Many of the people reading these words are at work. They are looking at a screen connected to a computer that contains gigabytes of data and applications crucial to their productivity. Without the device, they are unable to work. Almost everyone else reading this article will have a smartphone in hand. Smartphones like the iPhone can carry gigabytes of data, but almost all of it will also live in the cloud and be accessible from any other device.The “PC” model, where data and applications are concentrated on a single device, is inherently risky and difficult to manage. The “mobile” model is more flexible, device-independent, and can be easier to manage for companies with large deployments. Cloud virtual desktops are an application of the mobile mentality to the enterprise desktop — the operating system, its applications, and data live in the cloud and can be accessed from any device with a sufficiently capable web browser — a range that encompasses everything from low-end smartphones to high-spec workstations.
Different Devices, Same Apps And Data
I’m a writer. I wake up in the morning and research articles over breakfast. I write outlines as I commute. I draft articles from coffee shops or my office in the afternoon. Research is carried out on my phone, outlines on my iPad, drafting on my laptop. Each device is appropriate to a different task, a different location, and a different time of day. I could do everything sat at a desk in front of a PC, but it would make me much less productive. Cloud virtual desktops apply the same level of flexibility and context-aware device use to enterprise desktops. By cutting the tie between physical machine and work, employees are empowered with the same tools and data whether they are in the office, remote working from home, or on a business trip to the other side of the world.
Resilience To Hardware Failure
A few years ago, my — admittedly ancient — laptop ground to a halt in the middle of a crucial project. Only the most recent data was gone. I had backups, but I lost hours of productivity to setting up a new laptop, installing applications, and restoring data. With a cloud virtual desktop, I could simply have switched to another physical machine and everything would have been in its place — no lost data, no lost time, and no lost productivity.
Reduced Hardware Costs
One of the major benefits of cloud computing is a reduced up-front investment in physical hardware; that includes lower costs for the infrastructure itself and for its deployment, management, and security. The same benefits apply to cloud desktops. Of course, companies still need physical machines to access cloud desktops, but they can be simpler, lower cost devices that are radically less time-consuming to manage and secure.
Enterprise desktops are a major source of security vulnerability. Whether it’s employees installing malware via phishing emails or downloading sensitive data to thumb-drives so they can work at home, enterprise desktop security is a nightmare to monitor, manage, and harden. Because virtual desktops are centralized and device-independent, it’s much easier to ensure that they are kept malware-free, up-to-date, and that data can be securely accessed by employees when they need it. Cloud virtual desktops can make a huge difference to the cost of enterprise desktop management, and to the efficiency and productivity of enterprise desktop users.
Image: Flickr/Mark Sebastian