As we embark on a new year, what lies ahead for new technologies, and what will be the impact on the workplace? Will 2021 introduce incremental changes or will ground-breaking technologies profoundly and quickly impact the workplace?
2020 in Review
First, let’s take a brief look at the technical changes that occurred over the past year. Of course, Covid-19 abruptly changed how we work, and it forced the adoption of new computing technologies. In particular, workers were thrust into working from home, as well as altered ways of collaborating with business colleagues. Some businesses expanded exponentially, whereas others declined.
As we look back at 2020, the single most impact from an end-user computing standpoint was the result of Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) gaining in popularity. Although WVD was actually released in late September 2019, the first few months were largely evaluation and testing, not actual adoption.
While virtualization technologies have been available for over 20 years, the combination of cloud-based infrastructure, advantageous licensing, and Covid-19 caused many small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) to adopt the WVD in 2020.
As Anunta approaches a decade of providing end-user virtualization technology services, we have worked with our customers to marry the right technical capabilities with business needs. We have seen firsthand how small businesses have been able to transform themselves with the adoption of better IT services.
As small businesses continue to represent a critical pillar in the economy, the creation and growth of this business segment will draw even more attention in the future. Small businesses have unique needs, particularly from a user computing standpoint. However, many small businesses struggle culturally between the desire to “do it all,” versus outsourcing IT services. Going forward, more and more small businesses will accept IT service providers as the optimal solution, especially in light of how the workplace will continue to morph in the future.
Virtual desktops are a key enabler to a more efficient workplace. Whether the virtual desktops are provided by Microsoft or VMware or Citrix, or another technology, the ability for users to securely access enterprise resources from anywhere and via any device removes many of the hindrances of traditional computing. The user device is largely irrelevant, i.e., access is not dependent upon a particular piece of hardware. Thus, whether users access enterprise resources via a corporate-owned device, a home computer or tablet, or even a large mobile device, so long as an internet browser can be opened, the virtual desktop can be accessed.
Remote working has transformed the culture of many workers, and employers will more concretely realize cost efficiencies related to office space, as well as increased productivity due to the elimination of commuting time. According to a recent Gallup poll, “Nearly two-thirds of U.S. workers who have been working remotely during the pandemic would like to continue to do so.” Even after Covid-19 subsides, many employers have openly stated that the traditional office will not be revived. For some, this means working from home permanently. Where some face-to-face collaboration is required, this will translate to unassigned office hotdesks with thin clients or generic devices when visits to the office are necessary. Whether the employee works from home or a hotdesk, the virtual desktop will provide the underlying technology that makes it feasible.
There will be an increased emphasis on system security. As much as employers want to provide secure remote access, bad actors continue to proliferate and will become even more creative in the future. This challenge is even more critical for small businesses that are not savvy to these intruders.
Accessing the virtual desktop requires optimal security and analytics. While SSL/TLS security is a standard feature of virtual desktop sessions, we can expect to see even higher security, intelligence features, and analytics integrated into user access. Cloud technologies inherently incorporate built-in security, and we can expect artificial intelligence to play a larger role in the behind-the-scenes security. Security Information and Event Manager (SIEM) intelligence will be further optimized and become even more critical detecting system threats.
Government and industry compliance requirements will continue to affect what businesses can and can’t do. Health care and banking already have a myriad of security requirements, such as password compliance, and it is reasonable to assume that these compliance requirements will continue to increase in complexity. The downstream impact falls onto not just the IT organization, but also individual users. Virtual desktop service providers, also known as Desktop as a Service (DaaS) providers, such as Anunta, are engaged by numerous end customers in various industries, and those outsourced systems often supersede compliance requirements without special requests.
Affording the Future
Of course, the price tag factors into the technologies that enterprises will adopt in the future. The price for computing services must align with pre-defined budgets and not represent an exorbitant increase in costs. DaaS providers fully recognize this; in addition, competition and technical advances force this commercial alignment.
The workplace of the future simplifies how we work. It is based on the ability to securely access enterprise resources from anywhere, on any device, at any time, and at a reasonable cost. While this is basically available today, we can expect a surge in security and system enhancements that further drive the value of DaaS.