More and more of our computing, whether it’s storing data or running applications, is being carried out in the cloud.
But what about the desktop? The collection of things that make up your day-to day computing.
Increasingly, desktops can be in the cloud too. This is known as a virtual desktop and it takes all the elements of a conventional PC – processor, storage, data and operating system – and puts it in the cloud. This virtual computer can then be accessed from any device that has internet access.
Advantages of virtual desktops
Using a remote hosted desktop delivers a number of benefits. Firstly it’s safer and more secure. Most virtual systems are ‘non-persistent’ which means that the session gets wiped when you log off and you start afresh next time you log on. Any malware, therefore, doesn’t have the chance to inflict damage on the system.
Secondly, it simplifies administration because updates and changes can be made to every virtual machine in the business from a central point and rolled out instantly.
On a day-to-day basis, you can also balance processing power and storage requirements to meet the needs of the users, for example, in periods of high demand.
Because all of your software is effectively installed on the same system, there are also fewer issues with compatibility than you might get if you had software installed on multiple different machines.
Finally, of course, there’s the cost. You need only pay for the resources that you actually use, so there’s no need to have redundant storage or processing power sitting around waiting for periods of high demand.
A remote desktop allows you to have the infrastructure of your system tailored to meet your specific business needs. You can configure your system to your requirements rather than having to put up with a ‘one-size fits all’ solution.
You can create a standard template for your business that is rolled out to all users. Compare this to a traditional desktop model where you would have to configure each PC individually and keep it up to date, and where changes might mean some machines diverge over time from the corporate norm.
With a hosted desktop, even if someone does something wrong or changes something they shouldn’t, you can easily get them back to the way things should be.
There’s an important safety aspect here too. Virtual remote desktops are protected by enterprise-grade antivirus and firewall solutions that are kept constantly up to date, so you can be sure they are likely to be safer than on-premise PCs.
In most cases, the systems are hidden from public internet access so it’s hard for attackers to compromise them.
You also have plenty of options to secure access. You can enforce password rules to keep sign ons secure, in addition to backing that up with extra security measures such as biometrics or multi-factor authentication to ensure that only authorised people can access your systems.
You also benefit from the fact that the service provider will be constantly monitoring its systems and dealing with any issues before they have the chance to develop into major problems.
Of course, this doesn’t remove your responsibility entirely; you might still want to have your own backup measures in place, for example, as an added layer of reassurance that your information is being kept safe.
Using virtual desktops
So, how can you exploit these advantages in your business?
Firstly, it allows you to have consistency across the business, without the need to have IT technicians constantly working to keep everything aligned. For smaller businesses, this means more resources can be put into core business activities rather than into IT.
A further advantage is that your staff have access to exactly the same system wherever they are working. This makes it ideal for hot-desking environments, or where people frequently work from different locations.
If you have sales staff on the road, for example, or home workers or people who divide their time between branches, their computing experience and the resources to which they have access will remain exactly the same.
Working from home can make people more productive so anything that promotes that and makes it easier for them to access the systems they need when they need them is good for your business.
One final point, for added safety you should ensure that any PCs or mobile devices used to access the remote desktop have their own security software installed to provide an extra layer of reassurance.
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