• January 24, 2024

How to Choose the Best Virtual Desktop Solution for Your Institution (7 Tips)

Greg M. Smith
  • by Greg M. Smith

Technology continually evolves, and many CIOs in higher education struggle to keep up.

Students need solutions to meet the busy demands of their lives. Often, that means hybrid and online options. In fact, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, 61% of undergraduates took at least one distance learning course in 2021.

Of course, virtual desktops do more than ONLY offer a way to provide online and hybrid learning options. The right virtual desktop solution gives your school the tools to create a better user experience for students (and faculty), while increasing accessibility to the high level technology necessary for courses.

But choosing the best technology for your specific requirements isn’t easy. You need to consider how it will work for your IT staff, students, and faculty. Adding to those concerns, your choice needs to be a solution that’s right for today, but scalable to meet your goals for tomorrow.

That’s a tall order. In this post, we’re breaking down some of the biggest considerations to help you choose the best virtual desktop solution for your institution.

Interested in learning more about Propeller’s virtual desktops?

Join us for our EDUCAUSE Industry Insights Webinar on February 21st at 12 pm eastern.

Visit the webinar page to learn more about the event and the panelists.

7 things to consider when choosing your virtual desktop solution

Here are our top 7 tips to help you choose the best virtual desktop solution for your campus:

  1. Make user experience (UX) a priority
  2. Consider integration – does it fit your existing hardware and software?
  3. Think of the bottom line. Does it fit your budget?
  4. Evaluate how the solution impacts your internal IT team
  5. Attend webinars, study use cases, and check references
  6. Choose a provider with excellent customer support
  7. Start with a beta test

1. Make UX a priority

How will people (including students and faculty) use the virtual desktop? When you’re vetting a solution, you want to make sure that you’re covering the bases for your staff and students.

Remember that faculty and staff are likely to use the virtual desktop differently from students. In all cases, user experience should be intuitive. People tend to dislike change at first and getting faculty buy-in for new technology can be challenging.

2. Consider integration

One of the benefits of an excellent virtual desktop solution is that it works with legacy hardware. Look at use cases for your provider and see if their solution helps you overcome technology constraints to make the most of your budget.

What software programs does your school currently use and will those programs work with the virtual desktop you’re considering? More specifically, how will the solution improve your ability to offer courses that require very powerful applications?

3. Does it fit your budget?

Switching from a physical computer lab to virtual desktop solution can mean cost savings for your school. For instance, you might cut down on the amount you need to invest in new hardware or computer lab upkeep and staffing.

But it’s still important to make sure the solution you choose works with your institution’s budget. One thing to make note of is the pricing structure of the virtual desktop — is it per-user or per-device?

Depending on your partner, you may also need to budget for training to teach faculty, students, and staff how to use the program.

4. How does the new technology impact your IT team?

Adopting a virtual desktop solution will reduce the burden on your IT team, especially as they won’t have to physically update computers. But there may still be a learning curve involved when you introduce a new solution.

And some solutions require specific skills sets to launch and manage effectively, so you might need to add team members to manage those tasks. Verify what requirements your in-house staff will need to adopt the solution.

Then ask your team for input and get their buy-in before selecting and launching a virtual desktop.

5. Attend webinars, study use cases, and check references

Don’t rely on just the provider’s own sales copy. Check the list of institutions that use their solution, look at use cases and case studies, and review any testimonials or reviews.

The best way to get a feel for a solution before buying is by hearing from current customers with firsthand experience. Webinars and panel discussions that go over specifics of deploying the solution and best practices can also give you a good insider’s perspective to judge how it might work in practice for your campus.

6. Choose a provider with excellent customer support

Customer support is key to getting your virtual desktops up and running. Plus, it makes the process much more pleasant for your IT staff, faculty, and students.

Make sure your provider offers great training and a hands-on approach to working with the specific needs and requirements for your campus.

7. Start with a beta test

Partnering with a new virtual desktop provider doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to launch the solution across your entire campus right away. Start with a beta test in one class or department.

This option lets you see how the solution works, helps you work out any kinks, and can help engage faculty buy-in.

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