Logon Duration – What Can Be Learned from 2 Million Logons?


How fast is the user logon process in business IT environments? This question is of interest for IT pros because an answer to it can provide a benchmark for user experience.

This article presents statistics from a global dataset of logon duration metrics gathered by the ControlUp Insights platform. ControlUp Insights is a cloud-based IT analytics platform built for IT admins. Alongside traditional IT monitoring and reporting, ControlUp Insights offers access to global performance data for comparison and benchmarking. This article provides the IT community with a first peek into those global statistics.

Logon Duration – What do you mean by that?

Logon duration is a period of time that begins when the user is successfully authenticated. Typically, this happens whenever a user inputs a username and password which are accepted as correct by a domain-joined Windows system.

For a “desktop” scenario, the logon process is considered complete when the Windows Explorer shell is ready. From the user’s perspective, this is the moment when the Start button of the Windows taskbar becomes responsive and opens the Start Menu when clicked.

When the default Windows shell is not used, an alternative application is configured to be launched by the application delivery mechanism in place. For this “published app” scenario, we’ll consider the logon process complete when the published application is started.

To explain this choice of boundaries briefly, let’s just say that the idea was to represent nothing but the machine-caused delay, until the desktop is ready or until the published app takes over. Any further delay experienced from that moment can be attributed to resource bottlenecks associated with applications, and not caused by the logon process itself.

For more details regarding the ways ControlUp measures login duration, see here.

Why should IT care about logon duration?

Logon duration is an important user experience metric for any end-user computing environment, for several reasons.

First, logon performance may be seen as related to employee productivity. The faster a computing environment is delivered to the end user, the greater the user’s ability to react to work challenges, whatever they may be. The speed of logon upon an employee’s arrival at the office determines how quickly they are able to start generating value for the organization. For logons that happen in the middle of a workday, logon duration may influence the speed with which an employee can switch from one task to another. If logon is slow enough, users may even forget why they logged on in the first place!

Second, Windows logon is a well-structured process which can be analyzed to uncover delays and produce actionable insights. The IT department can (and should) use those insights to improve the quality of service delivered by the organization’s computing environment. While application performance may vary greatly and can be very tricky to measure, the logon process involves a small number of relatively well-known phases.

This also enables IT professionals to easily compare logon performance between different systems, both within the organization and outside it. It’s about knowing how the average login duration in your organization ranks against global stats, while also being able to detect and monitor irregular login performance.

Here’s some more on important metrics for VDI:

Cut to the chase. So who wins?

In a sample of over 1.8 million logon events from 16 different organizations, the average logon duration was found to be 29.7 seconds (with a standard deviation of 24.4 seconds).  The median was 27.5 seconds, dividing between the faster and slower half, 8 organizations in each.

Looking at the organizational averages might give us a better idea about the results you might find in a given network. For example, in the organization with the slowest average login in the sample users waited for 67.8 seconds, while the champion network had an average login duration of only 9.6 seconds!

Like with everything in IT systems performance, your mileage may vary. So what else is new?

Without going into complicated stats, here’s one source for difference between fast and slow. It just so happens that half of the systems in the sample use predominantly published applications with an average login duration of 18.5 seconds, while the other half utilizes published desktops which become responsive after an average of 40.9 seconds! Overall, 7 out of 8 published app shops ranked in the faster half, with 7 out of 8 full desktop networks in the slower half of the sample.

When it comes to user experience, consistency is an additional factor to consider. Performance of systems in which logon duration exhibits a lower standard deviation can be seen as more predictable. In this sample, the lowest standard deviation for an organization was 3.5 seconds, and the highest standard deviation was 69.5. Again, 7 out of 8 networks who used published apps as their primary delivery method ended up in the top half of the list when ranked by the standard deviation.

So on average, published app environments tend to have logins that are faster than systems that deliver full desktops. Published apps also show more consistent login duration. This insight is no big news to anyone involved in end-user computing, but it’s still nice to see the numbers.

How fast are my logins? I need to know!!!

Logon duration is a metric that ControlUp displays for every monitored user session, along with a breakdown of the logon process into phases. So for a quick answer, go ControlUp – you should be able to set it all up within an average of 5 slow logins ?

The PowerShell freaks among you can help themselves to some resources for investigating logon duration in depth.

Is there more? 

Always. We have some more interesting insights regarding the duration of the individual phases of the logon process (profile load time, group policy, shell load, and other components). We built ControlUp Insights for the purpose of delivering globally acquired knowledge to IT pros, and we intend to deliver, so stay tuned!