Untethering from workstations for high-performance collaboration

When we talk about collaboration, the assumption tends to be geared towards a need to connect employees working in the office with those working from home.

That’s what the pandemic taught us. But for professionals working in graphic design, VFX, and architectural engineering and construction (AEC), the use of high-performance design software means collaboration can be a challenge.

At the simplest of levels, even when they’re in the office, team members working on fixed workstations can’t easily move to work with colleagues on the other side of the room. This simply makes no sense. Employees working in the creative and industrial sectors shouldn’t be tethered to desks. Their organisations need a better way to foster collaboration.

A series of collaboration challenges

Companies using specialist software such as Autodesk Revit, Vectorworks, and the Bentley suite face a series of specific challenges. For one thing, they typically require powerful workstations with high processing and graphical capabilities and need to be located on the same local (and fast) network as their design files to get the best possible performance.

The experience these machines offer can often be problematic, too. Most are served by single power and internet sources, outages to which can be hugely disruptive. The sheer size and detail of project files also means anyone trying to connect to them remotely – from home or from a satellite office – will often see their performance lag.

What’s more, the impact of the pandemic on our working practices has highlighted the effect that being tethered to their desk and being unable to work from home effectively can have on an employee’s work/life balance. So, there are many reasons – in terms of productivity, efficiency, and wellbeing – to support better collaboration between a company’s employees, whether they’re in the office, at home, on-site, or elsewhere.

Fuelling high-performance collaboration (affordably)

Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) effectively relocates an organisation’s desktop resource to a server that can be hosted either in the cloud or within its existing site-based infrastructure. Importantly, all the heavy processing requirements of high-performance software are handled by a centralised resource, meaning users aren’t tied to a monolithic machine in the office, and can instead access a virtual desktop over an office network or internet connection on a laptop or home PC.

Typical enterprise-use VDI is inexpensive, allowing users to access standard applications like Microsoft Office and other Windows-based tools. But this isn’t generally the case when it comes to supporting the powerful graphics and processing requirements of high-performance CAD and 3D modelling software. As a result, many companies with such needs, especially SMBs, will feel they either can’t afford VDI from enterprise players like Citrix, Azure, or VMWare or, at best, can’t use it to its fullest extent

The fact is, though, there’s no need for them to spend more on their IT than they already do. There are alternative, more affordable solutions on the market that make the benefits of high performance VDI available to a much wider range of companies.

Collaboration, productivity, and flexibility

Enabling teams to untether from their workstations through affordable, high performance VDI fosters greater collaboration. People can work from anywhere and collaborate freely with colleagues. Even in the office, users aren’t tied to specific workstations or locations, so they can move about at will, creating more dynamic, interesting and responsive spaces.

This, in turn, encourages greater productivity. Not only will workers share ideas more easily, but no longer having to wait for shared machines to become free or dealing with issues caused by lag or outages means more time can be dedicated to delivering quality work. Indeed, hosting virtual desktops in the same location as server data delivers fast network speeds needed for working on complex design files. In addition, VDI can be optimised to guarantee the best performance for specific software and different bandwidth environments.

For complete business continuity, organisations can also choose to host their VDI in adata centre. So, should the office experience power or internet outages, for example, their teams can still access remote desktops to continue working and collaborating on projects.

Untethered from the workstation

No-one denies the importance of having a central workspace in which employees can meet, talk, and share ideas face to face. Cue the infamous ‘water cooler’ metaphor. But that space can be used more efficiently: the office itself becoming the ‘water cooler’ within a hybrid working environment. And, of course, post-pandemic it’s not the only place employees can and want to work. Lockdown opened many organisations’ eyes to the potential flexibility and productivity that remote working could offer. At the same time, it forced many to question the logic of everyone being tied to a workstation, the effect this had on opportunities for collaboration and how they were using their office space, overall.

VDI untethers people from their workstations. And although companies in the graphic design, VFX, and AEC spaces may have considered VDI to be out of their reach, more affordable alternatives mean that, now, even SMBs can work in the way they most want to.

About the Author

Tim Whiteley is co-founder at Inevidesk. Inevidesk is a virtual desktop platform designed for architects and engineers and driven by our core belief that progressive technology should not cost the earth. The service is being rapidly adopted by many leading organisations in the sector as their key to supporting high performance, flexible and resilient working practices.

Featured image: ©Jesse Bettencourt/peopleimages.com