This will be the year of the virtual desktop. Of course, if you had listened to pundits, so was last year, and the year before, and the year before. Still, desktop virtualization has come a long way in the last year or two, and is maturing into a robust solution for many businesses. Virtualization, or DaaS (Desktop as a Service) or VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure), allows you to run one (or several, depending on needs) central instance of your desktop environment on a server while end users (your employees) remote in and use virtual, on-demand instances of that environment.
Prior to cloud and VDI environments taking off, data centers focused their IT management efforts on a set user base, specific servers and other infrastructure variables. IT administrators weren’t worried about Internet activities since, at the time, it was limited to maybe an employee portal or a web server. Now we are working within a distributed WAN computing infrastructure. Corporate employees and remote branches are able to access applications, virtual desktops and personalized workloads from anywhere in the world and from virtually any device.
One of the biggest technological break-always from the traditional IT model is that all of this data is stored, managed, and administered at a central data center hosting a cloud ecosystem. This cloud architecture is enabling virtual applications and powerful virtual desktops for a diverse user base. This kind of DaaS model creates true levels of flexibility for organizations looking to leverage on premise and cloud resources.
So is DaaS right for you? Here are our top pros and cons of using DaaS in your organization:
- Pro: Access Anywhere. A well set up DaaS system lets your employees access their work desktop from pretty much anywhere. This saves on costs (not having to purchase multiple licenses for employees with, say, a desktop and a laptop), as well as makes employees not in the office more productive.
- Con: Usually requires network access. Employees who can’t get online can’t work, so Internet/network connectivity issues can wipe out productivity across entire departments.
- Pro: Security and Reliability. A DaaS setup lets you keep an eye on security and reduce maintenance costs by only having one central point that needs patching, upgrading, and maintenance.
- Con: Single Failure Point. Unlike the distributed desktop model where the loss or failure of one PC is contained, if your DaaS server or provider goes down or becomes compromised, EVERYONE in your organization can be down or compromised.
- Pro: Uniformity and Control. Since the desktop image is shared by all (or most), you have a lot of control with what is available, what can be installed, and what can be put where. That level of control is much more difficult on individual machines.
- Con: Multiple Use Cases Require Multiple Images. Having users who need different environments and different default settings can require having multiple images stored on your central server, and that can quickly overrun your space availability and get expensive.
- Pro: Ability to Switch Environments on the Fly. If you have employees who might need to use multiple environments, Linux and Windows for example, or two different versions of Windows, a DaaS set-up allows you to offer both and let employees use them interchangeably.
- Con: Long-term ROI. Most experts and consultants agree that the ROI benefits of DaaS systems are long-term prospects. You won’t be seeing an immediate return like with server virtualization or other outsourcing methods.
There are plenty more pros and cons to setting up DaaS environment for your workspace. Some great articles and additional reading can be found here, here, and here. Ultimately, DaaS is still a relatively young technology, and your decision to adopt or not should factor that in. Early adopters and organizations with a need for tight, centralized control and security might do well by switching early and getting the kinks worked out in-house, while those with less of a business case may choose to wait until the technology matures.
Never forget that modern businesses are tied at the hip to their IT environment. A lack of technological understanding can allow the competition to jump ahead. So, as with any new innovation or technology – never forget about management and training. Take the time to learn the key metrics that revolve around keeping a virtual environment proactively healthy. Furthermore, educate your staff so that they can not only support the end-user more efficiently, they can understand the true power of their virtual infrastructure. This in-line training and communication will help strengthen the vision of the entire organization directly with the IT department.