Without VDI: Is your SMB incurring Opportunity Costs?

In 2013, I started looking into moving my company to go 100% virtual.  At the time, very few companies, and in particular utilities, and even more particularly Small-Midsized Business (SMB) Utilities, were virtualizing their entire server and desktop environment.  Of the VDI designs that existed, most were for larger deployments, not for the SMBs of the world.  Seven years later, not much has changed. In fact there is still much negativity or pessimism surrounding the realities of SMB businesses running a VDI environment.   

Such dissent has been written about by Vissarion Yfantis or Computing Research.  Both authors allude to the perception there are high up-front costs to VDI; you require dedicated experts, you need specialized storage, and the total cost of ownership just doesn’t pencil out.  As someone who has designed, developed and deployed VDI for a company of only 72 employees, I do not believe these assessments to be correct; upfront costs are not significant when compared in relation to other IT costs, nor do you need an expert to manage or maintain today’s VDI, you just need to follow Carl Stallhood’s blog.  The other reason I disagree with these assessment is because they are missing two critical factors when determining if VDI is right for a SMB environment. 

The first factor is their failure to consider Lost Opportunity Costs.  Opportunity costs represent the benefits an individual, investor or business misses out on when choosing one alternative over another; in this case traditional desktops over virtual desktop infrastructure.  While not shown on financial reports, businesses can use opportunity costs to make educated decisions when they have multiple options before them.  Often, one of the greatest causes of lost opportunity costs are bottlenecks, and bottlenecks in the IT world, as described in “The Phoenix Project”, provide opportunities to centralize and automate your IT operations, which VDI intuitively does.

What has recovering these lost opportunity costs meant for my company?  I am glad you asked.  With all of our desktops running on the same versions, and developed in a tested environment, we are not spending time patching or updating our desktops, nor are we hampered with a large number of IT support tickets related to the desktop environment.  Instead of spending a significant amount of time patching and updating  desktops, our staff is able to focus on security, automating tasks, and focusing on artificial intelligence that provide incredible value to the customers we serve.

The second critical factor not considered by the pundits, are the potential costs posed by the cybersecurity risks.  I have blogged earlier how VDI is the Un-Celebrated Cybersecurity Tool.  Consider One-in-Five SMB business were ransacked by ransomware attacks in 2019 including many in Texas, and Florida.  This goes to show SMB’s are not immune to these operational debilitating attacks.  The Florida attack cost the city $600,000, and cybersecurity company Coveware says the average payout was more than $84,000.  In 7 years, I can say that our total hardware and software costs allocated to our VDI infrastructure is just now approaching this average payout cost.

It may be that I see the potential for recovering lost opportunity costs, or reducing our cyber risks differently than other CIO’s of SMB businesses.  It may be that I prefer to have the team in my charge working on projects that are value adding to our customers, instead of maintain a labor arduous desktop maintenance program. In my reality, VDI is not difficult, nor more expensive that the costs you will incur from lost opportunities or cybercrime.  It is a technology I believe more SMB’s should fully explore with all economic costs factors considered.

If after reading this blog, you feel like taking a second look at VDI for your SMB, and you would like to talk out the pros & cons, I invite you to reach out through my Twitter, LinkedIn, or this blog, and I would be happy to provide you with my own experiences and findings.

Next week I will provide my design for a SMB VDI infrastructure.

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