With summer about to end IT managers might be thinking on their return about how to manage staff – can hosted desktops be the missing magic and how does this fit with BYOD?

Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD), or as one contributor described it “K-BYOD (Kiss goodBye to Your Data)”, is a phenomenon that has been on the rise for the past few years. As technology moves in leaps and bounds towards a ‘Star Trek-styled’ era, mobile devices are at the forefront of a revolution – the mobile office.

But as with most tech revolutions there comes a new set of sleep depriving inducing nightmares for your company’s IT crowd. That being, an extra layer of security needed and the headache of disparate pieces of kit that don’t have proper corporate management tools.

And if leading tech researcher Gartner is right by 2016, 38% of companies will expect to stop providing devices to their employees and by 2020, 85% will implement a BYOD program. That makes for a rather short window of opportunity for IT to get its BYOD act together. Creating efficient BYOD practices requires a BYOD policy. Enter stage right – the Hosted Desktop!

Hosted desktops come in many flavours and configurations, but basically the technology allows servers to run virtualised Windows desktop sessions accessible via a simple Web browser. From an IT perspective, this makes the client device largely irrelevant. Sounds great for BYOD, right?

Well, yes, it does and it also needn’t be a massive headache for the IT department to retain control and visibility over devices without recourse to draconian BYOD policies or hugely expensive security measures that will, invariably, be reactive and which require considerable investment in management?

“What corporate IT want,” comments Jeff Dodd, CEO for cloud-based managed IT services provider entrustIT Europe, “is a thin layer that goes onto an employee device and allows access to all the corporate systems if enabled by the business but that leaves no data footprint on the device once access is rescinded.

“A hosted desktop is rendered on the device but never stores data locally. If its Citrix based, a hosted desktop will run on almost any device from phone to workstation and on OSX, iOS, Android, Windows and Linux. Of course a full desktop on a phone requires Steve Austin’s bionic eye but you can also publish an application the same way – something compact and bijoux made usable via the power of 3G. Best of all, when access is revoked the applications and desktops stop working but the data never left the building so you remain secure.”

“Drop, break or lose the device and the desktop keeps right on running behind it – you log in again from somewhere else. Coupled to something like Citrix Sharefile you get corporate file-sharing for the times when offline access to your super-duper corporate presentation is a must.”

Hosted desktops come in many flavours and configurations, but basically the technology allows servers to run virtualised Windows desktop sessions accessible via a simple Web browser. From an IT perspective, this makes the client device largely irrelevant.

Hosted Desktops will work 24/7, 365 days a year on any web-enabled device and it only needs a tiny amount of bandwidth to be super-responsive. As Jeff put its: “It’s the real ‘martini’ IT solution: anytime, anyplace, anywhere!”

Adding: “Seriously – why would any overworked IT supremo deploy anything else even inside his organisation. One hit management and deployment and coupled to a good quality managed service/hosted desktop provider the support issues are minimal.”

Moving away from the IT department, what’s in it for the business?

Joseph Blass, CEO, WorkPlaceLive, told me that, “A business doesn’t necessarily need to increase spend in order to increase revenue; sometimes it is enough to generate more productivity out of existing resources. What better way to increase productivity than enabling employees across the business access to their full work desktop and their entire suite of business software applications – from their CRM database to their accounting packages, as well as their emails, files and data – from any location, using any device. Wherever employees go, their office goes with them, allowing them to work productively always. While in the past such practices used to involve security risks such as employees forgetting their computers on a train, the Hosted Desktop is typically even more secure than the employee sitting by the desk in the office.”

And Russ Herringshaw from cloud comms provider Cobweb Solutions agrees. “A BYOD policy provisions a mobile workforce, offers increased productivity and flexibility, as well as controlled costs and employee satisfaction.”

As for the view of the IT set? One IT manager friend of mine said: “Hosted desktops and BYOD ultimately fit together, like pieces of a puzzle, to form a harmonious big-picture of tomorrow’s world. Resistance is now well and truly futile. Young and incoming workers expect to use a tablet and a smartphone, whilst the generation of workers set to be the next batch of senior employees have become accustomed to these devices. My advice – find the right IT solution, it will certainly save you some sleepless nights!”

Bree is a technical writer with 15 year's experience. She specialises in cloud computing, finance and energy and has been published across a wide range of B2B, consumer magazines and newspapers. Bree was the editorial and production driving force for the UK's first cloud computing magazine as well as a number of other B2B magazines. Today, she splits her time between being Creative Director for Be Free Creative Ltd and as a technical writer.

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