Remote work

Virtual desktops simplify WFH management

Virtual desktop infrastructure grows as some IT teams continue to work from home.
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· 3 min read

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When it’s contract time, Protiviti’s global security and privacy segment leader Terry Jost appreciates how one technology option—the virtual desktop—lessens the legal parsing.

Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) has a way of simplifying the data processing agreement: “We’ll…have access to your data, but there’ll be no transmission of that data off of your systems,” said Jost, managing director at the global consulting firm.

While virtual desktops have existed in some form for the last 20+ years, the technology offers security and provisioning advantages for a workforce increasingly working from, well, anywhere, according to industry professionals who spoke with IT Brew.

What is a virtual desktop?

A virtual desktop provides an operating system to a user, while keeping the data on a server and not the device. What’s sent across the network is not, say, an Excel spreadsheet, but a desktop image of an Excel spreadsheet—one that can be encrypted. Think of it as a livestream of a remote-controlled computer.

“[For] security, it’s a no-brainer. Having virtual desktops is much more secure than letting people manage desktops that have software,” said Jerald Murphy, SVP of research and consulting at Nemertes.

Data on the replica laptop resides in a central location, not on many individual devices that may need to be patched and updated.

“I would much rather do centralized management than distributed management. That’s a win overall,” said Adam Lotz, director of product marketing at Citrix.

VM, where?

Desktop virtualization options, including VMware Horizon, Amazon Workspace, and Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktop, began to appeal to some companies as a pandemic struck and employees went home.

Usage of Windows Virtual Desktop tripled during the third quarter of 2020, and Gartner, shortly after, predicted desktop as a service (DaaS) users to increase by over 150% between 2020 and 2023.

Companies like Citrix have had to ensure that virtual desktops adapt to employees’ remote needs, from Zoom to Teams.

“We’ve reinvested in things like our display protocols and our interactivity for voice and video to improve that experience, because suddenly, it was a new thing our customers were doing,” Lotz told IT Brew.

Lotz has noticed an increase in customers across the board—from nurses who read CT scans in various rooms to CAD engineers designing from home.

Jost doesn’t expect corporations to change all their laptops to VDI, but the Protiviti lead expects virtualization in “federated” or collaborative models, like when two aerospace and defense companies with lots of sensitive IP work together on a jet.

How much is VDI worth to Jost?

“Whenever you consider the hours and hours that I spend negotiating legal language whenever we’re about to do a new contract with our clients, it’s worth every penny,” he said.—BH

Do you work in IT or have information about your IT department you want to share? Email [email protected] or DM @BillyHurls on Twitter.

Top insights for IT pros

From cybersecurity and big data to software development and gaming. Our IT Brew newsletter delivers the latest news and analysis of trends shaping the IT industry, like only The Brew can.