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What is Virtual Desktop Infrastructure?

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (or VDI) is a technology that is used to host desktop environments on a centralized server on-premises or on the cloud. These virtual machines are then deployed to end-users as and when they request them. Users, in turn, can access these virtual machines remotely. Virtual desktops that are hosted on virtual machines are managed and controlled via management software. Now that you know what a VDI is, read on to understand how it works and what its benefits are.

Why Do You Need Virtual Desktop Infrastructure in Cloud Computing?

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure offers organizations a number of advantages such as ease of access to enterprise applications, user mobility, greater security, and flexibility. While in the past the technology was expensive and quite challenging to deploy, the increasing number of businesses adopting hyperconverged infrastructure has allowed for VDI to be deployed at a lower cost, while also offering scalability.

How Does VDI work?

In all deployments of the Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, the following parameters are followed:

  • Virtual desktops exist within virtual machines (VMs) on a centralized, remote server
  • The virtual desktop offers an operating system like Microsoft Windows
  • VMs are essentially host-based, which means multiple instances can be housed on one server within the same data center
  • End users are required to be connected to the centrally managed server for continued access to the virtual desktop
  • The connection broker manages to find a virtual desktop for every client to connect to, upon them successfully accessing the VDI environment
  • The hypervisor runs, creates, and manages VMs that contain the individual virtual desktop environments.

In modern workspaces, especially for industries like Banking, Finance, and Healthcare, numerous applications will have to be accessed on-demand, and VDI facilitates convenient and secure remote access, which, in turn, boosts employee productivity. Further, VDI also offers a consistent experience across various devices.

Benefits and Limitations of VDI

Having discussed, what VDI is and how it works, let’s now focus on some of the key benefits of VDI:

  1. Remote access: Traditional desktops can be very restrictive since the user is connected to a single system. As soon as the user is away from the desktop, they are unable to access data and applications anymore. With VDI, however, the end-user can access their virtual desktop from anywhere in the world, day or night.
  2. Security: Another reason why many businesses prefer VDI is because of how secure it is. Traditionally, your data, applications, and operating systems are stored on your local devices, like your laptop or PC. In case the device is damaged or stolen, all the data that is contained within it is compromised. In such a case, not only will you have to purchase a new system, but you will have to download the OS all over again and try to regain access to all the lost data. This can be extremely worrisome for businesses. But, with VDI, since remote data centers store all the data, you, as a user, never have to be worried about data loss. Even if you happen to lose your device, you can access the OS and data on it through any other device.
  3. Device portability: VDI technology helps end-users access their desktop from any device. The key benefit of VDI here is that your desktop is not limited to the hardware. You can, in fact, access it from anywhere in the world and from multiple devices. This means you can use your laptop, tablet, mobile, or any other device to view your desktop.
  4. Decreased cost: When you use VDI, you essentially eliminate hardware expenses. Since you can access the desktop from any device, even the most outdated hardware will do. This translates to cost savings for companies.
  5. Access to superior data center facilities: When you use VDI offered by a cloud service provider, the virtual desktops are typically stored on servers that are situated in comparatively high-performance data centers. This helps you benefit from features like advanced security, sophisticated disaster recovery plans, and more. While VDI has a number of uses, it also has a few limitations. For instance, the security of a VDI cannot be taken for granted. The OS image will need to be properly updated and managed and the end-client authentication should be performed strictly. Further, it is important that performance adjustments and VDI deployment checks are done from time to time to ensure that technical issues are resolved without any delay. To do these things, organizations will require dedicated IT staff – this, unfortunately, may not be feasible for all businesses.

Basic Components of VDI

The basic components that are part of the virtual desktop infrastructure are:

  1. Virtualization: Virtualization is what separates the system architecture into various layers. Before virtualization, the hardware of a device was linked to the operating system, which meant the OS would crash if there was a hardware failure. This would result in the user losing all their data. But virtualization helps separate the underlying hardware from the operating system via software called a hypervisor. Thus, users can install and use multiple OS on a hypervisor-installed server.
  2. Hypervisor: This is the software that helps separate the hardware from the operating system. The hypervisor creates a virtual environment, wherein the hardware is split into various virtual machines. Each virtual machine has its own configuration, applications, and OS. With respect to virtual desktop infrastructure, the hypervisor helps create multiple desktop instances on these virtual machines. Each desktop instance will then serve as a separate desktop and can be allocated to different users.
  3. Connection broker: This software helps connect desktop instances and users. It is essentially responsible for authenticating end users and connecting them to their specific desktop instances. This software also keeps track of all the inactive and active desktops. So, each time a user requests a connection to a desktop, the connection broker provides the user an inactive desktop instance.
  4. Desktop pools: A desktop pool is a group of similar desktops that can be configured for a specific function. For instance, the entire IT department of an organization may use a desktop pool, where all desktops have the same applications and configuration.
  5. Application virtualization: This technology creates a virtualized application image and then replicates this to all desktops that are part of a desktop pool. The VMware ThinApp, for instance, is an example of this.

VDI Use Cases

VDI is a key technology for many businesses across numerous industries like Banking, Finance, Healthcare, and more. Remote employees, kiosk workers, medical professionals, contractors, and several other professionals rely on virtual desktop infrastructure in order to access virtual desktops remotely. Thanks to its versatility, businesses can use VDI to give their employees access to standard, non-persistent desktops and also provide them the option to turn their virtual desktops into personalized remote workspaces.

How to Successfully Implement VDI?

To successfully implement VDI, here are some best practices that you should consider following:

  1. Prepare your network: Since the performance of the VDI is closely interlinked to the performance of the network, it’s important to assess your network and be aware of the peak usage times, so you can anticipate potential demand spokes, which will help you ensure adequate network capacity.
  2. Understand your resource consumption needs: It’s important to avoid under-provisioning, so it’s recommended that you make use of performance monitoring tools to check the resources that are consumed by each virtual desktop. This will help you be aware of your overall resource consumption requirements.
  3. Understand the needs of the end-users: Are your employees task workers who can perform their day-to-day duties through a generic desktop or will they have to customize their desktops? What are the performance requirements of your users? Keep in mind that you need to provision the setup differently for employees who only need access to the internet, users who only use a few basic applications, and those who use graphic-intensive applications.
  4. Run a pilot test: If you can, it’s important that you perform a pilot test before deploying the VDI. Many virtualization providers offer tools that help you run pilot tests. Make sure to do this so you know you have provisioned your resources in the right manner.

Why Should You Use VDI in Your Organization?

One of the primary reasons why organizations use VDI is due to its flexibility. Users can access their desktops from pretty much anywhere in the world using any device, as long as they have an internet connection. Further, it helps users collaborate as if they were located in the same office.

Given the fact that virtual desktop infrastructure only sends basic input and output data, you can be assured that sensitive data will never leak from the VDI environment. This makes VDI a lot more secure. While the upfront costs of VDI may seem high, over time, it can result in reduced costs, thus helping you spend on other areas of your business.

How Does Anunta Tech Help with VDI?

With over a decade of experience in helping businesses navigate the complexities of design, implementation, and management of VDI environments, our exhaustive domain expertise with regard to virtual desktop infrastructure makes us the most trusted partner across leading enterprises across the world deploying remote desktops for over 500,000 users. With our technology partners VMware, Microsoft, AWS Cloud, and Citrix, we ensure our solutions give you the best possible experience with VDI and add value to your business. To book a free consultation to understand how VDI can help your business or to better understand our offerings, click here.

Conclusion

If you are thinking about making the switch to a VDI system, make sure to consider how the VDI will fit into your business’s long-term plans. For instance, if you expect to grow substantially in the near future, it’s a good idea to set up VDI so your platform can support the additional users. Also, while deploying VDI can offer long-term benefits, you should be aware that it can be disruptive initially. You may, for example, find that your employees need more training than you expected or you may face some outages when technical problems are first discovered. So, in the beginning, you will need to be prepared to handle such short-term issues. It’s also important to ensure that your IT team and all staff members are on board and prepared to switch to VDI.

As long as you take the above-mentioned points into consideration, the benefits of VDI will be well worth the initial efforts.

FAQs

Why should I use virtual desktops?

Businesses choose to use virtual desktops for various reasons such as increased cybersecurity, collaboration, and reduced IT costs. Further, with a virtual desktop, employees can access their desktops from anywhere in the world – not only does this boost employee morale but it also helps the business hire qualified candidates, irrespective of where they are physically located.

What do I use to connect to a VDI?

Using a virtual desktop is as easy as using a physical desktop. Users can access virtual desktops from anywhere in the world through a connection broker, which acts as an intermediary between the server and the user. Once connected, users can interact with data and applications on the virtual desktop like they would in the case of a physical desktop.

What do you use virtual desktops for?

A virtual desktop gives users the ability to access their desktops, applications, and data from anywhere in the world, on any device. Many businesses have been using virtual desktops because they are centrally managed, thus eliminating the need for app installations and updates on individual desktops. Further, based on the type of desktop virtualization technology that is being used, the end-users may (or may not) be able to customize their desktops and save data locally.

How do I choose a VDI vendor?

Once you’ve decided that VDI is the best solution for your business, choosing the right vendor will require you to be aware of your requirements from the solution. It’s also important that you assess the features, services, and costs that are quoted by the vendor. Further, make sure to also check how reputable the vendor is. With a legacy spanning over 10 years and having partnered with technology companies like Citrix, Microsoft, and VMware, Anunta Tech is a prime choice for enterprises looking for VDI solutions, across the world.

One year ago, only a tiny fraction of employees worked from home on a regular basis. Today, thanks to the pandemic, working from home has gone mainstream, and there is plenty of evidence that the trend is here to stay. Companies of all sizes and across all industries have learned that employees who work from home are not merely able to do their jobs, but actually tend to be more productive. Remote workers also save companies as much as $10,000 per employee annually in real estate costs and make it easier to attract top talent by eliminating the need for new hires to relocate.

Yet despite all of the benefits that remote work offers to companies, it also presents challenges. Over the next year or two, companies’ ability to adapt effectively to the technological, security and regulatory roadblocks that can get in the way of an effective work-from-home strategy will determine which firms are the winners and which the losers in the distributed-workforce landscape.

With that reality in mind, here’s an overview of what companies should be doing to ensure that they are ready to take full advantage of the work-from-home trend.

Why work from home is here to stay

Early in the pandemic, it was easy to assume that the pivot to remote work was just a temporary trend, and that most workers would return to the office soon enough.

The past half-year, however, has demonstrated a different reality. Now, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that a large number of workers will continue to work from home, at least part of the time, even after the pandemic recedes into memory.

A University of Chicago report predicts that employees will spend more than one-fifth of their work days working from home after the pandemic ends. Likewise, Gartner believes that nearly half of employees will work remotely at least on a part-time basis post-pandemic. And managers report much less concern about allowing employees to work remotely than they did before the pandemic, suggesting that the C-suite won’t be looking to thwart the ambitions of the more than 90 percent of employees who express a desire to work remotely.

What could get in the way of widespread remote work for some companies, however, is failure to implement the technologies, security protections and compliance solutions necessary to ensure that employees can work effectively from home on a permanent basis.

Work-from-home technology challenges

Perhaps the most obvious challenge for supporting ongoing remote work is ensuring that employees have the technology they need to do their jobs remotely.

It can be easy to underestimate this difficulty. Many companies have long had remote-work solutions like VPNs and Windows Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) in place, which allow employees to connect to on-site IT infrastructure while working from home.

The challenge companies are likely to face, however, is that these technologies are insufficient in many cases for full-fledged working from home. It’s one thing to let your employees use a VPN to log in and check email once in a while. It’s another when the majority of your employees are logged in remotely to data-intensive apps all day, overwhelming your VPN server and bringing network connectivity to a crawl.

Along similar lines, employees who work remotely on a frequent basis need to figure out ways to connect peripheral devices like printers that they use at home to the remote workstations they use when connecting from off-site. This can be done using technologies like a VPN, but setting it up is far above the paygrade of the typical employee. Unless workers understand how to configure things like split tunneling and manual routing tables on their home networks, connecting a local printer to a remote VPN is not very feasible.

Fortunately, technologies exist that can radically simplify these headaches. Chief among them are cloud desktops, which allow businesses to replace VPNs and RDP clients with cloud-based virtual desktops that employees can access from anywhere. Many modern cloud desktop solutions also integrate seamlessly with local printers and other devices without requiring complex setup on the part of users.

Securing remote workstations

Another challenge that can be easy to underestimate is ensuring that data and applications remain secure when employees work remotely on a massive scale.

Here again, it’s one thing when employees log in from off-site occasionally to perform basic tasks like checking email. It’s another when they are logged into the company network permanently from at-home devices and networks that may not be secure, and that are impossible for employers to monitor for vulnerabilities or insecure configurations.

Cloud desktops offer a solution to these challenges as well by making it possible to build virtual desktop environments that are completely segmented from whichever at-home devices and networks employees use to connect. With cloud desktops, it doesn’t matter if employees log in from malware-riddled personal computers. The desktops run in isolated virtual machines, essentially eliminating the risk that security problems on personal devices could spillover to company desktops.

Compliance difficulties

Although no major regulatory framework explicitly forbids working from home, many major laws, like HIPAA and the GDPR, include rules related to securing physical access to private data. That becomes much harder to do when employees are downloading sensitive information to their personal devices, or installing business applications directly on them, in order to work from home. Even performing security audits, which is a requirement of regulatory laws like the CPRA, becomes a major challenge if employees are working from home and their desktop environments can’t be reliably monitored from a central location.

Cloud desktops can help on this front, too, by consolidating applications and data in the cloud, where they can be centrally monitored and managed. Cloud desktops also eliminate the need for employees to download sensitive data or applications to private devices. Instead, data can always reside in a secure location in the cloud, while employees still enjoy the flexibility of accessing it remotely.

Conclusion

The solutions businesses need to enable secure, reliable, compliance-friendly remote work solutions for their employees on a permanent basis are out there. The challenge for many companies will be in upgrading their traditional remote-login technologies to support the needs of employees who work from home on a massive scale. Conventional solutions like VPNs and RDP servers won’t necessarily deliver the functionality businesses need for most employees to work remotely, but newer types of platforms, like cloud desktops, can.

The healthcare industry is subject to stringent requirements for assuring the security of patient information. In a typical small medical office, one or several licensed practitioners are supported by nurses, assistants, and front-office staff. These individuals are experts in providing medical services to patients, not the IT behind-the-scenes infrastructure. Can virtual desktop technology be adopted to efficiently and securely address patient care?

Virtual Desktops

First, let’s delve into virtual desktop technology. Virtual desktops are available in two major forms:

From the user perspective, the virtual desktop appears the same: the user remotely accesses a secondary desktop that is housed and maintained centrally. It is precisely this centralization feature and the corresponding inherent technology that provides distinct advantages for securing and maintaining patient care.

Patient Data Security

A core requirement for the healthcare industry is maintaining privacy of patient data. Many countries have strict patient data protection requirements, such as HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) in the USA and Bundesdatenschutzgesetz (BDSG) in Germany, and severe penalties may be imposed for lack of compliance. In addition to regulatory requirements for confidentiality, healthcare providers have the moral obligation to ensure that details regarding patient treatments, medications, and all medical records do not fall into the wrong hands.

From a practical standpoint, centralizing patient data within a virtual desktop is not only a good technical decision, but also a sound business decision to aid regulatory compliance. Around the globe, healthcare leaders are adopting virtual desktops to provide more efficient patient care and security.

Virtual desktop technology provides inherent security, ranging from logon to session security, as well as backend databases. In order to gain access, a user must first properly authenticate. Because authentication is based on Active Directory credentials and permissions, only authorized users are able to remotely gain access to virtual desktops.

Once the user has accessed to the virtual desktop, session data traverses the network securely via SSL/TLS, which means that the data is encrypted by means of certificate technology. When viewed within a packet analyzer, sometimes called a packet sniffer, the actual data that is being sent and received cannot be discerned; only the sending and receiving devices have access to the decrypted data streams. TLS 1.2 has been available since 2008 and is being replaced with version 1.3.

Session security is further enhanced because a full VPN is not necessary. Rather than allowing many kinds of traffic to traverse a full VPN, this technology inherently only permits communications to and from the virtual desktop. As a result, network security is maximized yet simplified.

In addition, when the user types in data fields, such as a list of patient prescription medications, the text is processed by the application housed within the data center, and the data stream traversing to the user device is presented on the screen as a series of bitmap updates. This not only provides additional security but also minimizes the amount of data that is transferred.

With virtual desktop technology, no patient data is maintained on the user device; thus, there is no worry of data theft if the device is lost or stolen. When the medical expert accesses radiographs, medical history, or other information, it is done within the confines of the virtual desktop infrastructure, with no dependence on the local device. For example, if a physician realizes that her laptop was stolen during a robbery, there is no concern that any patient data has been compromised.

Further, because no patient data is maintained on the local device, there are no concerns about backing up the files and potentially restoring them at a later date. Because all data is maintained centrally—whether in the cloud or a corporate data center—backups are performed as a standard practice, and users do not need to take any action.

Another benefit of not maintaining patient data on the local device is more efficient anti-virus protection. Sometimes users and internal IT staff are lax about maintaining anti-virus updates on local devices. Because virtual desktop technology is administered centrally, maintenance of anti-virus on the virtual desktop and related technology components is more efficient.

A peripheral advantage of virtual desktop technology is that medical practitioners can securely access patient data from anywhere. Whether a doctor needs to review patient data from another area of the clinic or hospital or even late at night from home in order to provide patient care, securely accessing the virtual desktop can be done from any device after proper authentication.

Additional Benefits of DaaS for Patient Care

In particular, small- to medium-sized healthcare providers are increasingly realizing the benefits of a virtual desktop solution, primarily focused on DaaS. From a regulatory and compliance perspective, eliminating patient data from individual user devices and centralizing via virtual desktops enables adherence to security and confidentiality governance policies. Further, by engaging a service provider for hosting services, management, maintenance, and support, healthcare providers are able to focus on patient care, rather IT infrastructure services.

At first glance, desktop computing technology, including virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) may not seem to play a critical role in the success of Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) companies. When businesses think about technological innovation today, their thoughts usually go to areas like the cloud and AI, not PCs.

Yet for BPO companies, in particular, overhauling desktop technology by replacing physical PCs with virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) is a powerful way to gain crucial business agility, while also lowering costs and simplifying regulatory compliance needs.

Indeed, BPO companies, which provide services like customer support and sales operations to other businesses on an outsourced basis, face a variety of challenges that VDI is uniquely positioned to solve.

Building an agile BPO business

BPO companies need to run an agile business that can respond quickly to changes in client needs and shifts in the market. When your company provides outsourced business operations to other companies, you need to be able to deploy staff quickly when one of your customers needs a new team or begins offering a new service.

After all, a core selling point of BPO is that it allows the customers of BPO companies to meet their operational needs more quickly than they could use their own in-house staff. In order to deliver on this promise, BPO providers must be able to respond particularly quickly to client needs.

Here, VDI offers a solution by making it faster and easier to deploy and scale the desktop infrastructure that BPO employees require. Businesses that depend on physical PCs can’t quickly bring new employees online to accommodate a surge in their clients’ demand. They will also find it more difficult to update the software tools they provide to their employees in order to power their clients’ operations.

Because the desktops provided by VDI run on centralized servers, creating new desktop environments through VDI solutions is as simple as pressing a button and waiting a few seconds. What’s more, the fact that Virtual Desktop Infrastructure desktops can be accessed from anywhere makes it easy for BPO companies to give their employees the PC environments and software they need to do their work at a moment’s notice, no matter where the employees are located.

Growing BPO competition and shrinking profit margins

BPO companies also face the challenge of operating in a highly competitive industry with tight margins. Thanks to the Internet, the BPO industry has globalized, meaning BPO providers face more competition than ever because they are competing with companies spread across the world. Due in part to this competition, as well as to the increasing costs of providing outsourced business services to overseas clients, BPO profit margins have steadily decreased in recent years.

What this means is that, in order to succeed as a BPO provider today, you need to control costs more tightly than ever before.

Migrating from traditional PCs to VDI is one way to slash BPO operating costs. By eliminating the need to purchase new PCs on a continuous basis, as well as to maintain all of the hard drives, keyboards, displays and so on that come with them, VDI significantly reduces the cost of physical IT infrastructure.

It also reduces management spend by making it easier to centralize desktop support operations. Instead of having to deploy IT staff across multiple locations to set up and manage PCs, BPO companies that use VDI can manage their PC environments from a central location, making it possible to achieve faster results with fewer staff.

To be sure, VDI won’t solve every financial challenge that BPO companies face today. But it will control one core part of their operational expenses by reducing their desktop infrastructure costs.

Addressing regulatory challenges

Perhaps the greatest challenge facing BPO companies is a regulatory landscape that is growing increasingly complex.

New compliance laws like the GDPR in Europe, the LGPL in Brazil, and the CCPA in the United States have imposed stricter controls over how and where the private data of consumers in these regions can be stored. What’s more, these rules are set to grow even more complicated due to the rollout in coming years of additional frameworks, like the newly ratified CPRA in the U.S.

In order to deliver reliable services to clients in these parts of the world, BPO providers must be able to guarantee compliance with the regulatory rules that their clients need to meet. A BPO company that stores data about its clients’ customers or sales leads, for instance, must ensure that it adheres to the digital privacy and security controls mandated by whichever compliance frameworks affect its clients.

VDI can significantly simplify compliance by providing BPO companies with greater flexibility over how and where they store data. Instead of having to store consumers’ contact information on local PCs, for example, they can host it on centralized servers or in the cloud, where it is easier to secure in the ways mandated by compliance frameworks. Cloud-based desktops that can be hosted anywhere in the world also offer an unparalleled ability to comply with data sovereignty components of regulatory laws, which may require data to be stored on servers in a specific country. Without VDI, offshore BPO providers would struggle to meet these requirements.

Conclusion

VDI may not be the sole solution for every challenge that BPO companies must overcome today. But by adding agility to their IT infrastructure (and, by extension, to their operations), reducing costs, and simplifying regulatory compliance, VDI offers at least a partial solution to some of the core problems hampering BPO providers. It’s one solution that can help BPO companies thrive in this increasingly competitive industry.

Developing and producing medicines is the focus of the pharmaceutical industry, and it is easy to overlook the information technology that support these efforts. In addition to strict regulatory requirements, the pharmaceutical industry must maintain the utmost confidentiality and security.

Are virtual desktops appropriate for the pharmaceutical industry? The short answer is yes, and let’s delve into the reasons why.

Confidentiality and Security

In all phases ranging from initial development to clinical trials to regulatory clearance to production, confidentiality and security are critical. Many individuals must collaborate and access various data, and any piece of information falling into the wrong hands could have a profoundly negative and perhaps even devastating impact. Large pharmaceutical entities have substantial IT staff to support virtual desktops and other technologies that address confidentiality and security.

But what about the small- and medium-sized enterprises in the pharmaceutical space? Packaging vendors, medical clinics, data analysts, consultants, start-ups, and others in the pharmaceutical industry likewise need IT systems that provide confidentiality and security, but without a massive IT staff or budget.

Virtual Desktop Environment

Virtual desktops as provided by a service provider, often called Desktop as a Service (DaaS), is the optimal solution for pharmaceutical enterprises. Not only is DaaS a cost-effective business solution, but it also addresses the technical requirements for end-user computing.

From the user perspective, accessing the virtual desktop is just a matter of entering credentials and then a familiar Windows 10 desktop environment appears. By presenting the user with a distinct virtual desktop where the user can perform all work, reliance on the physical computer is minimized and thus more secure. The physical computer only requires a web browser to access the virtual desktop, and all enterprise application interactions take place within the virtual desktop.

Where DaaS has been implemented, users save documents and files centrally, not on the physical device. Especially for the pharmaceutical industry, storing user or corporate data on the local computer can create an exposure level that is unacceptable. What happens if the user computer is lost or stolen? Or if the enterprise separates with the user on short notice, creating a hostile situation?

In the pharmaceutical workplace, a packaging engineer will typically create documents for regulatory approval and design product packages. If the interim work effort had been saved on a local computer, it is possible that files could become corrupted due to a virus infection or a hard drive failure, causing the delay of a new medicine release. But if that packaging engineer uses a virtual desktop, those files are safely preserved within the centralized cloud environment.

The compute power of virtual desktops can support the high-end calculations and resources that medical data analysts and scientists may require as they evaluate clinical trials, review radiology reports, and other massive data requirements. Unlike physical computers where upgrades to memory or processing power are complex, allocating additional resources to a virtual desktop is as simple as asking the user to logoff, administratively increasing system resources, and asking the user to login again. It takes just a few minutes provide the user with the necessary computing power.

Pharmaceutical industry regulatory compliance varies by country. Nonetheless, security compliance is a common denominator, and the inherent features of DaaS are conducive to securing positive responses from auditors. In addition to the requirement for proper user authentication, session communications are secured and encrypted, and robust auditing data is available. Because all compute resources in a virtual desktop environment are centralized, anti-virus and storage are likewise addressed centrally. As a result, system updates and backups are addressed without impacting users.

Security of patient data within clinical trials is likewise critical, and virtual desktops ensure that no data remains on the physical device of any clinician. With a traditional desktop, temporary or permanent data from some applications remains within the hidden AppData folder on the local computer, but with a DaaS solution, such is not the case. Where any data is written to the AppData folder within the virtual desktop, it is wiped clean when the user logs off and that virtual desktop session ceases.

Lastly, disaster recovery within a virtual desktop infrastructure presents little to no disruption to users. Where virtual desktops have been deployed, if a disaster affects the local office, users can easily work from home or another location. If the disaster relates to system resources hosted by the DaaS provider, failover processes and/or restoration activities that have been tested and documented are engaged.

“What If?”

Covid-19 brought about a new focus on, “What if?” Many pharmaceutical enterprises have been challenged in unforeseen ways as they continue development of medicines. For example, scientists focused on cancer and blood disorders continue to address those diseases, and it is increasingly difficult to find patients and administer those clinical trials. As a result, flexibility, agility, and adaptability are required for enterprises in the pharmaceutical space, and virtual desktop technology can provide the optimal enabling solution.

Desktop-as-a-Service, or DaaS, offers a variety of benefits for businesses of all types.

However, DaaS solutions, which replace physical PCs with virtual desktops hosted in the cloud, can be particularly beneficial for companies that specialize Business Process Outsourcing, or BPO. From simplifying regulatory compliance and security needs to cutting costs and more, DaaS helps BPO providers operate more profitably while also gaining an edge over competitors.

To prove the point, here are five reasons why BPO providers should replace their employees’ physical workstations with cloud desktops delivered via a DaaS platform

Reduce internal overhead

To operate profitably, BPO providers need to minimize their own overhead. Efficient operation is critical for ensuring that BPO firms can offer outsourced services at lower prices than their clients could achieve if they implemented them in-house. The more time and money BPO providers spend managing their own business processes and infrastructure, the less effectively they can deliver outsourced business services to their clients.

DaaS helps keep BPO providers’ internal processes lean and mean by eliminating the need to maintain expansive fleets of physical PCs. With DaaS, businesses never have to worry about upgrading physical hardware, replacing a failed hard drive or not having enough IT staff available to keep track of all of their PCs. When desktops are virtualized, they can manage all of their desktop environments from a central location — the cloud — and deploy or decommission desktops at a moment’s notice.

For BPO companies seeking to streamline their internal processes, then, DaaS offers a compelling solution, especially given that operating costs related to computers and maintenance and upkeep represent a significant portion of BPO overhead.

Offer more services

When you can roll out a new desktop environment quickly and can update desktop software centrally, it’s easier to deploy new types of outsourced services. Instead of having to install a new application on every physical PC in your fleet in order to support a new type of offering, you can update your machines centrally from the cloud. And if you need more cloud desktops to support a new service, you can deploy them instantly, instead of having to acquire and set up physical hardware.

Given that offering “a diverse range of services allows companies to gain a competitive edge in the market for business process outsourcing,” according to Grand View Research, the ability to leverage DaaS as a way to offer a large and diverse selection of services is critical for BPO companies’ competitive success.

Meet compliance rules

Regulatory laws that dictate how and where digital data may be stored, like the GDPR, HIPAA and CCPA, complicate the ability of BPO providers to manage consumer data (like addresses and phone numbers) for their clients. This is because regulatory requirements may mandate certain data security protections for personal data that are difficult to implement across a fleet of distributed PCs. Regulatory laws may also require that data be stored in a certain geographic region (such as the one where a BPO’s clients are based) that may be different from where the BPO company is based.

DaaS makes it easier to adhere to these compliance rules by providing BPO companies with unparalleled control and flexibility over how they store and manage their clients’ data as it flows through employee workstations. Not only does DaaS nullify security risks (and, by extension, compliance requirements) related to the physical loss or theft of desktops, but it also provides BPO companies with the option of hosting their entire desktops on servers located in a specific geographic region, even if their employees are based in another region.

For example, if a BPO provider’s client needs its customer data to reside in the United States but the BPO itself operates from call centers in India, DaaS provides the ability to host desktops on servers located in the United States, while still making them available through the cloud to employees based in India. That’s a powerful advantage from a compliance perspective, and one that BPO providers simply can’t achieve using traditional PCs.

Build a scalable business

To offer compelling outsourced services, BPO companies must be able to deliver those services faster than their clients could implement them themselves. They must also be able to scale services up and down quickly as their clients’ needs change.

DaaS helps BPO providers achieve these goals by making it fast and easy to roll out new desktops, as well as to scale down the size of desktop infrastructure quickly when service needs decrease. As a result, BPO companies that use DaaS can quickly bring employees online or offline in order to accommodate their clients’ needs.

To put this advantage into context, imagine a BPO contact center with a client that suddenly announces a product recall, resulting in a sharp increase in call volume. With DaaS, the BPO company can instantly deploy the desktop environments it needs to support the rise in calls. This would be much harder to do if the company relied on physical desktops that had to be purchased and set up before they could be used to handle higher volume.

Improve security

Security remains an “ongoing struggle” for BPO companies, according to ComputerWeekly, which also notes that a poor reputation on the security front can hamper the ability of BPO providers to land clients in places like the United States and Europe.

DaaS can’t solve every IT security challenge that BPO providers face, but it can significantly improve some aspects of security. By centralizing desktop infrastructure in the cloud, DaaS makes it easier to monitor and audit desktops for malware and other threats.

DaaS also allows BPO companies to decommission the desktops of former employees quickly. That’s an important step toward improving security given the high attrition rate in the BPO industry and the tremendous risk associated with failing to revoke former employees’ access to IT environments. With physical PCs, a BPO company would have to send support staff to the computer and remove a former employee’s accounts manually in many cases. DaaS makes it possible to revoke the employee’s access to his or her cloud desktop or even take the entire virtual desktop offline instantaneously, which is a cleaner and simpler process.

Conclusion

Success in the BPO industry requires the ability to offer a range of services, respond quickly to changing client needs and meet strict security and compliance, all while keeping operating costs in check. DaaS helps BPO providers meet all of these challenges in a way that physical PCs can’t. In turn, DaaS helps ensure BPO profitability, even in the face of the ever-growing competitiveness of the industry.

All clouds are not created equal, and generic references to cloud may be confusing.  Just like all automobiles are not the same, not are all clouds the same.  

There are essentially three types of clouds:

  • Private
  • Public
  • Hybrid 

Each has its own benefits and drawbacks as will be discussed below, and sometimes the confusion related to clouds is based on lack of a clear definition.

Private Cloud

Private cloud refers to on-premises infrastructure that may be housed within the enterprise or within a segregated space in a co-located data center.  The servers and hypervisor resources deployed in this type of data center are dedicated solely to a single enterprise.  Within a private cloud environment, IT is fully responsible for the hardware, software, networking, monitoring, and maintenance.

Private clouds have the benefit of being highly customizable.  If an organization has unique requirements, IT has full authority to alter computing systems as they see fit.  The downside is that costs can spiral out of control, especially within organizations that are decentralized.

With a private cloud, expansion and contraction present challenges.  For example, if additional resources are required in order to address a busy season or fewer resources are needed during slow times, the enterprise must provision equipment based on peak requirements, plus an element of redundancy.  As such, the total cost of ownership is higher due to idle resources.

Disaster recovery is more complex and expensive with a private cloud infrastructure.  Duplicate system resources are required at a secondary site that go unused during normal operations.  As a result, the costs for a disaster recovery site with a private cloud cost are doubled.

Public Cloud

Public cloud is gaining in popularity as providers–such as Azure, Amazon Web Services, and Google Cloud Services–offer fixed costs for hosted resources.  Enterprises have a clear understanding of the costs for utilizing each type of resource and can accurately predict monthly utilization fees.  In addition, there are no surprise costs for maintenance or equipment replacement.

Referring to the example of an enterprise that experiences peak and slow seasons, public cloud services are optimal from a cost standpoint because resources are only enabled when necessary.  This can represent massive savings.  

By offering compute resources within a shared infrastructure, complexity is reduced and scalability is improved.  IT staff no longer needs to request and order new hardware, place it in server racks, install networking equipment, ensure proper cooling levels in the data center, and similar work effort.  Instead, an IT professional just selects the desired resource from an administrative interface, and the resource is quickly deployed.  Public clouds enable IT to be extremely agile.

When testing new applications or processes, running a Proof of Concept (PoC) in a cloud environment is fast and easy.  By simply designating the compute resources, testing can commence in short order to prove or disprove a new concept.

Public cloud systems require a new skill set for IT staff.  While the administrative interfaces are generally intuitive, there are many unique technology features to each public cloud that must be absorbed by the IT staff.  Also, each public cloud uses slightly different terminology and processes, so there is a learning curve for each public cloud.

A key downside to a public cloud infrastructure is lack of control of backend systems.  When an entire site or public cloud provider experience issues, all tenants may be impacted.  While Service-Level Agreements (SLAs) guarantee high uptime, system interruptions do occur from time to time.

Hybrid Cloud

Private clouds and public clouds each have unique benefits, and enterprises can opt to take advantage of the best of each by adopting a hybrid cloud solution.  While it may take a bit more work effort to ensure full integration and access, the flexibility, cost, and reliability gains are significant.

For example, an enterprise may elect to continue operating an on-premises data center and utilize a public cloud for disaster recovery.  With this solution, a secondary site does not need to be allocated.  Thus, DR site resources are not billed until needed, so the total cost of ownership is significantly lower.

One downside to a hybrid cloud environment is that IT staff must be thoroughly familiar with both clouds and be able to determine which cloud is best suitable for each circumstance.  This may necessitate additional training and perhaps even more IT staff.  

Which Cloud is Best?

Although hybrid is often selected as the optimal solution, such is not always the case.  Most organizations have moved or are in the process of moving at least some of their compute infrastructure to a public cloud.  However, some are choosing to continue exclusively with a private cloud, and others are moving all system resources to a public cloud.

Cost and functionality are key drivers in determining which cloud is most suitable.  Because all clouds are not created equal, each enterprise must delve into the benefits of each type of cloud to determine whether private, public, or hybrid cloud is the best solution.

Successfully empowering a remote workforce is more important than ever. Today’s remote employee requires the same performance, access and security as they would working out of the corporate office. Traditional methods of supporting remote employees using local desktop operating systems, applications and VPN connectivity leads to inconsistent and inefficient computing experiences. Let’s learn how Anunta’s virtual desktops can provide a better remote workforce computing experience.
Better Security
Considering all the high-profile cybersecurity incidents of late, it’s no wonder businesses are constantly on the lookout for the most secure technologies to protect applications and data from bad actors. Anunta Tech powered virtual desktops are built on a cloud infrastructure that was engineered with security as a top priority. Because the virtual desktop and all applications/data are hosted within an industry-best cloud infrastructure such as Azure or AWS or Horizon, virtual desktop users can be sure that their data is protected regardless of where a remote employee is working from.
Additionally, businesses that must adhere to strict regulatory standards will be happy to know that Anunta’s cloud desktops are fully PCI, HIPAA and SOC2 compliant. This fact eliminates any hurdles that may have gotten in the way of some businesses or healthcare organizations migrating to virtual desktops. Regardless of what compliance requirements your market vertical must observe, Anunta raises the bar when it comes to data security.
Improved Network Performance
Nothing is more frustrating than trying to work in an application that’s exceptionally slow. For remote workforces, this is unfortunately more common that it needs to be. The primary reason is because remote user network data flows are often poorly optimized. This creates added latency to the application, negatively impacting the end-user experience. Forcing users through VPN tunnels is the most common reason for poor remote workforce network latency. While secure, VPN tunnels often force all traffic into the corporate network prior to redirecting it to the application or database server the end user is attempting to access. This creates suboptimal network paths, increasing network latency.
Anunta’s Cloud Desktops largely eliminate the need for remote access VPN’s. Not only does this simplify remote workforce access to apps and data, but it also eliminates unnecessary latency due to VPN tunnel hairpins.
Delivering a consistent desktop experience
Even during the 2020 pandemic, many businesses allowed employees to operate in a hybrid workplace environment. This means that employees may work inside the corporate office one day – and out of their home the next. Being able to deliver a consistent desktop experience in both environments greatly enhances an employee’s ability to perform their work duties. As such, a platform that virtualizes the desktop experience both in and out of the office is an increasingly important feature to have.
The beauty of Anunta’s Cloud Desktops is that it performs identically no matter where a user resides. Thus, end users do not have to modify their work processes or habits as they shift between in-office or work-from-home settings.
Flexible access
When you ask remote workforces what their top needs are from a technology perspective, flexible access to apps and data is always at the top of their list. Not only do Anunta’s virtual desktops allow users to connect from any location – they also let the users connect to virtual desktops using a wide range of endpoint devices. This includes support for Windows PC’s, Macs, Chromebooks and even Apple iOS and Android smart devices.
Remote workforce technologies — part of a business’s strategic IT plan
The 2020 pandemic played a major factor in advancing an IT department’s need to improve access, security and performance of business applications. But even as some business leaders plan to eventually bring employees back into the corporate office, understand that the need for remote workforce technologies have become a critical part of a business’s overall business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR) plan. The future of business will demand that employees be able to access apps, services and other digital resources in a safe and efficient manner no matter where they reside. That’s why it’s so important to properly plan and architect for this level of remote workforce flexibility in 2021 and beyond.

As we embark on a new year, what lies ahead for new technologies, and what will be the impact on the workplace?  Will 2021 introduce incremental changes or will ground-breaking technologies profoundly and quickly impact the workplace?

2020 in Review

First, let’s take a brief look at the technical changes that occurred over the past year.  Of course, Covid-19 abruptly changed how we work, and it forced the adoption of new computing technologies.  In particular, workers were thrust into working from home, as well as altered ways of collaborating with business colleagues.  Some businesses expanded exponentially, whereas others declined.

As we look back at 2020, the single most impact from an end-user computing standpoint was the result of Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) gaining in popularity.  Although WVD was actually released in late September 2019, the first few months were largely evaluation and testing, not actual adoption.  

While virtualization technologies have been available for over 20 years, the combination of cloud-based infrastructure, advantageous licensing, and Covid-19 caused many small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) to adopt the WVD in 2020.  

As Anunta approaches a decade of providing end-user virtualization technology services, we have worked with our customers to marry the right technical capabilities with business needs.  We have seen firsthand how small businesses have been able to transform themselves with the adoption of better IT services.  

What’s Next?

As small businesses continue to represent a critical pillar in the economy, the creation and growth of this business segment will draw even more attention in the future.  Small businesses have unique needs, particularly from a user computing standpoint.  However, many small businesses struggle culturally between the desire to “do it all,” versus outsourcing IT services.  Going forward, more and more small businesses will accept IT service providers as the optimal solution, especially in light of how the workplace will continue to morph in the future. 

Virtual desktops are a key enabler to a more efficient workplace.  Whether the virtual desktops are provided by Microsoft or VMware or Citrix, or another technology, the ability for users to securely access enterprise resources from anywhere and via any device removes many of the hindrances of traditional computing.  The user device is largely irrelevant, i.e., access is not dependent upon a particular piece of hardware.  Thus, whether users access enterprise resources via a corporate-owned device, a home computer or tablet, or even a large mobile device, so long as an internet browser can be opened, the virtual desktop can be accessed. 

Remote Working

Remote working has transformed the culture of many workers, and employers will more concretely realize cost efficiencies related to office space, as well as increased productivity due to the elimination of commuting time.  According to a recent Gallup poll, “Nearly two-thirds of U.S. workers who have been working remotely during the pandemic would like to continue to do so.”   Even after Covid-19 subsides, many employers have openly stated that the traditional office will not be revived.  For some, this means working from home permanently.  Where some face-to-face collaboration is required, this will translate to unassigned office hotdesks with thin clients or generic devices when visits to the office are necessary.  Whether the employee works from home or a hotdesk, the virtual desktop will provide the underlying technology that makes it feasible.

Security

There will be an increased emphasis on system security.  As much as employers want to provide secure remote access, bad actors continue to proliferate and will become even more creative in the future.  This challenge is even more critical for small businesses that are not savvy to these intruders.   

Accessing the virtual desktop requires optimal security and analytics.  While SSL/TLS security is a standard feature of virtual desktop sessions, we can expect to see even higher security, intelligence features, and analytics integrated into user access.  Cloud technologies inherently incorporate built-in security, and we can expect artificial intelligence to play a larger role in the behind-the-scenes security.  Security Information and Event Manager (SIEM) intelligence will be further optimized and become even more critical detecting system threats.

Government and industry compliance requirements will continue to affect what businesses can and can’t do.  Health care and banking already have a myriad of security requirements, such as password compliance, and it is reasonable to assume that these compliance requirements will continue to increase in complexity.   The downstream impact falls onto not just the IT organization, but also individual users.  Virtual desktop service providers, also known as Desktop as a Service (DaaS) providers, such as Anunta, are engaged by numerous end customers in various industries, and those outsourced systems often supersede compliance requirements without special requests.

Affording the Future

Of course, the price tag factors into the technologies that enterprises will adopt in the future.  The price for computing services must align with pre-defined budgets and not represent an exorbitant increase in costs.  DaaS providers fully recognize this; in addition, competition and technical advances force this commercial alignment.  

Wrap-Up

The workplace of the future simplifies how we work. It is based on the ability to securely access enterprise resources from anywhere, on any device, at any time, and at a reasonable cost. While this is basically available today, we can expect a surge in security and system enhancements that further drive the value of DaaS.

VDI or DaaS – Which Should You Pick?

VDI is to DaaS what a screw is to a nail: Both solutions can be used to achieve similar goals, but they work in different ways and cater to different needs.

If you’re struggling to decide whether VDI or DaaS is the best solution for your business, read on. Below, we walk through the similarities and differences between DaaS and VDI and explain what to pick for which situation.

What is VDI?

VDI, which stands for Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, is a technology that hosts virtual desktop sessions on a central server, then allows users to connect to those sessions from remote devices over the local network.

A typical VDI setup involves using Windows Server to host several remote desktop sessions. Then, users who want to access those sessions use a tool like the Windows Remote Desktop client app to connect.

That said, VDI is a generic term. You don’t have to use Windows Server to build VDI infrastructure. You could use a standard Windows desktop machine to host virtual desktop sessions, too, although that approach is less common. You could also build VDI infrastructure using Linux PCs, if your organization prefers Linux over Windows.

What is DaaS?

DaaS stands for Desktop-as-a-Service, a type of solution in which virtual desktop environments run in the cloud, with each environment hosted in a dedicated virtual machine. Users can log into these environments, which are sometimes called cloud desktops, from anywhere on the Internet, not just a local network.

Like VDI, DaaS can be implemented in a variety of ways. Windows-based cloud desktops are most common, but Linux desktops can run in the cloud, too.

There are also different types of clouds that can host cloud desktops. They can run in a general-purpose public cloud like Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure. Or, they could be hosted in a cloud platform dedicated just to DaaS.

Differences between VDI and DaaS

From the end-user’s perspective, VDI and DaaS deliver mostly — but not totally — the same experience. Nonetheless, there are crucial differences between VDI and DaaS:

  • Network setup: In a VDI-based environment, virtual desktops are accessed via the local network from devices that are either physically present on the network, or are connected to that network via a VPN. In DaaS, the public Internet provides the network connection between remote devices and virtual desktop environments. Users can typically connect to a DaaS service from anywhere, without having to use a VPN.
  • Desktop session type: In VDI, desktop environments run as virtual sessions on the same host operating system. In DaaS, they run as distinct virtual machines. This means that DaaS provides a higher degree of isolation between desktop environments.
  • Deployment time: Because VDI infrastructure must be set up on a company’s physical site, it typically takes longer to deploy VDI than a DaaS service, which can be made available in as little as a few hours.
  • Scalability: It’s easy to add and remove cloud desktops from a DaaS platform at will. Scaling VDI infrastructure up or down takes longer, because it requires adding or removing physical on-site servers.
  • Historical popularity: Although both VDI and DaaS solutions have been available for years, VDI has historically seen higher rates of usage in enterprise environments. DaaS is now becoming very popular as well, however, and may overtake VDI in popularity in the coming years.

VDI vs. DaaS: What to choose when

Again, VDI and DaaS deliver a similar end result: Desktop environments that users can access from remote devices. However, one solution is likely to prove better than the other, depending on the company’s needs.

VDI works best if the following is true:

  • Most users will connect to desktop sessions from the local network. Although VDI sessions, as noted above, can be accessed from off-site using VPNs, this adds a layer of complexity that makes VDI less than ideal when the majority of users are off-site.
  • Network performance is a priority. Because VDI sessions are delivered over the local network, they generally offer higher rates of bandwidth and faster response times than DaaS. That said, DaaS services running on modern infrastructure are quite responsive, too.
  • The business already has servers available to host VDI sessions or is able to make the capital investment necessary to acquire them.
  • The risk of disruptions to local infrastructure (due to factors such as loss of power or natural disasters) is minimal.

Meanwhile, DaaS is ideal under the following conditions:

  • The business requires dedicated, isolated desktop environments for each user.
  • It’s a priority to maintain access to desktop environments even if the business’s local infrastructure is disrupted by events like natural disasters. Because DaaS hosts desktop environments on remote cloud infrastructure, the environments are not harmed by disruptions to local infrastructure.
  • Users require a simple, turnkey solution for connecting to their remote desktop environments without having to install special software (like VPN and RDP clients).
  • The number of desktop environments that the business requires is likely to fluctuate or grow quickly over time. Because DaaS services are easier to scale, they are a better fit for this situation.

Need help choosing between VDI and DaaS?

Anunta is an experienced provider of both VDI and DaaS solutions. If you’re struggling to decide which approach is the best fit for your business, contact us for expert advice to determine whether VDI or DaaS offers the greatest value for your needs.