Desktop Virtualization

Accelerated by the global pandemic and the need to accommodate remote working, companies of all shapes and sizes are trying out virtualization technologies – some for the first time ever. Anyone who has made the switch already will have noticed that it has a multitude of advantages over a traditional desktop and IT infrastructure. 

Supporters of desktop virtualization will constantly tell you about the long-term savings that come with switching to a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) or desktop-as-a-service (DaaS). They will also tell you that desktop virtualization and digital workspaces are the future of work.

But every company, Government Agency and Critical National Infrastructure (CNI) provider is unique and needs to work out for themselves if the complications and challenges outweigh all the benefits. So let’s take a look at some of the key benefits of desktop virtualisation through the lens of both their pros and cons.

What Is Desktop Virtualization?

Designed with security in mind, virtual desktop software gives users access to their individual desktops without the need for a physical desktop device. A virtual desktop has all of a user’s applications and folders, settings and so forth and can be accessed from any computing device that can connect to the network. 

This desktop image and all of its associated data are stored in a central server, and you can see desktop virtualization software in use with both VDI and DaaS. With VDI, the infrastructure to support it is deployed on premises. DaaS solutions are fully outsourced though and are effectively the subscription-based cloud technology equivalent of desktop virtualization.

Basically, the operating system and desktop environment an employee needs to do their work are not tied to a physical device in any way. Everything is hosted and rendered on a central server – and provided end users have a secure connection, they can access their virtual desktop from anywhere in the world at any time of the day or night. 

Why Are Both the Pros and Cons Important When Assessing Solutions?

People will often experience something that is known as ‘analysis paralysis’, when they’re faced with making a major or difficult decision. For more complex decisions, a person can assess several options based on the most significant criteria that each has – for example, this option is the most affordable but this other option can be implemented immediately. 

Or they can measure these options against a single set of the factors they feel are most important. For example, the combined costs of this solution are lower than those of the other solution. Once they’ve listed the various pros and cons, they will be weighing or scoring each of them appropriately. 

So while there may be 10 items in the pro list and just one in the cons list, the con may outweigh the pros by so much that the pros aren’t worth it for that specific solution. 

The Key Pros and Cons to Consider With Desktop Virtualization

First, it is important to remember that there are a variety of options when it comes to desktop virtualization. The primary one, as mentioned above, is on-premise VDI vs. outsourced DaaS solutions. Then there are different possible deployment methods, which can be persistent or non-persistent. Each has its own individual pros and cons, but there are several key features that they all have in common. 

It is the pros and cons of these key features that need to be considered when deciding whether V is the right choice for an organisation. 

Hardware Costs Can Be Reduced

Pros:

With DaaS and VDI, all of the processing is done on a central server, and endpoints don’t need to have very much processing power to run desktop virtualization software. This means that organisations can invest in much more affordable devices, such as thin clients or tablets, and even repurpose otherwise useless old desktop devices to act as nothing more than terminals. 

Sharing endpoints is also not a problem, as each user is assigned their own virtual desktop linked to their unique login credentials. Because desktop virtualization makes it possible for virtually any device to run any OS, it is ideal for organisations that employ a BYOD policy. 

Cons:

The hardware required to enable desktop V is the most expensive upfront cost for organisations that opt for VDI over DaaS solutions. The size of the server a company will need to support virtual desktops for all their employees might outweigh the cost of purchasing brand-new base-level PCs that can support the latest applications and OSs for each employee. 

For those organisations considering DaaS solutions, they would need to weigh the monthly cost of the server ‘space’ they would require to support all their applications and virtual desktops against the costs of both implementing a VDI solution and sticking to traditional IT infrastructures. 

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Planning for Future Application Needs Can Be Easier

Pros:

The world is moving into the future at a breakneck pace, with new technology, techniques and benchmarks for business being set faster than most can keep up. Businesses need to be able to adapt faster than ever before, which is one of the reasons why Australia and New Zealand are leading the way when it comes to cloud adoption. 

Not only are cloud technology and cloud applications designed with flexibility and adaptability at their core, but the vast majority of cloud software also integrates seamlessly with desktop virtualization. And because virtual desktops can run any OS with high-powered servers doing all the processing, admins can assign all the computing resources needed to run even the most complex and resource-heavy applications. 

Cons:

Some specialised legacy applications can be difficult to virtualise – sometimes requiring a complete overhaul and rewrite before they can be accessed via virtual desktops or shifted to a cloud environment. This would require specialised IT and programming expertise – which can be expensive, particularly for smaller organisations. 

And although desktop virtualization allows users to access the exact same desktop environment from any device, there can be a learning curve when switching to a VDI or DaaS solution. This learning curve can result in accidental but costly mistakes, and productivity may take a hit until everyone adjusts to this new way of doing their jobs. 

IT Administration Can Be Simplified

Pros:

One of the most significant savings from desktop virtualization comes from the administration side. Organisations can use the same system image for every user, or a few different ones for multiple groups of users, so onboarding new employees, applications and devices takes a few clicks and only a few minutes each time. 

Because the entire system is controlled from a central location, IT admins can usually troubleshoot any problems without leaving their desks. And if necessary, they can simply spin up a new desktop environment so the user in question can get on with their work. If the problem stems from a hardware issue, the user can simply switch to a different endpoint and carry on where they left off. 

Cons:

A potential problem that needs to be considered is the risk of hardware-related outages. Traditionally, a single endpoint goes down or has an issue and only one employee is affected. However, when a business is relying on a single server or using a single system image for every end user, any issues or outages can affect the entire organisation at once. 

This can be avoided by investing in a redundant server and keeping multiple system images on hand. But the first involves a hefty upfront investment. The second would mean investing in more storage, and it could inadvertently lead to virtual desktop proliferation and server sprawl – both of which can be costly. 

Desktop Virtualization Can Make Organisations More Mobile

Pros:

Desktop Virtualization inherently supports remote working policies, and studies have shown that this can increase productivity in the long run. Since desktop virtualization software supports secure connections from almost any device, employees can streamline their processes right down to instantly switching between different OSs as needed on any device.

Because employees have any time access to everything they need to do their jobs, it can speed up decision making and prevent sometimes costly delays caused by someone forgetting something important at the office or trying to remember important info on the fly. 

Cons:

Switching to desktop virtualization gives end users a certain amount of independence but can also be restrictive in certain cases. Implementing remote work policies involves radical adjustments to the normal way of doing things, as companies learned during the pandemic. Careful planning and monitoring need to be done to make this transition as smooth as possible for everyone involved. 

It Can Improve Organisational Security

Pros:

One of the biggest advantages of desktop virtualization comes from the fact that it is inherently more secure. Sensitive corporate data isn’t stored on users endpoints, which are more vulnerable to both cyber-attacks and physical loss or damage. With the right access protocols in place, organisations can make sure that end users are only using secure connections to access the system as well.

With a smaller attack surface to concentrate on, IT security teams can focus their efforts where it is needed most – on the central server. 

Cons:

The security concerns that come with desktop virtualization are unique but similar in principle to what is faced with cloud or remote technology. With only one physical location for all data storage, malicious actors can concentrate their efforts in one place. And because there is less dependency on hardware, software-based attacks are more common. 

The initial setup to ensure that end users have only the access permissions they actually need, that device permissions are correctly configured and that the most sensitive data is properly segmented and secured is a time-consuming but essential process. And it is one where important steps can be missed if an IT department doesn’t have the right experience. 

Find Out More About Desktop Virtualization and DaaS with AUCloud

There is no denying that desktop virtualization comes with a range of impressive advantages. But the disadvantages can’t be ignored, and every IT decision-maker needs to keep both in mind when deciding on the shape their digital transformation is going to take. 

An important thing to note is that the majority of these cons apply more to organisations that are considering implementing on-site VDI solutions. For example, the cons related to hardware costs and security risks are almost entirely negated when using a Desktop-as-a-Service solution provider like AUCloud, which hosts an organisation’s VDI solution as part of the service. 

Contact the desktop Virtualization experts at AUCloud, a VMware Sovereign Cloud Provider, to find out more about how DaaS solutions can help organisations keep up with the future of work. You can call us on 1800 282 5683 or you can email us on sales@australiacloud.com.au.

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