Save lives, implement VDI

Everyone living in the Northeastern United States has been victim of some of the most significant snowfall in recent history. There is more snow, icy rain and sleet than we know what to do with. Every day my neighbors and I are out clearing off driveways and walkways so we can get to our cars and head out to work, only to be met with slick on and off-ramps, narrowed streets and a continuous bombardment of slush from the vehicles in front of us. What is most frightening to me is the increase in heart attack deaths that are reported from people after they have shoveled large amounts of snow.

SnowThe American Heart Association warns that people should take extreme precautions when shoveling snow. See this article on Winter Weather Tips published by the AHA. Basically what happens is the heart rate and blood pressure increase while shoveling snow. That, coupled with the body’s natural reflex to constrict arteries and blood vessels when exposed to the cold and a buildup of lactic acid, can lead to a heart attack in those who are at risk.

Business owners, you and your company can help reduce these events from occurring by implementing policies, processes, and tools for your employees to stay at home and still work effectively.

As part of your business continuity planning, you should have a policy regarding inclement weather. During inclement weather events, your employees should know how to get information regarding the status of the business; is the office closed or open? Email alerts, voicemail notification and phone-trees are all methods for communicating with your employees. The first step of keeping your employees safe is early communication.

Once they have been notified to stay at home, they will need a way to work. Systems will need to be put into place to address these needs. They can include remote access, and presentation and desktop virtualization.

  • Remote access is not just for administrators anymore. Remote access solutions are lighter weight than ever with client and clientless (direct connect and SSL) virtual private networks options; your users can access your network applications and resources.
  • Presentation virtualization solutions such as Microsoft Remote Desktop Services and Citrix XenApp can give users access to corporate applications and desktops from almost any device. There is less endpoint setup that you need to do to make this happen and these solutions can usually scale to handle increased user demand pretty quickly.
  • Desktop virtualization (VDI) gives the whole desktop experience to your remote user. A well-managed environment will give its users a replica of their work desktops with all the applications and data they are accustomed to using.
  • Desktop as a Service (DaaS) Cloud providers such as, Desktone’s $1 per desktop per day offering,  offerings that make use MokaFive, and others.

Don’t forget about security. If you use dual-factor authentication for remote access, then your users should be provided with physical or software tokens before such events occur. Most dual-factor solutions have an on-demand token generating or a “pin-only” option so that you don’t necessarily need to keep a large inventory of physical tokens on hand.

Concerned about licenses and system capacity?  Many of the major vendors do provide “ICE” (In case of emergency) licenses that you can keep on hand.  Not in your IT budget? Look at your operational budgets that pay for insurance.  This can easily be classified as an “insurance policy.”  Of course you need to be aware of your backend system and bandwidth constraints.  Leverage server virtualization to quickly spin up some additional desktops or servers, and prioritizing user access so that the most critical applications can be used to keep your business running.

Some things you should consider when contemplating implementing these solutions. The average person lifts 5,000 pounds of snow every half hour whereas the average laptop only weighs 5 lbs. and is lifted maybe once, out of their bag an onto a table. Shoveling snow can lead to heart attacks, hypothermia, and back and leg injuries. I can’t really think of any reported risks of working from the couch. Your employees are your greatest asset, so keep them safe and off the roads during these bad weather days.