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Hosted Virtual Desktops

By Bob Smart, business unit manager at Intrinsic Technology.


Date: 16 Jul 2012

As businesses grow, their IT and hosting needs become more complex. What might have been appropriate for a very small team becomes less and less useful and flexible as needs develop, and businesses must decide what will offer them scalable, sustainable benefits going forward. In the case of the desktop computer, this will involve choosing one of three options: maintaining legacy PCs, developing a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) solution in-house or moving to a Hosted Virtual Desktop (HVD) system.

Recent research by IDC showed that there were 13.5 million VDI seats in 2011, representing 3 per cent of all desktop deployments, but this is on course to rise to 34 million seats by 2014. This will more than double its share of the desktop market to 7 per cent.

With the growth of a business, the size of IT teams will also need to grow. Developing a VDI solution in-house will require a large internal resource. In addition to the skills, this also requires investment in hardware, with servers that typically then need to be refreshed every four to five years. By bringing in IT as a service, companies avoid this cost, as hosted solutions do not need these skills or resources. Furthermore, HVD is usually approached on a per user, per month basis, and therefore costs are known at the outset. Increasingly, HVD is becoming the option of choice.

This sort of virtualisation can also minimise the costs of delivering and managing desktop applications and images. In an internally hosted environment, organisations must manage a large number of desktop images, each of which must be fully tested each time an application, update or patch needs to be installed. The consistency of desktop images offered by the HVD option can significantly reduce IT administration costs.

There are numerous additional business benefits to HVD beyond efficiency savings. The solution fits well with modern working practices, enabling improved remote working and accounting for an increasingly mobile workforce.

The right solution can be a flexible and agile desktop solution, which enables users to access their own desktop and business critical applications regardless of device or location. The userexperience is improved, which in turn can improve productivity, and the ability to switch between work and personal desktops on the same device means BringYour Own Device (BYOD) initiatives can be implemented more effectively and securely. This dual-desktop system turns devices into data-less end points – with work and leisure applications completely separated - so security is greatly improved. The HVD system allows multiple forms of end point devices to be used securely as access points – giving staff greater choice and flexibility in how they work.

The IT department is better able to maintain corporate compliance, and can be responsive to adding new users to the network and to addressing corporate security and user storage concerns. It brings tighter control, simplicity and security, because all desktops can be managed centrally.

HVD also enables organisations to remain compliant and up to date with softwarerequirements more easily. Windows XP is due to reach End of Support in 2014, and businesses will need to migrate toWindows 7 with applications which have been designed to work in a legacy andobsolete environment. By virtualising the applications, they can be straightforwardly enabled to function in the new environment.

The complexity of software licensing models can also pose a real headache for companies, and passing the responsibility to a third party via an HVD model can save a great deal of time and frustration.

For acquisitive companies or those which are growing geographically, new employees and offices can be online and linked to corporate systems quickly and easily by VPN to the hosted environment. HVD can also be introduced in combination with existing in-house hosting solutions to enable expansion to overseas or remote new sales offices.

There has been much talk of the security of the cloud and virtualisation in general and it must, indeed, be a key consideration for businesses. However, a HVD solution that is tailored to a company’s requirements can give a superior standard of security to that of a legacy PC setup. HVD offers theopportunity to secure data in a single data centre that is managed and monitored, on a level that might not be possible from an in-house team. Many firms that offer hosting will also provide a backup service of the data, providing further contingency and security.

In general, data centres offer a significantly higher level of security than in-house hosting solutions, given their ability to benefit from economies of scale and invest heavily in such a vital area of concern. All data is hosted in one, highly secure infrastructure rather than on a PC or laptop that could more easily be compromised or evenstolen.

HVD solutions can also enable organisations to implement internal security protocols more easily. One clear example is the use of USB sticks, which can easily be used to lift data from the system. This can pose a real risk. By using an HVD, businesses can lock down USB ports – and the increased access flexibility reduces the need for USB sticks.

The priorities of public and private sector organisations across the world are changing. Security and cost efficiency are now the most important factors that businesses consider when it comes to IT infrastructure – so solutions need to reflect this. Virtualisation can streamline IT systems, cutting costs whilemaking them more secure. Factor in the mobility and flexibility benefits andits clear why there’s a growing trend towards making desktops virtual. The movement of this virtualised environment to a hosted data centre is in manyways the next logical step - shoring up corporate data while saving money ondelivery and management. The increased security, ease of software management and room for expansion that HVD allows make it an increasingly attractive choice for businesses.


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Tags: Server Virtualization, Storage Virtualization, I/O Virtualization, Network Virtualization, Desktop Virtualization, VMware, Hyper-V, Citrix, RedHat

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