Cloud-based desktops are all about the right mindset

If you're considering cloud-based desktops, make sure your head and heart are in the right place.

Last week, I explained three factors to keep in mind if you're evaluating Desktop as a Service (DaaS). Aside from

integration and licensing, there are a few others that go into making a decision about DaaS: access, fear and confidence.

Desktop as a Service allows you to host virtual desktops in the cloud, putting data in the hands of a cloud provider. But not all your considerations concerning cloud-based desktops will be technical -- some are simply about your mindset.

Here are three more things to remember as you look into cloud-hosted desktops:

End-user access

All the licensing and infrastructure in the world is irrelevant if you can't get the users connected to the desktops, so before we get into IT's issues, let's consider how users access their virtual desktops.

Do you lock down your old PCs for use as thin clients? It's a fine, free-ish solution, but that means there's some desktop management that's happening locally -- even for VDI users. You could also buy one of the many solutions that actually turns PCs into manageable thin clients. They work really well, but there's an added cost for that.

Of course, you could also buy thin clients. This works well in a phased approach where you repurpose PCs into thin clients, then as they die replace them with actual thin clients. The point is that you need to factor the cost of clients into DaaS.

Fear of lack of control

We've been managing desktops the same way for almost 20 years, and cloud-based desktops are weirdly new, exciting and, at the same time, scary. When people talk about the cloud, I usually hear something along the lines of, "They can't do it better than us!" or, "They don't care as much as we do!" -- referring to cloud providers.

To that, I say, "Balderdash!"

Gmail is perhaps the best example. When Gmail goes down or has a vulnerability, there are millions of people affected, many of whom are shareholders. Google has a room full of people ready, willing and able to fix it as fast as possible. Your company has the email guy. While he may be a great admin and certified out the ears, he's not the same as a team of people 100% dedicated to the system as their lifeblood.

More on cloud-based desktops

Microsoft's DaaS licensing controversy

Deciding between cloud-based desktops and VDI

The same holds true for Desktop as a Service. These companies exist for the sole purpose of delivering cloud-based desktops, and you're usually not better equipped to do it than they are. Granted, there is an emotional connection that IT people have to their environment, so there's personal reputation and job security on the line, but the employees of a DaaS provider have the same connection to their job and reputation to uphold if there's an outage.

Confidence in the DaaS provider

You also need to have confidence in the provider's ability to reliably deliver your cloud-based desktops. I'm not talking about the distrust or fear of the cloud. I'm talking about more fundamental concerns: What if the company goes out of business? What if the facility is raided by the FBI to confiscate some other company's hardware?

These are valid concerns, and you should take them up with the DaaS provider to see what they offer as a solution. Perhaps you can use two providers, or at least have one on standby that's ready to take over in the event of some problem. Of course, that also costs money, so it might break the model.

Desktop as a Service is as strategic of a decision as deciding what network, storage and servers to use. First, you should decide whether data center-hosted desktops are right for you. Then, as you plan how to deploy the technology, add DaaS to the list of possible methods. Just keep in mind my complete list of DaaS considerations as you make your decision.

This was first published in November 2012

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