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Technology Trends: Virtual Desktops, Part 2
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Technology Trends: Virtual Desktops, Part 2 - Executive Leadership Articles

Technology Trends: Virtual Desktops, Part 2

Executive Leadership Articles

Technology Trends: Virtual Desktops, Part 2

In the first part of this series, we examined the concept of desktop virtualization, a system that reduces a computer's desktop, file management, and applications to services managed remotely and delivered wherever individual users might be. With a virtual desktop environment, users logging into the service from any machine are presented with their desktops as they were when the users last logged off, even if they were on different computers or devices. Now we will attempt to offer a breakdown of the flavors and options of such services, to give you an idea of where you might want to begin. Please note that since the naming of these variations tends to vary, we'll focus on the way these variations work, without getting into all the naming inconsistencies.

Client/Server Setup
Usually called a remote desktop virtualization, this arrangement treats individual users' computers as interfaces or monitors, with all the file storage, operating system experience, and applications powered by the server computer. In this arrangement, double-clicking the icon of a spreadsheet application launches the app from the remote computer, not the user's own computer. The user's computer is merely the communication channel through which the user accesses the actual computer.

This arrangement can work two different ways. In the first, the serving computer runs multiple instances of the operating system, giving each user his or her own experience managed as a separate operation from other users' experience. The other way this can be set up is with the serving computer running one instance of its operating system, with that operating system managing multiple users' desktops. One overly simplified way to envision the difference between these arrangements is to think of the first arrangement as running each desktop like a separate application. If you close one app, the other apps keep going. The second arrangement is more like multiple tabs open in one web browser. It's as if each user's desktop is running in a separate tab, but powered by one application: quit the application, and all desktop close.

In most of these virtual setups, your tech people run the service on your system. managing the hardware, operating system setups, and networking issues themselves. If you're looking to free up some of those resources for other tasks, you might consider a Desktop as a Service setup.

"Desktop as a Service"
If all of this sounds a bit too involved, you might consider "desktop as a service," which takes all the hardware and operating system concerns out of your hands. If you've managed Creative Cloud or Office 365 licenses for multiple users, you're already mostly there, except in addition to apps, the entire desktop experience is treated as a subscription service. The service provider manages the hardware, operating system, and file storage; all your IT manager has to do is manage users and permissions. Pricing varies with processing power options, file storage capacity, and the application bundles you desire, so costs can add up, but you may save expenses in individual computers and overall maintenance expenses, not to mention the costs of software updates. Providers at the front end of these services include Amazon WebSpaces, Citrix, and tuCloud, but there are new players in this field every day.

There are many factors contributing to your tech costs, including individual computer maintainence, IT help, license updates, training, file storage redundancy, and management, and monetary costs are not your only expenses. This can make switching to a virtual desktop environment both appealing and daunting, so consider carefully your options and risk tolerance.

One possible experiment, if you're not in a hurry to make a switch, is to divide your desktop users into two groups, and give one group a trial run with a Desktop as a Service subscription. Keep an eye on all costs as well as other considerations, such as users' comfort, and do a full assessment after a set period of time. With cloud services expanding into increasingly larger territory, many of the older ways of managing technology are being nudged aside anyway, and it may not be long before you simply don't have a choice. It may be worth it, even if you don't make a switch now, just to be aware of what's going on in these spaces.

 

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