Last week, I met with about 50 medium-sized customers in small group sessions to discuss the bits and bytes of designing and implementing Citrix solutions. Although we touched on many aspects of a successful Citrix environment, all eyes lit up when the topic focused on user profiles. The average number of users that these IT professionals supported ranged from a few hundred to a few thousand. And only a small number of these customers had configured a user profile. Their user profile data was homeless!

While having homeless user profile data is nowhere near as dire as being physically homeless, there are some similarities:
• Personal “stuff” often disappears at shut-eye (or shutdown)
• No permanent space for storage
• Need a helping hand to rise above the current situation

Especially with the holiday season approaching, some readers may be addressing the social aspects of helping the physically homeless rise above, and my personal commendation to you! Many Citrix employees around the world dedicate time to support Citrix Corporate Citizenship efforts.

But, back to homeless user profile data and how to fix it. Let me first explain the problem. When a user logs onto XenApp or XenDesktop, the user profile is loaded. The user profile includes:
• Settings that get loaded into HK Current User, which is based on many personalization settings from Control Panel, such as left mouse
• Data from folders such as Documents, which can be redirected in order to keep the user profile smaller and thus reduce logon time

If no user profile is configured, then the default user profile from that computer is loaded. In most cases, that’s not optimal because the left mouse setting that the user configured (again!) yesterday won’t be available, not to mention a lot of other settings. The exception is if the user has accessed a specific XenApp server previously and a previously-created user profile is cached, but then you get into inconsistent settings across multiple resources. In any event, it can be ugly.

That brings us to the question as to how to fix this. There are a multitude of user profile options available today that work well with XenApp and XenDesktop.

Determining the best user profile solution to support XenApp and/or XenDesktop requires some research and testing; it’s not a one-size-fits-all answer. Take a look at the following resources to help you understand user profiles and help guide your selection.
User Profiles for XenApp and/or XenDesktop white paper
Solving User Profile Challenges for XenApp and/or XenDesktop
Master User Profiles in Virtual Desktop Environments

Once you’ve determined the best user profile solution for your environment, consider implementing folder redirection. Depending on the version of Active Directory used, the specific folders available for redirection via GPO varies. Citrix recommends folder redirection where feasible, with the exception of the AppData folder. Many applications make frequent calls to the AppData folder, which can make apps appear sluggish. For example, each time the user initiates a new Outlook e-mail message, a call is made to the AppData folder for the user signature, so if that signature were loaded as part of the user profile, the new message appears faster.

Armed with this knowledge, your user profile data won’t be homeless anymore!

Jo Harder, Senior Architect
@joharder