What Is a Virtual Desktop? How It Works, Benefits and Use Cases | V2 Cloud

What Is a Virtual Desktop? How It Works, Benefits and Use Cases

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End-user management and support is presently one of the most resource and time-intensive activities in today’s digital age. As such, many IT departments are slowly considering implementing virtual office environments with hundreds, or thousands of virtual desktops in operation.

This comes as no surprise as today’s intricate Information Technology (IT) environments, demand the minimization of costs, better performance, reduction of downtime, and more efficient utilization of resources.

 

What is a Virtual Desktop?

Virtual desktops or cloud desktops are essentially preconfigured images of operating systems and apps where the desktop environment is effectively separated from the physical device employed to access it. This setup is part of a broader desktop virtualization environment, which allows for scalable and flexible configurations.

In practice, different users can access their individual virtual desktops remotely over a secure network. As such, any end-point device, like a laptop, smartphone, or tablet, can be utilized to access a virtual desktop. So, in practice, the virtual desktop provider basically installs client software on the end-point device, then the user interacts with that software on the device.

Consequently, employees can access their work computers remotely, with the OS and data stored on a network that can be located anywhere using unique log-in credentials.

 

How does a Virtual Desktop Work?

Overall, a virtual desktop resembles and feels like a physical workstation, but unlike physical machines, it operates in a virtual environment. However, the user experience is typically better than a physical workstation due to powerful resources, like storage and back-end databases being readily available.

Though users may not be able to save changes, or permanently install applications, depending on the virtual desktop configuration.

 

Setup Variability

Generally, the beauty of virtual desktop technology is that there are different ways to set up a virtual desktop.

One such option is deploying a standalone version as a cloud service, which provides provisions for Windows and Linux, along with support for managing various types of applications, including mobile apps.

Typically, standard computers are best run through a Desktop as a Service (DaaS), but portable hardware like iOS, Android, or Chromebook devices can best benefit from virtual desktops.

 

Seamless Transition Across Devices

Despite each system delivering different advantages and purposes, changing between multiple disparate operating systems can be cumbersome.

Essentially, lowering productivity each time an employee wants to switch devices to perform a specific task. However, with a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), this task can be seamless across different devices, including mobile phones.

 

Functionality

Fundamentally, a virtual desktop behaves in a manner similar to a traditional desktop. Ideally, your software programs, history, and personalization settings stay wholly intact and appear just as you’d left them at a day’s end.

When you are done working on a project, simply save as you normally would, and the files shall be kept in a folder within a virtual server, accessible whether you are at the office or remotely located.

 

Technical Implementation

To achieve this, remote servers employ software referred to as a hypervisor to simulate the user’s desktop.

This technology essentially enables the server to run multiple instances of the same operating system. As such, it’s perfect for sharing work between multiple devices. Or even a workplace setting with multiple different users coming and going from the office.

Importantly, the hypervisor stores the system’s memory, processor, and other critical aspects of the operating system, effortlessly juggling different users with ease.

 

Different Types of Virtual Desktop

1) Remote Desktop Services (RDS)

With Remote Desktop Services, only one instance of an application or operating system is hosted on a shared server. This means multiple users can access and use the same instance concurrently, providing a cost-effective solution for organizations with many users who need access to the same applications or desktop environments.

RDS is particularly useful for tasks requiring low to moderate computing power and where user sessions can share resources without significant performance degradation.

 

2) Client-side Hosted Virtual Desktops

Client-side hosted virtual desktops position virtual machines to run atop the existing operating system on a user’s device. This setup allows users to access their virtual desktops anytime and anywhere, as long as they have their device and an internet connection.

It provides flexibility and mobility, making it ideal for remote workers and employees who travel frequently. The virtual machine operates independently of the host OS, ensuring a consistent and secure user experience across different environments.

 

3) Client Hypervisors

In this type of virtual desktop, a client maintains a hypervisor directly on their desktop, allowing them to run multiple virtual machines concurrently. This setup is powerful for developers, testers, and IT professionals who need to work with various operating systems and applications simultaneously.

The client hypervisor manages the hardware resources of the physical machine, distributing them efficiently among the virtual machines to ensure optimal performance.

 

4) Operating System Provisioned Virtual Desktop

This virtual desktop type provisions the operating system to either a virtual machine in a data center or a physical machine on a desktop. Each case necessitates a constant connection to the data center, which can be limiting for laptop use.

Additionally, actual desktops may require substantial hardware support to run these virtual machines effectively. This model is suitable for scenarios where high availability, security, and centralized management of the operating system are critical.

 

5) Application Virtualization

Application virtualization isolates applications from the user’s operating system, running them independently. This separation allows multiple applications to run on the same platform simultaneously without interfering with each other.

Application virtualization enhances compatibility and simplifies application management, making it easier to deploy, update, and maintain applications across an organization. It is particularly useful in environments where different applications might have conflicting dependencies or require specific configurations.

 

Key Advantages of a Virtual Desktop

There are many advantages of desktop virtualization. A virtual desktop service offers a range of benefits, including secure access to business IT networks and enhanced remote working capabilities. Here’s how a virtual desktop can you help achieve better efficiency.

 

Simplified end-point management

Managing endpoints, such as laptops and desktops, can be challenging, especially in large organizations. Ensuring security, updating millions of applications and operating systems, and preventing breakdowns are critical tasks.

Additionally, laptops can be easily lost, risking data theft. With virtual desktops, the actual desktop resides in the data center, always accessible to the IT team.

Preparing and installing an OS and apps on a physical device can take hours to weeks, but with virtual desktops, you can clone an image in minutes, streamlining the process.

 

Enhanced built-in security

Organizations often handle sensitive data and collaborate with external vendors. Virtual desktops make it easier to monitor activity, restrict access, and prevent data leakage. They also simplify network traffic monitoring and ensure anti-malware software and operating systems are up-to-date, enhancing overall security.

 

Flexibility and mobility

Virtual desktops offer true mobility, allowing users to access their desktops from anywhere. This flexibility enables users to exploit full-function applications with the power of a desktop, regardless of their location, facilitating remote work and increasing productivity.

 

Cost reduction for IT infrastructure

In large organizations with 200 or more staff, simplified management of virtual desktops translates to less time spent on labor-intensive endpoint management tasks.

It also leads to fewer security incidents and lower device expenses, especially when adopting thin clients that require only a fraction of the power of conventional desktops or laptops.

 

Cheaper hardware replacement costs

The typical depreciation time for a workstation is about three years. Virtual desktop terminals have fewer mechanical parts, resulting in a significantly longer Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF) compared to traditional machines.

This reduced wear and tear and lowered hardware replacement costs over time.

 

Who Can Benefit from Virtual Desktops?

Many different businesses and users can leverage virtual desktops to enjoy all the advantages mentioned above. From personal use to a VM with 200+ users, there’s a tailored solution for every need.

 

Remote Workers and Telecommuters

Virtual desktops are ideal for remote workers and telecommuters who need access to a consistent and secure work environment from various locations.

With a virtual desktop, employees can access their work applications and data from any device with an internet connection, ensuring they remain productive and connected regardless of their physical location.

 

Large Organizations and Enterprises

Large organizations with extensive IT infrastructure can significantly benefit from virtual desktops. Managing thousands of endpoints becomes more streamlined, reducing the time and resources required for updates, security patches, and troubleshooting.

Virtual desktops also enhance data security by centralizing sensitive information in a controlled data center environment.

 

IT Departments and Managed Service Providers

IT departments and managed service providers (MSPs) can leverage virtual desktops to simplify endpoint management and reduce the complexity of deploying and maintaining software across multiple devices.

This efficiency leads to faster resolution of technical issues and more effective use of IT resources.

 

Healthcare and Financial Institutions

Industries like healthcare and finance, which handle highly sensitive and regulated data, can benefit from the enhanced security features of virtual desktops.

By centralizing data and applications, these organizations can better control access, monitor activity, and ensure compliance with industry regulations.

 

Educational Institutions

Schools, colleges, and universities can use virtual desktops to provide students and faculty with access to educational software and resources from any location.

This flexibility supports remote learning initiatives and ensures that educational tools are readily available without the need for expensive hardware.

 

Development and Testing Teams

Software development and testing teams often require access to multiple operating systems and environments.

Virtual desktops allow these teams to quickly spin up new virtual machines for development, testing, and quality assurance purposes, facilitating faster and more efficient workflows.

 

Businesses with Seasonal or Temporary Workers

Companies that rely on seasonal or temporary workers can benefit from virtual desktops by providing these employees with quick access to the necessary tools and resources without investing in additional physical hardware.

Virtual desktops can be easily provisioned and de-provisioned, making them a cost-effective solution for managing a fluctuating workforce.

 

Organizations with BYOD Policies

Organizations implementing Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies can use virtual desktops to ensure that employees can securely access corporate applications and data from their personal devices.

This approach maintains security and compliance while offering flexibility for employees to use their preferred devices.

 

How to Create and Deploy a Virtual Desktop?

1. Define Requirements and Objectives

Begin by identifying the specific needs and objectives of your organization.

Determine the number of users, the types of applications they will use, the required performance levels, and any specific security or compliance requirements.

Understanding these factors will help you design a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) that meets your organization’s needs.

 

2. Choose the Right Virtual Desktop Solution

There are several virtual desktop solutions available, including Desktop as a Service (DaaS), on-premises VDI, and hybrid models.

Evaluate the pros and cons of each option based on your requirements. Popular solutions include V2 Cloud, VMware Horizon, Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops, Microsoft Azure Virtual Desktop, and Amazon WorkSpaces.

 

3. Select Appropriate Hardware and Infrastructure

Depending on your chosen solution, you may need to invest in servers, storage, and networking equipment. Ensure your hardware can support the required number of virtual desktops and deliver the necessary performance.

For cloud-based solutions, ensure your internet connection is reliable and fast enough to handle the data transfer requirements.

 

4. Configure User Profiles and Policies

Set up user profiles and policies to ensure each user has access to the necessary resources and applications.

Configure policies for data storage, application access, and security settings to maintain compliance and protect sensitive information.

 

5. Implement Security Measures

Security is critical in a virtual desktop environment. Implement measures such as multi-factor authentication (MFA), encryption, and regular security updates.

Use monitoring tools to detect and respond to potential security threats. Ensure that antivirus and anti-malware software is installed and regularly updated on all virtual desktops.

 

6. Test and Optimize the Environment

Before rolling out the virtual desktops to all users, conduct thorough testing to identify and resolve any performance issues or bugs.

Optimize the environment by adjusting resource allocations, fine-tuning network settings, and ensuring that all applications run smoothly.

 

7. Deploy to End Users

Once testing is complete and the environment is optimized, deploy the virtual desktops to your end users. Provide training and support to help them transition to the new system.

Ensure that users know how to access their virtual desktops and understand the benefits and functionalities.

 

8. Monitor and Maintain

Continuous monitoring and maintenance are essential to ensure the ongoing performance and security of your virtual desktop environment.

Use management tools to track usage, performance, and security events. Regularly update software, apply patches, and adjust configurations as needed to meet changing requirements and address emerging threats.

 

Wrapping Up

Virtual desktops offer a powerful solution for enhancing efficiency, security, and flexibility in today’s dynamic work environments. By centralizing desktop management, providing seamless access across devices, and ensuring robust security, virtual desktops can significantly transform your organization’s IT infrastructure.

Ready to experience the benefits of virtual desktops? Partner with V2 Cloud to simplify your desktop management and empower your workforce with secure, accessible, and cost-effective virtual desktop solutions. Start your V2 Cloud trial today to learn more and get started.

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