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July 7, 2011

Desktops Virtually Anywhere

By Joe Maglitta

It’s a riddle vexing many organizations today: How do you support employees doing more work in coffee shops, airports and other spots outside the office and reduce the 70 percent of IT budget and time typically spent on maintaining infrastructure? Increasingly, the answer is desktop virtualization.

Sometimes known as VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure), desktop virtualization turns the usual computing model on its head. Instead of running programs that reside on laptops, tablets, smart phones or other computing devices, you work on a “virtual desktop,” usually hosted on a remote server. This lets you easily and securely access corporate programs, systems and data — whenever and wherever you work. In a way, it’s a back to the future twist on earlier days of centralized computing, but with very modern advantages.

Desktop virtualization provides all the applications and data users need to do their jobs, regardless of whether they’re in the office or not. Each desktop is personalized with a look, feel and performance is virtually identical (no pun intended) to a conventional desktop. Result? More productive (and secure) users.

IT benefits in a big way. For starters, VDI makes it much easier for technology groups to centrally deploy and customize desktops from an approved “gold” image residing on a secure server. Once the desktop is provisioned, VDI makes it easy to automate various patching and compliance tasks. Every desktop can be managed from a single portal or environment. Done right, all this can slash desktop administration time, labor and costs.

Plus, VDI can greatly improve desktop security and recoverability. IT controls what programs can and — cannot — run, thereby reducing risks from viruses and other malware. If you accidentally leave your laptop on the shuttle or it’s stolen, data is safe because it is not stored locally on the device. That’s because it resides on a server, not the lost device. And VDI provides automatic backup and recovery capabilities to prevent damage or loss from outages.

New VDI products from IBM overcome many of the issues of first-generation VDI. Now, users can work on virtual desktops even when they’re not connected to the corporate network – a huge advance. Other technological advances have solved the problem of sluggish performance caused by network latency, a deal-breaker for many, especially in remote branches.

Properly implemented, VDI can boost the productivity of remote workers while freeing up precious IT dollars and resources for higher value efforts. No wonder more organizations consider today’s virtual desktops a real deal.

IT managers interested in VDI can determine their potential cost savings and return on investment with an online calculator by IBM.

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