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What is a Virtual Desktop?

Paul Hager
12/15/2021
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There is no denying that the modern workplace is virtual. During the pandemic, most office workers worked from home at least part time, and many millions more continue to work remotely. But if your workforce is virtual, why aren’t your desktop environments?

If you don’t think Work from Home (WFH) is the new normal, consider the following statistics. Upwork found that 41.8% of the American workforce continues to work remotely and 36.2 million Americans will be working remotely by 2025. In addition, Gartner found that 55% of workers are using personally owned devices for their work.

We are big believers in the value of virtual desktop services to support your WFM staff. A definition of a virtual desktop is an image or copy of an operating system and applications that is not stored on your PC or laptop but is accessed remotely over a secured network. It is not only a cost-effective solution, but we believe it is more flexible and secure than a traditional IT environment supporting locally based applications.

WHY GO VIRTUAL?

Okay, you may ask, why wouldn’t I want to have my applications on my personal computer? My laptop, PC and phone have applications stored locally, why should my work applications be any different?

A virtual desktop offers a couple of major advantages, especially if you are a small to medium-sized business trying to manage a growing and virtual workforce.

  • Flexible – access from anywhere and from any device including Apple devices and tablets
  • Secure – includes automatically updated and proactive cybersecurity features managed by large cloud providers like Microsoft
  • Available – make legacy applications available from the cloud without having to manage servers on site potentially. This includes heavy graphics applications like AutoDesk.

A desktop and application virtualization service runs on the cloud, so your remote and hybrid teams have secure access to all their documents, applications and resources. And because the computing power comes from the cloud servers where the virtual desktop is hosted, you can have practically unlimited power. We have seen that you can work on a Chromebook and have the same functionality you would have at your workstation in the office.

A virtual desktop is scalable, providing the ability to turn up or down the amount of computing power and storage you use. For example, rather than loading all your company laptops with the complete Microsoft suite of applications before they leave the building, the Azure Virtual Desktop (formerly known as the Windows Virtual Desktop) delivers virtual desktop experience and remote apps to any device.

VIRTUAL IS MORE SECURE

A virtual desktop is also more secure because all data stored on a virtual desktop actually lives on a server or in the cloud, not on the endpoint itself. This dramatically reduces the threat associated with lost or stolen devices.

For example, Microsoft’s Azure Virtual Desktop delivers more manageability and security features, so that you can ensure your workforce is secure, even if they are using an insecure Wi-Fi connection to get online. For added security, administrators can require multi-factor authentication for all users to ensure only authorized users are online.

In addition, enabling Conditional Access lets you manage risks before you grant users access to an Azure Virtual Desktop environment. And because security patches are applied to virtual environments, the applications that are deployed inside of them are secure and protected. Here are a few things you can do to enhance security:

  • You can restrict permissions by making sure your local and remote file systems use access control lists. This way, users can only access what they need and can't change or delete critical resources.
  • Prevent unwanted software from running on session hosts. You can enable App Locker for additional security on session hosts, ensuring that only the apps you allow can run on the host.

DEPLOY ADVANCED DESKTOPS

For your users requiring graphic intensive applications like AutoDesk, Azure Virtual Desktop now supports a GPU-accelerated desktop access for improved performance and scalability. GPU stand for Graphics Processing Unit, a specialized processor originally designed to accelerate graphics rendering. GPU acceleration is ideal for engineering work or graphic designers, giving your remote teams more computing power, secure connectivity and access to all of your apps online.

Deploying a virtual desktop environment can simplify your remote work situation, but it is still useful to have a partner or managed service provider to provide virtual desktops as a hosted managed service. Hosted virtual desktop services are usually offered in a per-user, per-month subscription model. This model offers the added benefit of transferring IT infrastructure costs from a capital expense to an operating expense.

If you’d like to learn more about deploying these services, see our Azure Virtual Desktop page. 

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