Exposing The User Environment Management Impersonators

User Environment Management

There are many technologies promising to deliver an enhanced desktop experience that sometimes it can be hard to distinguish the pretender from the real McCoy. Likewise, many misunderstand the true value of complete user management, commonly believing that UEM is nothing more than just ‘windows profile management.’

At its core, UEM should enable a focus on the complete user experience. Not just the right desktop wallpaper or icons, but an optimised environment that enables the highest levels of user productivity without compromising cost, security or control. Done correctly, UEM makes innovation easier, enables higher levels of desktop project success, and removes tedious desktop issues while also lowering both capital and operational expenses.

However with so many solutions seemingly capable of delivering UEM, it’s important to understand what each truly is and what environments they are best suited for. Let’s take a closer look at four technologies that are often cited as user environment management platforms and at their features and their shortcomings.

Profile Management

Profile management ‘only’ technologies such as Citrix User Profile Management or VMware View Persona Management work to manage and mitigate the problems associated with roaming profiles, such as bloat, corruption and slow logon times. To an extent they also apply a user’s personal settings to virtual desktops. However they are not designed to deliver an enterprise-scalable, platform agnostic UEM solution.

Profile management doesn’t provide a robust set of security policies and configuration features to better manage user’s application privileges, data and performance. It also lacks features including context and location based controls, software licensing enforcement and granular system resource entitlement.

Environments that rely purely on profile management technology are not able to realise the full benefits and return on investment that an end-to-end UEM solution can offer, as profile management is not designed to scale across multiple delivery mechanisms, computing platforms or locations. This creates added complexity and increases storage costs when managing the resulting data sprawl.

User Environment Virtualisation (UE-V)

Microsoft’ User Experience Virtualisation (UE-V) is another technology often mistaken for UEM and delivers a user’s personal settings across managed devices through the use of templates for common applications. As with Citrix UPM, the technology is a direct replacement for roaming profiles, most effective on a single OS and single platform environment.

It can also be effective when used in migrations where users are moved to a new OS, but this assumes legacy operating systems like XP are not being used, that users do not need to revert back to previous platforms, or maintain a version of the previous operating system for legacy applications. The limitations with UE-V become evident when organisations cannot withstand migration downtime or have a mix of operating platforms that need to be managed.

UE-V doesn’t effectively support large environments where one-time migrations simply won’t work, or any environment where there is risk that the migration may require a roll-back of a subset of users who won’t be properly supported with UE-V capabilities alone.

Management and scalability of profile management are also key factors when looking at roaming profile replacement, and whilst UE-V does well in the datacenter and supports powershell, a more comprehensive solution will scale to 100K’s of desktops across multiple geographies and provide a comprehensive layer of management.

Unlike an end-to-end UEM solution, which enables organisations to achieve a faster time-to-value turnaround and the more timely IT assistance that improves user productivity and satisfaction, UE-V doesn’t address areas of context-aware policy, privilege management or license management, its simply just replacing roaming profiles.

User Persona Management (UPM)

User Persona Management (UPM) is a term that defines technologies that have moved beyond roaming profiles to a more actively managed user profile. While these often support user profile management, as well as some user personalisation and user monitoring or auditing capabilities, they still typically fall shy of offering true application access control, robust application delivery and resource management features. UPM can effectively support smaller environments where users run a minimal number of business applications and don’t rely heavily on roaming profiles.

However, for larger organisations that must make use of multiple platforms simultaneously, rely heavily on roaming profile management, and have a need to support user portability between different workstations, UPM will only produce limited results. These limited capabilities mean that UPM cannot support a truly end-to-end UEM feature set for organisations seeking to realise the most efficient desktop environment.

Group Policy & Logon Scripts

Native Microsoft tools, including Group Policy and Group Policy Preferences, provide good capabilities for managing computers and the user environment. They establish some solid capabilities for managing policies and preferences, for items such as Drive Maps, Printers and Shortcuts, and can be effective enough for smaller environments where administration is limited to a small group of individuals or larger environments. However, when managing large volumes of users on multiple devices and operating systems, Group Policies can become very cumbersome to manage and scripts create unwanted performance or logon delays.

Comprehensive UEM solutions overcome the challenges of complicated Group Policies and logon scripts, streamlining scripts and policies on both a conditional and contextual basis, so that they load exponentially faster and can be delivered on-demand within the desktop session, eliminating long logon times and improving user satisfaction.

End-To-End UEM: The Real Deal

Ultimately, end-to-end UEM solutions provide complete management of the user’s desktop environment – always ensuring that the experience remains productive, responsive and secure across physical or virtual Windows desktop environments. The value of this is that organisations can reduce total cost of ownership while increasing user satisfaction and productivity. Regardless of the mix of physical and virtual devices or combination of multiple devices, locations or delivery mechanisms, end-to-end UEM enables IT to produce a consistent, personalized experience on every device, operating system and application.

Not only does this produce a better user experience, it also lowers capital and operational expenses, providing an unrivalled return on investment. This enables IT teams to achieve higher levels of desktop project success, more easily deploy new innovation, eliminate troublesome desktop problems, and deliver the highest possible levels of user productivity. As a result, end-to-end UEM improves not only user experience, but the way organisations conduct business as well.

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Simon Townsend

Simon Townsend is technical director at AppSense.