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Is IT Prepared for a Hybrid Remote Workplace Environment?

The COVID-19 pandemic has placed remote work squarely in the spotlight. As businesses began allowing employees to work from home (WFH) in early 2020, many IT leaders were left wondering whether remote workforces will become the long-term rule as opposed to the exception. In reality, the modern workplace has long been evolving toward a hybrid environment where employees can be productive anywhere and at any time they choose. Innovations in cloud technologies – including desktop as a service (DaaS) — have greatly accelerated this hybrid workplace capability. Let’s dig into why that is and how it can be used to better prepare your business for a hybrid work environment.

It starts with the access

At one time, corporate infrastructures were designed and built with the understanding that most employees would come into the office to perform their work duties. As such, application, network, and data security components were deployed to support this access model. While remote connectivity did exist in the form of remote access VPN, these components were designed to handle only a fraction of the overall employee headcount. Thus, major modifications were required to sufficiently support a much larger proportion of simultaneous WFH employee access.

Thanks to innovations such as IaaS and SaaS, however, infrastructure architects quickly realized that employees could directly connect to business applications and data anywhere they had internet access. The need to VPN into the corporate office has largely been eliminated as most apps and services now reside in the public cloud. This means that employees can perform their daily tasks in the office, at home, in a coffee shop or anywhere else they happen to be. This is the first step to a proper hybrid workplace experience.

Simplifying remote desktop management

While cloud computing allowed for ease of access regardless of physical location, an IT department’s desktop support team ran into other remote workforce issues. The desktop team found that they could quickly become overwhelmed when attempting to manage and/or troubleshoot corporate-deployed PC’s that were operating in WFH situations. Troubleshooting traditional desktops using remote management tools can be a time-consuming process compared to a technician having direct access to the hardware. Because of this, IT architects are beginning to leverage another cloud service – DaaS — to help them streamline desktop deployment, management and troubleshooting tasks. Not only do virtual desktops provide employees with an effective space to work within while at home or in the office – the ability to support virtual desktops in a remote or hybrid setting is also greatly enhanced thanks to DaaS.

Shared data requires centralized control

Using traditional desktop deployments, employees often can store important data and documents onto the local desktop hard drive. If a laptop is lost or stolen, this becomes a major security risk for the organization. With DaaS, however, all applications and data are kept within the service provider’s cloud infrastructure. Thus, employees can no longer save files to their local desktops. Not only does a virtual desktop architecture reduce risk from a data loss prevention (DLP) sense, but it also creates a much more uniform environment for data sharing across geographically distributed workforces. No longer will copies of files be made and splintered by remote employees. Instead, everyone is required to collaborate using a single set of stored data residing securely in the DaaS providers cloud infrastructure.

Achieving an effective hybrid workplace is closer than you think 

Whether your business plans to continue WFH strategies or begin bringing employees back into the office, having a flexible workplace will be a critical part of your organization’s overall success. Fortunately, cloud computing services grant employees the ability to seamlessly move between the office, home and anyplace in-between. While cloud computing in the form of cloud-managed apps and data are a great start, a missing component of your hybrid workplace strategy may be the desktop itself. Traditional desktop deployment models simply don’t function well in hybrid workplaces. Stand-alone desktops are too cumbersome to manage and lack important data security protections. Instead, IT decision makers should plan to migrate to a DaaS solutions like Anunta’s Cloud Desktops. This modern approach to desktop deployment is the only way to truly provide the utmost in hybrid workplace flexibility, security, and productivity.

According to a recent study by Stanford University, “an incredible 42 percent of the U.S. labor force is now working from home full-time”. While a large portion of us have been working from home (WFH) due to the pandemic, it’s likely that at least some employees will eventually migrate back to the corporate office once the COVID-19 situation is under control. That said, there are benefits of WFH employees – or for employees who wish to work in a hybrid workplace setting. If that’s true for your organization, now may be the time to investigate whether it makes sense to make flexible workplaces a permanent fixture. Let’s explore how hybrid workplaces are created are along with the pros and cons of this model.

Creating a hybrid workplace

From a technology standpoint, creating a hybrid workplace is more than just handing employees a laptop and giving them a remote access to apps and data. Instead, a hybrid workplace is a major architectural change from an application and service delivery standpoint. The goal for a hybrid workplace infrastructure is to provide the same level of application access, performance and security both inside the corporate network as well as outside. Most often, this requires that the IT department migrate apps, data and services to one or more public cloud service providers (CSPs). Doing so allows users seamless access to digital corporate resources no matter what location they work from.

Benefits of hybrid workplaces

A key benefit of hybrid workplaces is that they allow employees to perform their job duties from practically any location they choose. A 2020 HBR study shows that productivity can actually improve in certain professions when employees are allowed to work from home. Therefore, it may be wise for businesses to offer a hybrid environment to employees that can prosper from it. The migration of services into public clouds gives the IT department the ability to allow employees to access these resources directly instead of having to first backhaul traffic through the corporate network.

Additionally, moving to a hybrid workplace forces the IT department to implement much-needed security architecture changes to protect all users – not just those working from within the corporate office. Distributed workforce security tools such as zero trust and secure access services edge (SASE) architectures will help create a complete, end-to-end security framework with which to operate and manage a hybrid workforces.

Drawbacks of hybrid workplaces

While the benefits of hybrid workplaces are clear, it’s important to understand the potential drawbacks. For one, many IT departments continue to manage applications and data housed within private data centers. Thus, it becomes far less efficient to access digital resources while working remotely. To truly build-out a hybrid workplace architecture, migrating as many of these applications and services to the public cloud is a critical step. Failing to do so can result in suboptimal end-user experiences.

Next, some IT departments struggle with creating new end-user policies and tools that help protect the business from lost or stolen data. As workforces move outside the cybersecurity protections deployed within a corporate network boundary, data becomes much harder to monitor and track. This is especially true in situations where IT departments deploy traditional desktops and lack the necessary controls required to keep data from leaving those desktops. 

Finally, hybrid workplaces can create gaps in communication between employees and teams that previously did not exist. If changes to how employees collaborate and share data while working remote is not properly addressed, it can create significant slowdowns in productivity. Thus, processes and tools must be implemented to close this communications gap and to allow geographically dispersed employees to work in shared-data environments.

Setting the foundation for a successful hybrid workplace environment

It’s clear that hybrid workplaces are indeed the future of work. As mentioned, cloud computing plays and major foundational role in any successful hybrid workplace rollout. The cloud can not only offer uniform access for in-office and remote employees, but modern cloud security tools can also provide seamless data security as users flow between locations. Most businesses have already leveraged cloud services in one form or another. If hybrid work is your goal, it’s wise to continue migrating apps and services as quickly as possible.

Additionally, IT architects are finding that an investment in virtual desktop infrastructures (VDI) or desktop as a service (DaaS) can significantly streamline the management of hybrid workers. Virtual desktops can also help from a data loss prevention (DLP) standpoint as all data resides securely within the VDI or DaaS infrastructure. Therefore, the combination of cloud-based apps and services along with virtual desktops create an excellent foundation for hybrid workplaces both now and into the future.

Let us first understand what a cloud desktop is. A cloud desktop, also known as Desktop as a Service (DaaS), is a cloud computing offering that enables users to access the applications and data from anywhere, anytime using any device. All the necessary data, applications, operating system are stored on the cloud (public or private).

Windows 10, an operating system developed by Microsoft, is known for the all-encompassing security, availability and support for multiple applications, and the user friendliness.

A Cloud Desktop on Windows 10 is a cloud desktop that has Windows 10 as the operating system and is hosted on either Azure or any other cloud.

A virtual desktop is a thin or zero client merely relaying an image of data and applications stored remotely on a central server within a public, private or hybrid Cloud. It enables end-users with anytime, anywhere, any device access to data and applications in a remote yet secure manner.

Virtual desktops segregates desktop operating system, applications, and data from the hardware, and offers a robust, secure, flexible yet affordable solution. The Virtualization software creates desktop images and enables access to end-users over a network.

Virtual desktops are provisioned based upon user-group profiling which ensures that end-users have an uninterrupted access to role-specific applications and data via a customized interface. Since data and applications reside on a central server, management becomes simple. All bug fixes, policy and software upgrades are applied only on the centrally stored golden images ensuring security and compliance adherence for all end-users. The ability to provide consistently high application availability in an anywhere, anytime, and across any device improves end-user experience and productivity.

What are virtual desktop deployment models?

There are two models of virtual desktop deployment. These are,

  • Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI):

    For organizations that have already invested in building or owning in-house data centers, VDI as a virtualization solution makes sense as it addresses the challenges in upgrading traditional physical desktops and reduces cost on IT refresh. With the data center situated in-house, organizations have full control over software, hardware and data accessed by end-users via their virtual desktops. VDI minimizes the risk of data theft or loss even if the device crashes or is stolen as all data is stored centrally on a server. However, VDI requires management of various technologies (servers, storage, networking, thin clients, and virtualization software, etc.) provided by different vendors making the implementation a complex and challenging process for organizations on their own. It also requires specialized IT skills to manage the virtual infrastructure, which adds to the complexity further.

  • Desktop as a Service (DaaS):

    Organizations that haven’t yet invested in in-house data centers, organizations that plan to have a hybrid environment or organizations that aim to move their IT spend from Capex to Opex may have greater propensity to leverage the benefits of VDI on cloud. Available as pay as you go, DaaS reduces the overall total cost of ownership (TCO) of desktop computing as the upfront spend on infrastructure is negated. Further the cost of owning specialized VDI technical skills, desktop maintenance and infrastructure depreciation is eliminated. Cloud hosted Virtual desktops are typically subscribed at a pay per user rate on a monthly basis.

What is Virtual Desktop Infrastructure?

The Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) is a virtualization technology that segregates desktop operating system, applications, and data from the hardware, and offers a robust, secure, flexible yet affordable desktop solution. The virtualization software creates desktop images and enables access to end-users over a network.

In the VDI environment, virtual desktops are provisioned based upon user-group profiling which ensures that end-users have an uninterrupted access to role-specific applications and data via a customized interface. Since data and applications reside on a central server, management becomes simple. All bug fixes, policy and software upgrades are applied only on the centrally stored golden images ensuring security and compliance adherence for all end-users. The ability to provide consistently high application availability in an anywhere, anytime, and across any device improves end-user experience and productivity.

What are the benefits of VDI?

VDI improves end user experience and productivity by:

  • Reduced costs :

    The VDI reduces the Capex involved in costly PC purchase and frequent IT refresh. The outsourced operations and pay-as-you-go model induce transparency on future requirements and helps manage Opex.

  • Anytime, anywhere, any device access to data and applications :

    As applications and data are stored on central servers, this enables access independent of the time, place and device enabling end-users enjoy flexible yet secure application availability.

  • Simplified management :

    Centralized storage of data and applications enable IT to manage desktops in an extremely efficient manner. Since user profiles are also stored centrally, rolling out OS, application and bug fixes are simplified.

  • Secure access :

    End-users only have access to applications and data specific to their roles as a result of role-based user profile creation and policy adherence. This also enables enterprises in providing contract employees and partners with secured access to relevant data and applications.

  • Rapid disaster recovery and business continuity :

    In the event of a disaster, virtual desktops can be provisioned from the centralized backup, thereby ensuring business continuity.

What is Desktop Virtualization?

Desktop Virtualization is a technology that empowers end-users with a virtual computing environment across devices (desktops, laptops, tablets, mobile phone, etc.) and locations thereby delivering a consistent user experience. It ensures a secure, highly available, cost effective end-user desktop infrastructure wherein, end-user desktops are hosted on a centralized server, while ensuring maximum control and security over access and usage of desktops by end-users.

What are the types of virtualization?

Desktop Virtualization is not a “One Size Fits All” but requires a tailored approach to identify use case to be implemented. Organizations have the option to choose between in-house Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) or Desktop as a Service (DaaS). The different types of desktop virtualization are:

  • Session Based Virtualization :

    It delivers individual session on a virtual machine or a server where each virtual machine is shared by multiple users.

  • Non-Persistent VDI :

    It delivers a virtual machine that where sessions are not reserved or locked and can be accessed by multiple users. The desktop allows users to access their data on different PCs, as systems refresh themselves once the user has logged off.

  • Persistent VDI :

    It delivers a virtual machine like non-persistent VDI except that user sessions are reserved or locked. This type of virtual machine is designed to suit the needs of individual users.

  • Hosted Shared Desktop :

    It delivers shared desktops hosted on a server and connected to multiple thin clients. This type of virtualization enables multiple users to access the same desktop screen concurrently. This is also called RDSH (Remote Hosted Desktop).

  • Application Virtualization :

    It is a virtualization technology where the required applications are hosted and published in a data center and are relayed as mere images to the end-user devices to capture actions (keystrokes and mouse actions) back to the application.

What are the benefits of desktop virtualization?

Desktop virtualization offers the following benefits to enterprises.

  • Reduced costs :

    The virtualized desktops reduce the Capex involved in costly PC purchase and frequent IT refresh. The outsourced operations and pay-as-you-go model induce transparency on future requirements and helps manage Opex.

  • Anytime, anywhere, any device access to data and applications :

    As applications and data are stored on central servers, this enables access independent of the time, place and device enabling end-users enjoy flexible yet secure application availability.

  • Simplified management :

    Centralized storage of data and applications enable IT to manage desktops in an extremely efficient manner. Since user profiles are also stored centrally, rolling out OS, application and bug fixes are simplified.

  • Secure access :

    End-users only have access to applications and data specific to their roles as a result of role-based user profile creation and policy adherence. This also enables enterprises in providing contract employees and partners with secured access to relevant data and applications.

  • Rapid disaster recovery and business continuity :

    In the event of a disaster, virtual desktops can be provisioned from the centralized backup, thereby ensuring business continuity.

What is virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) in the Citrix platform?

Before talking about VDI in the Citrix platform, let us understand what is VDI.

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) is a virtualization technology that segregates desktop operating systems, applications, and data from the hardware and offers a robust, secure, flexible, yet affordable desktop solution. The virtualization software creates desktop images and enables access to end-users over a network.

Various companies offer VDI licensing and solutions – the major players being Microsoft, VMware, and Citrix.

Citrix offers an array of products and solutions, including cloud computing, desktop virtualization, analytics, content collaboration, endpoint management, and EUC solutions. Citrix has two VDI offerings – Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops (formerly known as Citrix XenDesktop) and Citrix Managed Desktops.

As a Citrix Service Providers Partner, Anunta brings extensive experience in design, implementation, migration, and management of Citrix Desktops. Since inception, we have executed 300+ workplace transformation engagements on Citrix virtualization technology, both on-premises and on cloud. Visit our page for more information – Click here

What is Application Virtualization?

Application Virtualization is a virtualization technology, where the required applications are hosted and published in a data center, and are relayed as mere images to the end-user devices to capture actions (keystrokes and mouse actions) back to the application. From the user’s perspective, the application behaves like it would if it were native to the user’s device and the end-user has a seamless experience.

Benefits of Application Virtualization

Application virtualization enables applications to run in environments that do not suit the native application. Some of the benefits of Application Virtualization are:

  • Application Isolation :

    With desktop virtualization, employees use remote devices/thin clients that work on different operating systems. Application Virtualization helps applications become device-independent and enables data communication between heterogeneous networks. It also helps businesses that rely on older applications that aren’t compatible with the latest version of the server operating systems.

  • Reduced Costs :

    Virtualization helps remove the hardware restrictions that the applications generally have. The number of physical servers and data centers can be reduced thus reducing the cost of ownership. Application virtualization also helps organizations cut down operating costs.

  • Maintenance :

    App Virtualization makes the life of an IT admin easy. He or she needs to install or update the application in the server, rather than multiple desktops. The IT admins can also manage the access permissions to the applications. For instance, if a user’s access to an application has to be revoked, the IT admin can do it from the backend, without making any changes to the user’s desktop/ device.

  • Data Security :

    Users access the virtual applications from their devices (mobiles or thin clients). However, if the device gets damaged or stolen, the application data stays on the server (which is complimented by a secure environment including SSL encryption, firewall and SSL gateway) and cannot be accessed by anyone else without the authentication.

How virtual desktops help businesses?

Virtual desktops have the edge over other technology infrastructures in terms of end-user experience with anytime, anywhere, any device access resulting in employee productivity. It provides consistent end-user experience while accessing business applications and data from remote locations and becomes a perfect choice for sustainable business operations. It is a thin or zero client merely relaying an image of data and applications stored remotely on a central server within a public, private or hybrid Cloud. Since data and applications reside on a central server, management becomes simple. All bug fixes, policy and software upgrades are applied centrally, ensuring security and compliance adherence for all end-users.

If compared with other digital workplace technologies for easy scalability, virtual desktops are proven to be better. It can be set up within few days, and new users can be added in minutes irrespective of their location and can be customized as per the business needs of organizations. Attributes of virtual desktops like workplace accessibility, collaboration, and communication virtually define and enable remote working.

What is a Cloud-hosted Desktop?

A hosted desktop is a virtual machine hosting a remote instance of a local/physical desktop and its peripherals. When they are hosted on a cloud instead of an on-premises data center, it is called a Cloud-hosted Desktop. Cloud-hosted desktops are often delivered “As a Service” and referred to as Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS).

Why your business needs hosted desktops?

Cloud-hosted Desktops empower businesses with any time, anywhere, any device access to business applications, data, communications, and IT services. It is a complete, business-ready solution, delivered as a cloud service with predictable, pay-as-you-go monthly billing. It provides businesses, a simple, flexible and affordable approach to IT.

In addition to the flexibility, hosted desktops also offer the following benefits:

  • Better Security :

    Hosted Desktop providers, in addition to patch management and data backups, also implement cloud technology that protects files and documents against complex security threats

  • Low Maintenance :

    A hosted desktop enables the IT team to easily maintain workspaces/desktops and applications as these apps are hosted on a server of the hosting desktop provider

  • Cost-Effective :

    Organizations can now do away with the purchase of expensive PCs, as hosted desktops enable employees to access their workplaces from any device and ensure the productivity is not affected

How Anunta can help your organization?

With over a decade’s experience in Cloud and Virtualization technologies, Anunta’s Managed Desktop service enables you to provide your end-users with a secured remote access to business-critical data and applications predominantly hosted on cloud.

Anunta offers Managed Windows Virtual Desktops,Managed Horizon Desktops, and Managed Citrix Desktops across Cloud providers to accelerate your digital transformation journey.

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