lock-in and ensure a lot more flexibility and agility by working with any hypervisor. Conversely, VMware software was found to only work with a VMware hypervisor.

Cost-Effective Scalability: VDIworks offered a simple, scalable VDI software solution that helped them avoid the need for 300 brand new desktops while making use of the existing infrastructure in completely new and innovative ways. Ideal for educational institutions, the solution enabled the Alpine IT team to deliver a powerful desktop experience to students and faculty and overcome the challenge of making additions to IT staff. At the same time, the existing staff made most use of the now-centralized critical data and infrastructure to enhance security and manageability.

Summarizing the experience and successful deployment of the project, Crim added, With VDIworks, we got an end-to-end solution that was 30% of the cost of VMware. We were able to upgrade to a top tier storage solution because of the savings. And we got boutique service that a small organization like ours would never get from VMware or Citrix.

Today’s successful implementation of VDI not only takes into account the type of solution offered, but also a strategic fit with the organization’s size, objectives and purpose. VDIworks’ solutions are customizable across a range of industries and environments and help provide short, as well as long-term benefits. Click here to get in touch and discuss your organizational needs.