Technology allows more and more options for flexible working behaviour, and one of the natural progressions that comes with a change in working styles is a shift in the way we view our IT hardware needs. Unfortunately, many businesses still fill an office with desks and computers, even though there might be a much simpler and cost-effective solution.
Virtualization of hardware in general, and hosted desktops specifically, offer a far greater degree of flexibility, control, and access than traditional IT setups. These types of solutions offer a simple answer to many complex problems, such as how to access secure fileservers remotely, or how a team of analysts can work simultaneously on a system or document from many different locations.
There have always been solutions to these problems since the early days of networking, but hosted desktops make the complicated workarounds of the past seem clumsy and unnecessary.
What Is a Hosted Desktop?
A hosted desktop solution is simply an application that allows workers to log in to their work desktop using their web browser. This allows access to your “work computer” from a thin client (barebones desktop PC with little besides a network connection and enough power to run a browser), a mobile phone, an iPad or a personal laptop.
The key characteristic of this type of solution is that the “work computer” doesn’t have to actually exist at all. It can be entirely virtual, meaning you only have one or two hardwired computers in your office, and everyone can access the company’s network and file server from any device, anywhere in the world.
This solves a lot of problems, such as the cost layout to equip all of your staff with entry-level PCs. It solves a lot of security problems, too. Say, for example, you were working on a project that involved a client’s financial information, and they weren’t comfortable with or capable of giving external access to their file server. A hosted desktop would allow your staff to work from home, and still be able to securely access the data they needed.
What Solutions Are Available?
Most IT/networking companies will offer some kind of white-labelled virtual desktop system. The two main systems that these types of companies sell are Citrix and Microsoft Remote Desktop Services. As with any large IT investment, support should be a top concern. It’s well worth your while to do some research into local or international providers who will be able to keep your hosted solution running and always up to date.
Citrix are leaders in virtualized environments, and helped to pioneer the technology. Their virtual desktop solution is virtually flawless, and highly secure. Workers only need to download a tiny application, run it, and log in. The device they are using will automatically open a full screen window of their virtual desktop, which can be customized for mobile devices.
Microsoft Remote Desktop Services
RDS is a capability in Microsoft Server 2008 R2 with SP1 that allows remote access to a virtual desktop, or an existing network PC. It began life as an administrator’s tool to remotely fix desktop PCs, and required a great deal of security customization, but it is now available as a fully-fledged virtual desktop and network application, providing most of the same services as Citrix.