The Value of the Virtual Desktop

June 2, 2016 (535 Views)

What if your on-site IT gear wasn’t so smart after all? What if it was… well, dumb?

At a very basic level, that’s the idea behind the virtual desktop, also known as virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). It’s a simple application of the concept of virtualization: Move the smarts to a data center; stream the applications over a high-bandwidth connection; and virtualize the IT environment, making it accessible for any device.

What does that mean for your business’s IT environment? That your on-site IT gear isn’t storing or processing anything. It means plug-and-play for your workers—from laptops, tablets, smartphones and other “dumb” terminals. Rather than managing those various endpoints individually, IT administrators can centrally consolidate application functions, resulting in reduced service delivery and application costs, simplified system backup functions, and more consistent user experiences.

Increasing virtual appeal

Over the past decade or so, VDI has become an increasingly attractive technology for IT professionals grappling with cost control while simultaneously trying to satisfy demands for flexible working and access to information from multiple connected devices.

Desktop virtualization is not without some potential performance bottlenecks for IT admins—most notably, storage—but recent improvements in data deduplication and flash storage have helped address those limitations.

VDI also shifts more IT spending to upfront capital expenditures, thanks to the required server, storage, network bandwidth and data center implications that often involve infrastructure and software purchases. So there’s more cost outlay at the beginning, but the long-term savings on operating expenses can be a powerful benefit. Enterprises also have the option of managed services, in which all upfront investments are made by the provider.


The Advantages of a Virtual Desktop

So what are the chief advantages of the virtual desktop approach to consider for your business?

  • Cost savings. Moving to a virtual desktop architecture means not owning and maintaining conventional computing assets. If you’re relying on a managed service provider, you’ll pay as you go for cloud services and support, eliminating upfront hardware and software expenditures.
  • Flexibility. The virtual desktop environment eliminates the need to maintain complex IT infrastructure—hardware and software. It facilitates the flow of information between offices and increases the productivity of employees who work remotely. Virtual desktops allow workers to securely communicate and collaborate from wherever they’re located. They can log in using a laptop, desktop, or mobile device, and access the same consistent virtual workspace.
  • Scalability. VDI lets businesses expand from dozens of desktop profiles to thousands, as well as customize operating systems and the application packages delivered to employees. Organizations can add new offices or branches, and set up new desktops in a matter of hours without absorbing a tremendous amount of upfront capital expenditures.
  • Security. Virtual desktops mean an organization’s sensitive data is protected on secure servers in a datacenter, rather than left unprotected on PCs—or worse, on mobile devices that can be forgotten in taxis, airports, or restaurants. In a VDI architecture, workstations typically are furnished through clustered servers in a datacenter, which allows for a high amount of redundancy. Since the data is housed in the datacenter, there is the added institutional benefit with disaster recovery. Workstations typically are rolled into the storage replication that is used for server protection to address the issue of backing up user data.
  • Simplicity. Most virtual desktop environments are designed to offer the exact same user experiences as their physical counterparts. If employees are already comfortable using Microsoft Word, Excel, and other mainstay business applications on PCs, they’ll face no problems accessing those same apps in the cloud; and employees will benefit from the consistency factor.
  • Speed. Virtualization enhances the desktop experience. Users are able to start up their computers faster and get to work quickly, and IT admins rely on the backend infrastructure for storage, compute, and memory for users. When user requirements change, additional resources are easily accommodated by tweaks in the console that can be accomplished in a few minutes.

Overall, virtualization of the desktop means enhanced capabilities to each user, better ROI, and reduced capital and operational expenses—while also enhancing security and predictability.
Not so dumb after all.


flickr photo by Judit Klein shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license
flickr photo by MarLeah Cole shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

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  • Jason Meyers

    Jason Meyers has more than 20 years of experience as a journalist and content strategist, spanning leadership roles at Entrepreneur, Light Reading, Telephony, Wireless Review, Penton Media, SmithBucklin and more. He is based in Chicago.

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