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Weigh the Citrix Workspace cost against its benefits

Citrix Workspace is one of the leading workspace products, but it can be a steep investment. Determine whether the price tag will be worth it for your organization.

Citrix Workspace stands out as a leader in the digital workspace market -- but it doesn't come cheap, and it's not always apparent whether the benefits justify the costs.

There's no magic formula to determine whether the service is worth the investment. IT should carefully analyze Citrix Workspace's cost to compare options and arrive at a decision. Here, we'll provide an overview of Citrix Workspace and its benefits and some of the factors to take into account when evaluating the service.

Citrix Workspace features and benefits

Citrix Workspace is a cloud-based service that facilitates secure access to applications, services and data from a wide range of desktop and mobile devices. Administrators can control applications and devices through a centralized portal that provides extensive visibility into managed resources and users, while offering actionable end-to-end analytics.

Citrix Workspace is available in three subscription plans: Standard, Premium and Premium Plus. All three plans include access to the centralized management portal and offer such features as single sign-on, web filtering, basic analytics, SaaS access control and a unified app store for provisioning applications.

The Standard plan provides few features beyond these basics. The Premium and Premium Plus plans are far more comprehensive and similar in a number of ways, except that the Premium Plus plan also offers virtual desktop and application services, which include features such as app layering, centralized image management, and advanced monitoring and analytics. Otherwise, the two plans are nearly identical.

Both the Premium and Premium Plus plans offer unified endpoint management to control applications, operating systems and devices, including bring your own devices. In addition, the plans support content sharing and collaboration, data encryption, information rights management and Microsoft Enterprise Mobility Suite/Intune integration.

All three plans also include the Citrix Workspace app, formerly Citrix Receiver. Through the app, end users can access all their applications and data, and the app is backwards compatible with all Citrix products. Citrix offers the Workspace app for Android, iOS, Chrome OS, Windows, macOS and Linux devices.

End users need only sign in once to access all resources, and their login sessions can follow them if they switch devices. In addition, Citrix Workspace uses technologies that optimize network performance, helping to improve user connectivity under poor conditions.

Citrix has paid careful attention to the user experience throughout the workspace platform, which can lead to increased productivity and greater user satisfaction. Administrators can also benefit from Citrix Workspace; the service provides a centralized interface to control the entire infrastructure. It also supports features such as role-based administration, comprehensive analytics and a risk-based security model, which helps to save time, improve performance and maintain security and compliance.

Determine pricing and necessary features

For each subscription plan, Citrix publishes an average suggested retail price that's based on a three-year subscription for 500 users. The Standard plan runs $14 per user, per month; the Premium plan costs $17 per user, per month; and the Premium Plus plan comes in at $27 per user, per month.

According to Citrix, these prices are only averages, and the actual rates might vary. Even so, organizations can get a sense of what Citrix Workspace costs to support 500 users each month. For example, the Premium plan will likely run $8,500, and the Premium Plus plan will cost around $13,500. With a three-year commitment, an organization will pay $306,000 or $486,000, respectively.

Is it worth it? That depends on which services an organization actually needs. For example, an infrastructure that provides device and application management, centralized access control, content sharing and collaboration, virtual applications and desktops, and extensive analytics requires a substantial investment, assuming an organization can pull it off with its available resources. IT pros must plan the infrastructure, but they also must license it, assemble it, test it, implement it and maintain it, which is no small feat even under the best circumstances. The Citrix Workspace cost might be worth the investment in these cases, especially with its centralized management and ongoing service maintenance.

Organizations should also consider the digital workspace competition -- particularly VMware Workspace One, Citrix's primary competitor.

On the other hand, if all an organization needs is a virtualization product that delivers virtual applications, session-based virtual desktops, and a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), there's no reason to pay for services that it doesn't want or need. In those cases, organizations might turn to a product such as Parallels Remote Application Server, which costs around $230,000 for 500 users for three years.

Even if an organization plans to stick with Citrix, it can get these features through its Virtual Apps and Desktops Advanced edition, which runs around $267,000 for perpetual licenses for 500 concurrent users ($535 per license). The trick here is to come up with an accurate total cost of ownership for each option when comparing the perpetual licenses against ongoing subscription fees.

Consider the competition and vendor lock-in

Organizations should also consider the digital workspace competition -- particularly VMware Workspace One, Citrix's primary competitor. Like Citrix Workspace, VMware Workspace One offers a wide range of features, most of them comparable to what's available in Citrix Workspace. If organizations evaluate both products, they should compare them on a feature-by-feature basis to determine which product comes closest to delivering exactly what they need.

Organizations should also compare the Citrix Workspace cost against the cost of VMware Workspace One. VMware offers four Workspace One plans: Standard, Advanced, Enterprise and Enterprise for VDI, which is the only plan that includes VDI services. For that plan, VMware charges $20 per device, per month or $25 per user, per month. Organizations will pay $450,000 over a three-year period with a user-license model.

IT pros should also consider the systems that they've already implemented in their organization. For example, organizations currently using VMware for VDI might be less inclined to start over with Citrix, especially because it will take significant time and effort to move end users to entirely new systems and processes.

Vendor lock-in is another potential factor when deciding on a workspace product. Once an organization commits to a vendor, it's difficult to pull out of it or switch to other technologies. A product such as Citrix Workspace might seem a viable option in the short term, but what if an organization wants to implement new technologies in three years or take a different approach to delivering services? It can be difficult and expensive for organizations to extricate themselves from all-encompassing products such as workspaces.

This was last published in May 2019

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