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Change is difficult for everyone, and enterprise computing is no different. The degree of difficulty can be minimized based on the strategic approach and project plan, as well as maximizing end-user acceptance.

But first, what exactly is a cloud desktop? A cloud desktop, which is commonly referred to as Desktop as a Service (DaaS), presents a full operating system workstation and applications as hosted externally by a cloud infrastructure. The user device is largely irrelevant and can be a tablet, desktop computer, laptop, or even a smartphone.

Strategic Approach to Cloud Desktops

Enterprises that successfully adopt cloud desktops incorporate solid justifications; lack of clear goals or simply joining a technical wave are not good enough reasons. Common drivers for initiating this type of transition are based on cost savings, offloading IT services, lack of availability of qualified IT personnel, data center hardware maintenance, licensing intricacies, application integration issues, and other complexities. Typically, cloud desktops are considered for not just one reason but instead multiple business and technical requirements.

The size of the enterprise bears weight as well. Small businesses are more likely to be plagued with most if not all of the above drivers and thus have a more immediate need to make a strategic change in short order. Small businesses must be flexible and agile, and strategy is often determined by the business owner or a few members of management. Although cloud desktops can positively benefit large companies as well, these larger entities often have IT staff, expertise, and equipment and thus spend more time defining strategic direction and facilitating change.

Selecting a partner that aligns with your strategic approach is an important success criterion. Querying the partner about the number of years in business, the number of virtual desktops supported, how little or how much technical support is provided to users, service level agreements, customer administrative interface and expectations, as well as testimonials will weigh into the decision. In addition, a trial period will provide a realistic demonstration of potential partner capabilities and services.

Planning for Success

The adage, “failure to plan is planning to fail,” is certainly true when it comes to cloud desktop implementations. The project plan should include clearly defined goals. In addition, key aspects of the project plan include testing “what if?” scenarios, application integration, databases/file storage and repositories, and network connectivity, as well as the actual transition process.

In addition, the actual cutover may require consulting, technical, and/or training assistance, depending on the complexity of the current computer environment. For example, if the new virtual cloud desktop environment will be based solely on Microsoft Office applications, even including Dynamics CRM, Visio, SharePoint, or other add-ons, these can easily be incorporated into the cloud. However, more complex client/server applications including backend resources will necessitate additional time, integration effort, and storage requirements that should be incorporated into the project plan.

User Acceptance and Transition

Ensuring that users are content with a new computer model, as well as a satisfactory transition, are the most critical keys to success. If users do not fully embrace the new computing system, achievement of project goals and work effort may be compromised.

If users are complaining about slow computers, application response times, the time necessary to upgrade anti-virus software and the like, they will probably be receptive to a new system that addresses these items. But keeping in mind that a percentage of users are resistant to change no matter the benefit, it is important that communications regarding upcoming changes are clear and concise.

Engaging some users in a pilot is an excellent way to minimize resistance to new cloud desktops. These early adopters should be composed of individuals from various departments and work titles, and they should be encouraged to share their experiences with their co-workers. As a result, their co-workers will build up excitement for the upcoming change and be receptive to it.

User training helps drive adoption. Whether that training is formal or consists of a few short videos, these tools help by addressing questions and potential issues before they alienate new users. Access to Q & A materials will serve as reference materials.

Some users may be fearful that their jobs or their co-workers’ jobs will be eliminated due to adoption of cloud computing and thus express resistance. If this is the case, a straightforward announcement should be made to dispel grapevine rumors.

A few users will be hesitant to give up their beloved computers for their day-to-day work. Users that are accustomed to accessing local files or other data stored on the local hard drive may feel that they are losing an element of control in the workplace and that the cloud is monitoring every computing activity. These concerns should be acknowledged, and users should be encouraged to appreciate the centralization and advanced computing capabilities that cloud desktops offer.

The transition process and timeline should likewise be communicated clearly to users, including dates, events, and activities. If a weekend cutover takes place, a few users should be involved with testing to ensure full functionality on Monday morning.

Conclusion

As you consider transitioning to cloud desktops, a robust strategic approach, project plan, and user acceptance engagement are keys to maximizing success. User acceptance can be the most complex aspect of a cloud desktop rollout, and achieving user adoption goals is contingent upon involvement and clear communications.

Many folks declared 2020 the year of the cloud desktop, due in no small part to the onset of the pandemic and the pressure it placed on businesses to implement more flexible IT systems.

But even with 2020 having come and gone, there remains plenty of reason to believe that cloud desktops will remain critical for the foreseeable future. The pandemic may finally (hopefully) be ending, but the benefits offered by cloud desktops will remain very relevant in a post-Covid world.

With that reality in mind, here’s a look at four reasons why cloud desktops continue to be a valuable solution in 2021.

1. Ongoing remote work

The slowing down of the pandemic means that more workers have the option to return to their offices. But many won’t, at least not on a full-time basis. Remote work is here to stay, according to most analysts.

Indeed, a survey by the National Association for Business Economics found that only 11 percent of businesses expect all of their employees to return to pre-pandemic work arrangements in the near future.

For businesses, then, providing desktop environments that can be accessed from anywhere and at any time — as cloud desktops can — remains a priority in 2021 and beyond. The pre-pandemic world, in which most employees spent all of their working hours at their on-site workstations, is not coming back.

2. Increasing compliance challenges

The regulatory compliance landscape is growing more and more challenging by the year. As new compliance laws come online — such as Brazil’s LGPD, which took effect in late 2020, and California’s CPRA, which goes live in 2023 — businesses face new requirements surrounding data security and privacy.

At the same time, enforcement of existing regulations is intensifying. GDPR fines increased by 40 percent in 2020, for example, a trend that is likely to continue for some time.

For businesses, increased regulatory challenges mean that protecting private data is becoming more and more important. Cloud desktops help to meet these challenges by eliminating risks associated with physical device insecurity. They also make it easier to centralize data in the cloud, where it can be secured in a more consistent and standardized way than if it were spread across sprawling on-premises workstations. And they provide greater control over data sovereignty: With cloud desktops, you can store data in one region while making accessible to employees in another, a feat that can’t be achieved using traditional desktops and local storage.

3. Growing IT costs

The overall costs of IT resources continue to rise. Gartner forecasts a 6.2 percent increase in IT spending in 2021, which comes on top of the investments businesses made in 2020 to respond to the pandemic.

As IT spending continues to spiral, businesses must work harder to ensure they can control costs and maximize return on investment. Cloud desktops, which can be deployed with no capital expenditures and can be turned off when they are no longer needed, offer critical cost advantages in this respect. They also provide organizations with desktop environments that can be used indefinitely, with no maintenance costs. In contrast, physical workstations typically last only a bit longer than five years, and they require constant maintenance.

For businesses seeking to keep IT costs in check, then, and to ensure that they reap a full return on their IT investments, cloud desktops offer a clear advantage.

4. Everything else is in the cloud

More than four-fifths of organizations already host the majority of their workloads in the cloud. That’s a trend that is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future.

For businesses that host virtually everything else in the cloud, it only makes sense to move desktop environments to the cloud as well. Doing so ensures that desktops don’t undercut the organization’s ability to take full advantage of the agility that the cloud enables.

In other words, when your desktop infrastructure is as scalable, flexible and cost-effective as the rest of your cloud-based workloads, your business can live fully in the age of the cloud, without traditional workstations dragging you down.

Conclusion: Cloud desktops are here to stay
Even as we look forward to a post-pandemic world, the trends that made cloud desktops an obvious answer to the challenges businesses faced last year are not going away. The need to enable anytime, anywhere work, meet tight compliance and security requirements, optimize IT spending and take full advantage of the cloud all mean that cloud desktops remain a powerful solution for 2021 and beyond.

Comparing Cloud Desktops: Windows Virtual Desktops vs. Horizon vs. Citrix

One of the great things about the cloud desktop market is that there are a number of offerings to choose from, each with different strengths and weaknesses.

But having so much choice can also be a challenge. If you are new to the world of cloud desktops, you may be unsure which solution is the best for your needs.

This article provides guidance by comparing the pros and cons of three leading cloud desktop platforms: Windows Virtual Desktop, VMware Horizon Desktop and Citrix Cloud Desktops.

What is a cloud desktop?

Before diving into the similarities and differences between these solutions, let’s define what a cloud desktop is.

A cloud desktop is a virtual machine that runs in the cloud and hosts a desktop environment. Users can connect to the environment remotely, meaning that their desktop applications and data are accessible from anywhere with an Internet connection.

Cloud desktops are similar to but different from Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, or VDI. VDI platforms host virtual desktop sessions on local servers rather than in the cloud. VDI provides many of the same benefits as cloud desktops, and in some ways, VDI can be more secure and cost-effective. However, because cloud desktops centralize desktop environments in highly available public clouds, they offer maximum flexibility and reliability.

Comparing cloud desktop platforms

Windows Virtual Desktop, VMware Horizon Desktop and Citrix Cloud Desktops all offer the same basic functionality: The ability to host desktop environments in the cloud. They also all support application virtualization, which means they can stream individual apps instead of full desktop environments from the cloud if desired.

However, the three platforms differ in nuanced but important ways.

Operating system support

Windows Virtual Desktop, as its name suggests, supports virtualization only for Windows –specifically, Windows 7, Windows 10, and Windows Server 2012 R2, 2016, 2019.

VMware Horizon and Citrix Cloud Desktops are more flexible. They can host Linux-based desktop environments as well as Windows. Of course, given that the vast majority of businesses use Windows desktops, this difference is likely not important for many use cases.

Cloud hosting options

When it comes to which cloud will host your desktops, VMware Horizon is the most flexible option. It can run on any major public cloud.

In contrast, Citrix Cloud Desktops and Windows Virtual Desktop are hosted in the Azure cloud. (Citrix’s other VDI solutions can be deployed on other public clouds, but its fully managed cloud desktop solution runs in Azure.)

Single vs. multiple sessions

Currently, Windows Virtual Desktop boasts support for multiple sessions. That means multiple users can share the same virtual desktop at the same time, with each user operating in a secure, isolated session. This flexibility can reduce the total number of cloud desktops that an organization needs to deploy.

Horizon and Citrix Cloud Desktops don’t offer this option. On their platforms, only one user can be connected to each virtual machine at a time. (Multiple users can share a virtual machine, but they can’t use it concurrently.)

VDI compatibility

Windows Virtual Desktop was designed from the beginning to function only as a cloud desktop platform. Although Microsoft offers separate VDI solutions that can be deployed on-premises, they are not closely related to Windows Virtual Desktop, and you can’t easily migrate from Windows Virtual Desktop to Microsoft VDI platform.

That makes Windows Virtual Desktop different from Horizon and Citrix Cloud Desktops, both of which are based on VDI frameworks that their respective vendors offered prior to going into the cloud desktop market.

This means that Horizon and Citrix Cloud Desktops may be a better choice for organizations that want the flexibility of moving some of their desktop virtualization environment on-premises, now or in the future. They can do so without having to move to a totally new platform.

Maturity

Windows Virtual Desktop, which debuted in September 2018, is the newest cloud desktop offering that we’re comparing in this article. VMware Horizon traces its roots to 2006 (although the product has evolved significantly since then), and Citrix has been offering cloud desktops since 2015 (and has been doing VDI for longer than that). From this perspective, VMware and Citrix’s offerings are more established

This isn’t to say that Windows Virtual Desktop is less reliable. It’s a production-ready, enterprise-grade product. But it is a newer solution, and it arguably still feels a little rougher around the edges than the other platforms.

On the other hand, Windows Virtual Desktop offers the advantage of having been built from the start for the cloud, rather than being born as a VDI solution that was extended into the cloud. It can feel more modern in that respect.

Conclusion: Which cloud desktop service to use when

In sum, Windows Virtual Desktop makes sense if you want to benefit from multi-session support and you want a cloud desktop platform that is well integrated into the Azure cloud.

Meanwhile, the major advantages of VMware Horizon and Citrix Cloud Desktops are that they are in many ways more flexible with regard to how they are hosted and which types of operating systems you can run.

Remote work is no longer the temporary arrangement that many people expected it to be when the pandemic began. It’s here to stay for the foreseeable future, and companies must adapt by embracing remote-work trends that will keep their workers productive and happy — whether they are in the office part of the time or not at all.

With that need in mind, here’s a list of the top remote-work trends for 2021 that companies should consider as they prepare for a future in which significant numbers of employees work remotely on a permanent basis.

Optimizing the remote-employee experience

When remote work seemed like a temporary arrangement, most companies put relatively little thought into the employee experience, meaning how employees thought and felt about working from home.

They didn’t invest in collaboration technology that would help employees feel connected to the rest of the organization while working in isolation. Nor did most companies deploy tools that provide a frustration-free experience for connecting to IT resources from out of the office. At best, they gave their employees software like a Windows RDP client so they could log into their company workstations from home.

As it has become clear that many employees will be working remotely for the foreseeable future, companies have begun investing more heavily in activities like virtual coffee breaks, which can help employees collaborate and engage with each other. They have also implemented more user-friendly technologies, such as cloud desktops, which make it easier for employees to access the applications and data they need to do their jobs, no matter where they are located.

Securing remote IT assets

A number of new security challenges emerge when workers are connecting remotely. Networks become more difficult to secure because they need to support users and devices connecting from beyond the firewall. Data is at higher risk of being downloaded by employees to local devices that are not physically secure. Even phishing emails can be harder to detect.

Indeed, according to one study, 20 percent of organizations have suffered a security breach since the start of the pandemic that was facilitated by remote workers.

This means that, going forward, it will become critical to secure the infrastructure and software that employees use to work remotely. Centralizing desktop environments in the cloud is one way to do this. When workstations run virtually inside secure cloud environments, data and applications never have to leave the cloud, which significantly reduces exposure to potential attack.

Supporting peripheral devices

When employees work remotely temporarily, being able to connect their company-owned IT environments to devices like printers and scanners is not usually a top priority. They can wait until they’re back in the office to print documents. Or they can print a few on their personal equipment at home.

But when employees work remotely regularly, these ad hoc approaches don’t work. Workers need a seamless way to integrate devices in their at-home work environment with in-office servers, file shares and other resources their company owns.

This can be done, but it requires solutions tailored-made for this purpose. As companies prepare to support remote workers permanently, factoring in the need to integrate with peripheral devices will be a priority.

Maintaining IT hardware

Keeping IT hardware up and running also becomes more challenging when remote work is permanent. Employees may be able to get by with laptops that need maintenance when they’re working from home temporarily. But when they rarely or never go into the office, providing support for physical hardware is much more difficult.

One way to cope with this challenge is to minimize the amount of physical hardware that companies need to maintain. Here again, cloud desktops can help by allowing organizations to provide employees with a complete desktop environment that they can access from anywhere using their own hardware. And because the only resource required to log into the cloud desktop is a Web browser, there is no special hardware or software that the company needs to deploy and maintain on employees’ personal devices to keep them productive.

Keeping costs in check

The cost of supplying remote workers with the equipment they need to work effectively from anywhere can rise quickly, especially if companies try to recreate the IT infrastructure of the office within each employee’s home. When they do that, employees sometimes require high-powered desktops or laptops, routers and perhaps even UPS units to keep their devices running.

A simpler — and less costly — approach is to host desktop environments in the cloud, which don’t fail when the power goes off or the router goes down, and which can be configured to provide whichever resource allocations employees need. When employees are assigned cloud desktops, they can access their workstations from any location and device, without depending on special (or expensive) equipment.

Conclusion: Keeping remote employees productive and happy

If 2020 introduced many employees to remote work for the first time, 2021 is the year when companies realized that remote work would continue indefinitely for many of their employees. To thrive in this environment, organizations must provide employees with the tools they need to work efficiently from anywhere, while also addressing the security and cost challenges associated with remote work.

Hybrid Cloud vs Multi Cloud

Going forward, CIOs are no longer facing the question as to whether or not to incorporate cloud into the IT strategy, but rather, “How much cloud?” The key options are hybrid cloud or multi-cloud, and each has a multitude of pros and cons.

What is Hybrid Cloud

Hybrid cloud is a deployment based on two distinct cloud types, usually private cloud, and public cloud. This typically signifies a private data center that works in conjunction with a public cloud service, such as Azure, Amazon Web Services (AWS), or Google Cloud Platform (GCP). Oftentimes, the private data center serves as the principal site that serves production users, and the cloud environment service supports burst capacity requirements and/or disaster recovery. This approach is often the first adoption phase for any type of cloud technologies, and in some instances, it becomes the permanent approach.

Key Advantages of Hybrid Cloud

A key advantage of hybrid cloud relates to operational efficiencies. When marketing initiates a sales blitz or seasonal peaks occur, the chosen public cloud platform is invoked only when the private data center cannot support user load or is unavailable. Although uncommitted public cloud pricing carries the highest per-unit cost, these resources are only consumed temporarily and enabled, as necessary.

Because the public cloud component of hybrid cloud is an add-on service, disruption to the existing IT infrastructure is minimal. As a result, the IT staff continues to maintain and manage the existing environment as a well-known entity, and cloud services are appended. Thus, the learning cycle for the IT staff is gradual.

What is Multi-Cloud

Multi-cloud signifies implementations wherein in two or more cloud providers of the same type that are used collectively to provide the total solution. Because cloud services differ in offerings and cost, the “mix and match” approach enables enterprises to deploy the most appropriate and cost-effective components from each cloud provider.

Key Advantages of Multi-Cloud

A key advantage of multi-cloud is the efficiency of resources without dependency on a private data center. If one cloud provider can more efficiently address large database resources while another can more effectively address virtual desktop workloads, the two can be married to address the full spectrum of IT requirements, often at a better price.

Global entities can likewise from a multi-cloud approach because public cloud vendors may uniquely have a local presence in smaller countries. For example, if tasked with providing the best user experience for an upcoming acquisition in Stockholm, Sweden, AWS would represent the best choice because the other major providers do not locally support Sweden. But if that new acquisition were based in Santiago, Chile, Azure and GCP have announced service from that location.

However, network connectivity and security must be impeccably configured to ensure that these types of issues do not negate the benefits of multi-cloud. In addition, administrators must be completely up to date with knowledge of the services of each cloud provider because there could be an unexpected downstream impact due to a modification on the part of any single provider.

A distinct advantage of multi-cloud is reduced lock-in to each cloud vendor, as well as redundancy. However, architecting and moving cloud systems to support complex modifications requires well-trained IT personnel when resources are shifted.

Which cloud is right for your organization?

Because every IT organization is different, there is no simple answer as to whether hybrid cloud or multi-cloud is most suitable for your environment. By reviewing your own unique environment in detail, as well as future requirements, the answer will become clear.

The first step in making this decision is dependent upon taking a hard look at IT requirements. A small IT organization may consist of a few people that handle multi-faceted requirements that range from cabling the data center to integrating complex business applications. Especially where system upgrades are burdensome and current resources are at the tipping point, relieving the physical data center work effort and porting the compute requirements to a multi-cloud strategy focused on two public clouds would likely provide the functionality and redundancy needed to optimize IT operations.

Large enterprises have significantly more systems in place and any type of transition moves at a slow pace due to the number of people, resources, and processes in place. These organizations often have a significant investment in physical disaster recovery sites that maintain parallel resources, and an immediate cost savings can be realized by adopting a hybrid cloud strategy for DR. While a multi-cloud strategy may or may not be undertaken for the long term, there will be an immediate win associated with adopting a hybrid cloud strategy.

Cost factors into the total solution significantly. Cloud adoption estimates are frequently underestimated in terms of consulting resources and ongoing compute requirements. Be sure to query partners in depth regarding estimates and engage in conversation with technical community resources that have made a transition similar to your project plan to understand any unplanned costs and delays that were encountered.

Way forward

In 2021, adopting cloud is no longer a question of “if,” but instead, “when.” Hybrid cloud–as commonly represented by a private cloud and a public cloud for DR and burst requirements–is often undertaken as the first step in cloud adoption. Some enterprises then move forward with a multi-cloud strategy, typically based on two or more public cloud providers, to offload all compute requirements. Which is best for your enterprise depends largely on the size and complexity of your organization and system resources, as well as the cost.

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.