What is a virtual desktop?

Virtual Desktop technology has been around for a while, but has largely evaded the reach of small businesses due to the bandwidth requirements… until now. Large internet connections have become affordable and more readily available due to increased competition, which has brought Virtual Desktop mainstream. But what is the elusive Virtual Desktop everyone talks about? In layman’s terms, the desktop a user experiences on their laptop or workstation is hosted centrally on a server, including all of the applications, data and personal settings. The workstation or laptop effectively becomes a thin client, serving no other purpose than to provide access to the Virtual Desktop.

The benefits include:

* centralised management, which means most problems can be resolved from the server
* the processing moves from the workstation or laptop to the Virtual Desktop negating the need to upgrade local hardware to meet the latest OS and minimum hardware requirements
* access to the Virtual Desktop can be restricted to a device and/ or location and no data is stored locally
* the Virtual Desktop can be accessed from anywhere and on any device including mobile phones and tablets allowing for flexible working and remote access

Virtual Desktop providers offer the service on a cost per user per month basis, whereby typically the user count can be increased instantly and decreased with 30 days’ notice. The flexibility of Virtual Desktop is very appealing, particularly to small businesses, because you only pay for what you use. The costs are based on the number of users (and the associated economies of scale) and the software and storage requirements.

What happens to existing software and hardware when you migrate to Virtual Desktop?

You use your existing workstations and laptops to access the Virtual Desktop, however you no longer require any other software apart from the operating system, as all of your software is provisioned and licensed by your Virtual Desktop provider. The computers can therefore be stripped right back to the operating system to give them a new lease of life and you won’t need to upgrade them for a while because all of the work is done within the Virtual Desktop. Local servers can be decommissioned, or redeployed in other roles.

What are the considerations for Virtual Desktop migration?

As the Virtual Desktop is hosted externally, it requires an adequate and reliable internet connection to provide the optimum user experience. Businesses will also have to invest in a secondary or failover internet connection for resilience. On the whole, processer intensive applications e.g. media and design related applications like Photoshop and AutoCAD can’t virtualised, in which case businesses might need to consider a hybrid approach. Finding a provider that suits your specific business needs can be tricky and therefore it is important to conduct ample due diligence to select a resilient and reliable solution.

Among the key considerations are:

* uptime (and downtime)
* security
* resilience and disaster recovery
* connectivity
* infrastructure and compatibility
* scalability
* support

A good provider will deliver a secure and seamless user experience, allowing your employees to work uninhibited and leave you safe in the knowledge that your data is secure.

What about my data?

All of your data including e-mails, files and databases remains your property at all times. The Virtual Desktop provider should not withhold physical access to the data (assuming there are no outstanding payments). This is typically done by copying data to an encrypted USB hard drive in the data centre. Even though your data is backed up in the cloud, it is good practice to implement a supplementary backup strategy to back up your data to another location.

Is it easy to change providers?

Switching providers is a relatively seamless process, almost like changing current accounts. Your environment is configured and tested at another provider, your data is transferred and your users log into the new platform and continue to work as normal.

What are the risks?

You need to ensure your local infrastructure can provide reliable access to the Virtual Desktop. Network and connectivity problems will impede your ability to work and the downtime will cause immense frustration for your employees. A resilient internet connection is imperative.

You need to ensure you partner with a reputable and reliable partner, capable of delivering a Virtual Desktop service that is right for your business. Apart from ensuring the obvious namely; that it works, they need to be attentive and responsive, because it is easy to drown in the bureaucratic red tape of change request and SLAs, which will make you rue the day you migrated to the cloud.

Author's Bio: 

I am Erika Chitty. I work for M2Computing in Operations & Sales support. M2 Computing is the Best Virtual Desktop provider in South East, United Kingdom.
For further information please visit http://www.m2computing.co.uk/