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Hosted Desktop

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Hosted Desktop

Compare Hosted Desktop…also known as Virtual Hosted Desktop, Virtual Desktop Infrastucture (VDI), Desktop as a Service (DaaS), or sometimes Cloud Desktop – describes the whole computer desktop experience being delivered via “the cloud” to a user over their Internet connection.  Effectively, everything that appears on the user’s computer screen – from the operating system (OS) desktop interface to all the software applications installed there on – is actually running on the provider’s servers rather than the user’s local machine.  The user’s computer and monitor is just communicating with and rendering images from a virtualised desktop session taking place elsewhere.

PaaS or SaaS?  If we were to classify which type of cloud product Hosted Desktop is, then we’d have to say that it encompasses elements of both Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS), as you have both the operating system (platform) and the applications (software) being delivered as a service.  As such there is a good case for it sitting in its own category and being described as Desktop as a Service (DaaS).

So why would you move the desktop experience of your business to the Cloud?

When you buy a computer it tends to come with an operating system (OS) and perhaps some pre-installed applications.  So why would you then want to get another operating system and applications delivered as a service?  This is a fair question – which tees us up perfectly for examining the advantages of deploying Hosted Desktop!

Advantages

plus-point  Managability and consistency [pullquote]The challenge for businesses and their IT departments is to ensure a consistent, high quality, high productivity desktop experience for all their users.[/pullquote]

The challenge for businesses and their IT departments is to ensure a consistent, high quality, high productivity desktop experience for all their users.  Whilst a user’s local machine may indeed have it’s own OS, its a fact that within any size of business there will be different variations of computer types, OS versions, service packs, runtimes, security profiles and databases.  All this creates tricky and time-intensive support requirements as the IT department struggles to ensure all these different profiles are up-to-date, secure and working efficiently.  Hosted Desktop addresses this problem beautifully.  It ensures that each and every end-user – irrespective of what computer hardware they are using – are all logging in to work on the same operating system, patched and secured to the same level and managed centrally.

Exactly the same benefits apply to the software installed on each user’s virtual desktop experience.  With Hosted Desktop, the IT department can deploy the exact software each individual user needs direct to the user’s desktop profile – all from a centralised management interface.  This makes managing software very easy and allows the business to take advantage of on-demand software subscriptions, utilisation and helps ensure licensing compliance (i.e. the Software as a Service / SaaS model of software utilisation).

plus-point  Accessibility and extending productivity

Hosted Desktop VDIA second major advantage of deploying Hosted Desktop within your business comes from the fact the entire business desktop of each user is hosted “in the cloud” – and not on a specific end-user machine.   [pullquote]What this means is that the user’s desktop is available at any time, on any device, from anywhere…[/pullquote]What this means is that the user’s desktop is available at any time, on any device, from anywhere (where there’s an Internet connection).  The majority of Hosted Desktop services permit access from any computer terminal via web browser, remote desktop client, or indeed an “app” for tablets and mobile devices.  Whilst this level of extended accessibility may seem like a potential security risk, in actual fact it’s the opposite – since access is controlled by secure sign-on and it removes the need for users to download and share files locally.   So with Hosted Desktop, the business is free to take advantage of its staff being able to login from virtually anwhere and have full access to their desktop profiles – thus promoting extended productivity via remote working, mobile working, and any other working that takes place when the user is not conveniently sat at their work computer.

plus-point  Availability

By moving your business’s desktop experience to “the cloud”, the business can expect greater levels of service uptime and availability.  Why is this?  Well, the very nature of the centralised cloud hosting model requires a concentration of computing resource, which in turn necessitates housing this hosting infrastructure in a facility capable of supporting computer servers and enterprise computing infrastructures.  These facilities are data centres, and are designed to offer optimal working conditions for intensive computing environments, extending to high availability provisioning of power, connectivity, environmental conditions and security.  [pullquote]…you can expect very high levels of availability – underpinned with a properly conceived service level agreement (SLA).[/pullquote]So, provided your Hosted Desktop or Virtualised Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) is physcially located in a data centre facility, you can expect very high levels of availability – underpinned with a properly conceived service level agreement (SLA).

Further gains in service availability are also available “on the ground” stemming from the fact that your user’s are no longer tied to a specific work computer.  If that computer fails they can simply log into their desktop from another computer.

plus-point  Cost savings and cost efficiencies

If your business is engaging a professional Hosted Desktop supplier, your business stands to benefit from a simpler service cost model that is more “in tune” with your business.  Most Hosted Desktop providers will offer subscription-based service models on a per user per month basis.  This allows you to purchase access to software and indeed entire virtual desktops as and when you need them, thereby allowing your IT requirements to grow or contract on a par with your business requirements.  Such subscription models also allow you to shift your cost outlay from CAPEX to OPEX, which tends to aid cash flow and have tax advantages.

plus-point  Contractual Flexibility

The subscription model allows for greater flexibility matching real-time business needs to the purchasing of IT resources.  [pullquote]The subscription model allows for greater flexibility matching real-time business needs to the purchasing of IT resources.[/pullquote]From a contractual standpoint this reflects that fact that software vendors are able to make their software available on a month-to-month license, with no need for long-term commitments or large upfront expenditure on software.   This arrangement will typically be available from the Hosted Desktop provider as well, reflecting the fact that the service can be switched on and off as needed and licenses can be deployed as needed.  This allows your business the flexibility to move suppliers of both software provision and desktop provision, and the technical aspect of centralised hosted desktop computing means a technical move should be somewhat easier too.

Things to watch out for

For businesses both large and small, there are some real benefits to deploying Hosted Desktop.  However like all things there are some things to watch out for to ensure your move to the cloud and hosted desktop deployment goes smoothly, performs as it should and meets your expectations.

moot-point  Desktop Performance

A principal goal of Hosted Desktop is to provide users a virtualised desktop that performs to the same level as their real desktop.  The extent to which this is achieveable is governed in main by the technology behind the service.  Hosted Desktop software developers are virtualising an experience and delivering it over the Internet, so have some specific challenges to overcome – principally how to deliver a desktop experience to another machine over a connection with a set and sometimes variable amount of bandwidth and latency.  Virtualised desktop technology uses a number of tricks to overcome these challenges, but the extent to which they acheive the aim of simulating the real experience really boils down to personal experience, conditions and generally taking it for a test run first.  [pullquote]Keep in mind that if you are delivering Hosted Desktop to a concentrated base of users – such as in an office – then you’ll need sufficient bandwidth into the building to support as many simultaneous user sessions.[/pullquote]Keep in mind that if you are delivering Hosted Desktop to a concentrated base of users – such as in an office – then you’ll need sufficient bandwidth into the building to support as many simultaneous user sessions.

moot-point  Migration & Support Levels

A key attraction for both businesses and IT Service providers to the Hosted Desktop model is the ease of management and lower complexity (and cost) in supporting a large desktop infrastructure.  Whilst the cost and efficiencies of providing ongoing support for a Hosted Desktop infrastrcuture may be better, its important not to lose sight of the fact that you are still buying a service that needs to work.   One of the acid tests of capability and hosted desktop provider suitability should be their ability and willingness to execute the migration to their Hosted Desktop service. This should manifest itself in a carefully laid our migration plan and allocation of skills and resource, such that your business can migrate smoothly using agreed maintenance windows, and your business can continue as normal.

moot-point  Data Security

In moving your business desktops, applications and data to the cloud, you need to be certain and fully reassured that your business data is secure.  If using a Hosted Desktop provider you are entrusting them to look after your data and protect it from external threats and data loss.  As such you should check out the provider’s data security policies and procedures, and well as their data backup & restore procedures.  If unsure, its worthwhile arranging for an external consultant to review your prospective provider to provide peace of mind and highlight any risks to your business and IT strategy.[pullquote]If unsure, its worthwhile arranging for an external consultant to review your prospective provider to provide peace of mind and highlight any risks to your business and IT strategy.[/pullquote] Another hot topic and question to ask yourself is “does it matter where my data is located?” – as this decision is ultimately up to the hosted desktop provider and where they have deployed their hosting resources.  Some businesses may be concerned about their data being located outside of their business’s own country or jurisdiction – as foreign territories may have rights to access such private data.  A case in point is the US Patriot Act.

moot-point  Due Diligence

Leading on from the security theme above, security needs to be covered on a number of levels. For example you need the security of knowing your provider is a trusted viable and secure business, that can be trusted to provide you consistent high quality service for as long as you need them.  As such the usual due diligence rules apply and you need to determine whether your hosted desktop provider is match for your business’ needs.

moot-point  Customisability

Last but by no means of least importance, is the case of customisability your provider can offer.  You may have proprietary software or software your provider doesn’t support by default, which you need to make available to users via the hosted desktop.   The ability and willingness to support 3rd party applications may be a critical factor in your provider selection process.  Similarly, do they support desktop access via all the devices your business operates and does it extend to bring your own device (BYOD) policies your business may be pursuing?  If you have an installed based of Blackberry users and Blackberry Internet Services (BIS) – can you provider’s service support those?

Where to go from here?

As you can see there are some fantastic business benefits to be had from Hosted Desktop, but the process of provider selection is one that needs to be administered carefully.  Compare the Cloud has a selection of Hosted Desktop providers represented in our Cloud Comparison Tool for Hosted Desktop.  Here we’ve established a comprehensive series of metrics upon which the providers have stated their capability against.  It has to be the fastest way to quickly establish what providers will make it onto your short list, so check it out now.

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Hosted Virtual Desktop Providers:  Vesk  |  Vissensa  |  ThinkGrid  |  Nasstar  |  InterceptIT  |  RTW Hosting  |  VsparkHosted Virtual Desktop Technology Enablers:  VBridges  |  VMWare  |  Citrix  |  Microsoft