In the old days, companies purchased PCs that either had an operating system (most likely Windows) already installed, or they installed Windows using a CD-ROM to each individual machine. Workers would boot up their computers and do work from their own desktop.
With today’s virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), instead of installing corporate desktops on every endpoint machine, companies store workers’ desktops on servers. Workers simply login to the company network to view their own individual desktop images.
VDI can be an essential component of a smart BYOD strategy for businesses when it’s executed correctly. It provides better security and helps companies be certain that workers are compliant with BYOD policy. Employees have the flexibility to access their stored desktops at any time using the device of their choosing. Storing desktops centrally gives companies less to worry about when devices are lost or stolen.
Read on for some pros and cons and think about how you can make VDI work for your business:
How Virtual Desktops Work.
Virtual desktops centralize essential data and applications within the datacenter instead of allowing employees to store these crucial assets on their individual devices. When employees edit documents or create other kinds of work, all of their work is done on the server with outputs sent to mobile devices or desktops. All data images are kept on the server, allowing employees to load them on demand. Troubleshooting is centralized because IT can work on the virtual desktop centrally instead of remotely accessing individual machines or sending out technicians for help calls. When disaster strikes, VDIs give businesses a greater chance of maintaining continuity across all locations.
According to a 2013 TechRepublic survey, 50 percent of companies with 250 or more employees use VDI. In many cases, they use distributed desktops, meaning that the desktop image that an employee sees is customized according to his or her role within the company. To get the best results when converting to VDI, companies should build an infrastructure that can accommodate not only current capacity but also future capacity. In other words, one should build VDI for where a company should be five years from now.
Many vendors will try to convince companies to purchase all-new datacenter equipment when setting up virtual desktops. In reality, older servers can handle virtual environment testing, and older desktops can still be used in lieu of thin client hardware. A Windows desktop doesn’t require a computer or thin client because it can be accessed with a tablet or smartphone. Although companies shouldn’t skimp on needed resources, they also shouldn’t buy new equipment unnecessarily.Most of the time, a business only utilizes about 1 percent of its network resources. However, at certain times of the day, such as when everyone starts working at around 9 a.m. and begins booting their computers and mobile devices, virtual desktops can place taxing demands on resources. Fortunately, solid-state drives (SSD) on many devices have improved the networked storage’s I/O performance, speeding bootup times. The “boot storm” phenomenon in which everyone tried to access virtual desktops at the same time and ended up crashing the server has largely been resolved.
Making the VDI Switch.
Users will need to know how they can use their virtual desktops. They’ll need to know how to access them through the company VPN, how to access them using mobile devices, how to use the appropriate login credentials and where to save files. When IT pilots the program, users should be made aware of typical problems, like slow application loading, slow logon and video latency. Scott Matteson of TechRepublic suggests setting up a shared page or wiki for VDI issues, allowing employees to post VDI problems for IT to review. Most importantly, analyze usage habits to fine-tune the system, and ask for user feedback.VDI users need to conceptualize their networks as “identity-aware networks.” When people begin logging into their virtual desktops from multiple locations using multiple devices, the network will need to gather information related to users, devices and locations. IT can then use that information to develop policy based on the identities and locations of users and their devices.
VDI doesn’t mean that companies will no longer need endpoint security solutions. However, with careful resource allocation, virtual desktops can provide an additional layer of BYOD security by minimizing the risk of storing data on employee devices.