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Virtualization: Blog Post

Disaster Recovery: What About Fluffy the Cat and Saving Your Desktops?

Through virtualization, employees can access their applications and data very safely over a network

Disaster recovery is about being able to get your business back up and running as quick as you can after the disaster happens.  Throughout this series, my teammates have focused on the Infrastructure side of the house, servers, virtual machines…etc.  You can see the full series here: Disaster Recovery Planning for I.T. Pros

However I have a question, what about the desktops?  As a reminder my good friend Jennelle posted series of questions  in part 1 of this series: Disaster Recovery for IT Pros- How to Plan, What are the Considerations-

Here are my three main questions to get started:

  1. What is the most important application or services in each business unit or for the business overall?
  2. How much downtime is acceptable?
  3. How much data loss is acceptable?

imageThese questions still apply to desktops and for the users on them, however desktops have always been tricky.  Generally speaking we have focused on the last question, how much data loss is acceptable and would look something like this:

  • Payroll Data Spreadsheet: Not Acceptable
  • Pictures of Fluffy the Cat:  Acceptable

While this may not have pleased our users it allowed us to keep our data needs for protecting our environment to a minimum.  Poor Fluffy.  As IT Pro’s we have been trying to protect our users systems for years.  We have had tools like Group Policy, Folder Redirection, Roaming Profiles…etc that have helped us to minimize the business data loss.  We also implemented soft policies like, save all your important data to the network (shares, portals..etc) and we hoped our users listened.  This also made us use filtering technologies to prevent the Fluffy the Cat pictures being saved to the network.  Once again…poor Fluffy.

So in today's modern world with BYOD becoming more of a standard than an exception this problem can get even trickier.  Just think if you have your BYOD systems there is going to be a combination of business and personal data.   Here are two alternatives (RDS and VDI)  we can provide our users in today’s world

Remote Desktop Sessions (RDS)

Formerly known as Terminal Services, RDS is a core service in Windows Server and greatly improved in Windows Server 2012 R2.  RDS provides the backend services for VDI as well essentially allows you to create a session back to a server.  This is a quick and easy way to allow people to access and keep resources on your infrastructure services.  Here are some of the new features for Windows Server

  • Centralized resource publishing --- Works hands in hand with Remote app services that allow you to provide end users with an experience that can replace locally installed applications
  • Rich user experience with Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP): This is the core service in RDS that provides an session to the server and will work like most local applications.
  • Rich graphics experience with RemoteFX vGPU --- Allows you take graphic processors off your Video cards on your backend server and provided them to your end user VDI sessions.

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI)

This works together with Hyper-V to essential provide a full desktop to a “thin client”.    With VDI, users can access their desktops from any connected device, improving their ability to be productive even in the case
of disaster. VDI presents the user interface (UI) to users’ devices by using the Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) with RemoteFX to provide a rich desktop experience. This allows you to provision your organizations approved desktop virtually (with all the apps and settings) to your users that may not have older hardware that can support your current standards.

Through virtualization, employees can access their applications and data very safely over a network.  This allows you to keep all the data for a user either on the network locations for the users applications or stored in the virtual desktop session for the end user.  Anything that the user puts in the VDI session is saved in that session.  So if the user sets Fluffy the cat as their desktop back ground, than that is saved.  This provides a centralized desktop environments to improve business continuity and provide a return to productivity in disaster-recovery scenarios. Users can access their personal desktop even when their primary workplace is not available due to extreme situations (e.g., inclement weather or power outage) or when their physical devices are not available (e.g., lost, stolen, or dysfunctional).

From a disaster recovery scenario this is probably the most robust solution for you and your users.  While it will save anything in the VDI session.  However, if Fluffy the cat is only on the local client storage, and the device is lost, stolen, or ruined…then poor Fluffy.

As you can see there a lot of challenges to protecting users desktops, however with Windows Server 2012 R2 technologies Hyper-V and RDS you can provide your organization some great ways to help save the users desktops.

When it comes to whole of idea of providing disaster recovery for your clients, VDI and RDS provide some interesting potential to help with DR for clients.  This is in by no means a best practice and there are other ways and technologies to backup clients and save Fluffy the Cat.

We hope your are enjoying the series on Disaster recovery and if you missed a part take a look here: Disaster Recovery Planning for I.T. Pros

More Stories By Matt Hester

Matt Hester is a Senior Information Technology Professional Evangelist for Microsoft. Matt has been involved in the IT Pro community for over 20 years. Matt is a skilled and experienced evangelist presenting to audiences nationally and internationally. Prior to joining Microsoft Matt was a highly successful Microsoft Certified Trainer for over 8 years. After joining Microsoft, Matt has continued to be heavily involved in IT Pro community as an IT Pro Evangelist. In his role at Microsoft Matt has presented to audiences in excess of 5000 and as small as 10. Matt has written 4 articles for TechNet magazine. In addition Matt has published 3 books:

You can contact Matt off his blog at http://aka.ms/matthester

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