There’s no denying it. From a security perspective, hybrid work can be a nightmare. From the physical security threats that arise when employees store sensitive data on off-site devices that could be stolen, to the risk of passing data over insecure home networks, businesses with hybrid workforces face a whole host of security challenges that simply didn’t apply when everyone worked from the office.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that Desktop-as-a-Service, or DaaS, can shore up many of the security issues associated with hybrid work. By replacing traditional desktop computers with cloud-based virtual desktops, DaaS removes one of the core risks of hybrid work – insecure PCs – while simultaneously delivering benefits like higher productivity and enhanced workforce scalability.
It’s unsurprising, then, that 64 percent of IT leaders who responded to a recent Citrix survey agreed that DaaS is a “key factor” in their organizations’ approaches to securing hybrid work. The survey also found that improving security for hybrid workforces was the top business benefit that respondents associated with DaaS. Advantages like cost savings and improved business continuity were on the list, too, but they took a back seat to security.
To understand why so many IT leaders see DaaS a pillar of hybrid work security, let’s look at the major security challenges of hybrid work, and how DaaS addresses them.
Top Security Challenges of Hybrid Work
When businesses embrace hybrid work models – meaning ones in which employees work partly from the office, and partly from remote locations – they inevitably subject themselves to new types of cybersecurity risks.
The specific security challenges of hybrid work will vary depending on factors like which types of systems a business uses and where remote workers are based, but the risks generally fall into three main categories:
- Data security: It’s harder to secure sensitive information when the information is stored on devices that are not located in the office. The risk of physical security breaches is higher. So is the risk that malware running on a remote worker’s PC could access sensitive business data stored on the PC.
- Network security: Hybrid workforces can’t be protected with corporate firewalls in the same way that businesses secure traditional workforces. Firewalls simply don’t work when employees need to connect from anywhere and the IP addresses of remote endpoints are constantly changing. Solutions like VPNs can help by encrypting data, but as Forbes notes, they are “not a magic solution that prevents all security threats.” For example, malware running on a compromised remote PC could potentially intercept sensitive network traffic even if the PC connects to business systems over a VPN.
- Software security: IT teams can’t efficiently enforce security controls through frameworks like Active Directory if devices aren’t constantly connected to the corporate network. As a result, hybrid workers may be able to install applications that introduce malware or other vulnerabilities to the systems they use when working remotely. Compromised applications could, in turn, access sensitive data that passes through employees’ devices.
The list of hybrid work security challenges could go on, but these points capture the essentials.
How DaaS Protects Hybrid Workforces
When businesses ditch conventional desktops and replace them with DaaS, many of the hybrid work security issues described above go out the window. The main reason why is that when employees no longer rely on insecure desktop computers to work remotely, the data, networking and software security issues associated with desktop computers cease to apply.
In a DaaS-based desktop environment, data never physically leaves the data center where virtual desktops are hosted. That means that physical security risks disappear. In addition, because DaaS separates virtual desktop sessions from the systems that employees use to log in, any malware or other vulnerabilities present on remote workers’ local devices remains isolated from the virtual desktop environments that they use for work.
Network security is much stronger under DaaS, too, because all data passing into and out of virtual desktop environments can be encrypted – even if hybrid workers aren’t connected to a VPN. Network data can also be subjected to firewall filters because virtual desktops can have fixed IP addresses, making it possible to deploy many of the same network-level security controls that would be in place on a traditional corporate network.
As for software security, modern DaaS platforms allow IT teams to establish whichever security rules they need to govern which software is allowed to run inside corporate desktop environments. Virtual desktops remain constantly connected to central software security and monitoring systems, regardless of whether employees are logged in or not, or where they connect from.
DaaS – A Pillar of Hybrid Workforce Security
To be sure, stronger end-user security is only one of the many benefits that DaaS delivers. Virtual desktops also provide business advantages like the ability to add desktop sessions quickly when new employees are hired, predictable monthly pricing and a significant reduction in the amount of time and effort required to administer desktop systems.
An added advantage that comes with DaaS is the flexibility it brings to employers and employees alike. While employees have the flexibility to work from anywhere – home or office – it gives employers the flexibility to hire employees even in locations where the organization has no physical presence. Unburdened by geographical limitations, DaaS also helps organizations in optimizing their office space. As for employee experience, with less time spent in commute and proper work-life balance, DaaS results in enhancing it, resulting in higher productivity.
Arguably, however, DaaS’s ability to secure hybrid workforces is one of the very most important reasons why businesses today should embrace cloud-based virtual desktops. In a world where nearly three-quarters of businesses in the U.S. have already pivoted to hybrid work or expect to do so, the security risks associated with hybrid workers who rely on traditional desktops are not going to go away on their own.
But they will disappear for companies that embrace DaaS, which provides a fundamentally more secure means of giving hybrid workers the desktop computing infrastructure and applications they need to be both productive and secure, no matter where they are based.