Four desktop virtualization use cases

Knowing why you're deploying virtual desktops is the first step to success -- whether it's for better security, simplified management or BYOD support.

Desktop virtualization isn't right for every environment or every desktop, so let's review some of the places where

it makes the most sense to virtualize.

As business owners demand a lower total cost of ownership, better security, greater mobility and a more agile IT infrastructure, the traditional desktop model is showing its age. The No. 1 reason that desktop virtualization projects fail is because IT professionals often launch these projects without identifying a clear business problem for which the technology is a solution. Fresh off the heels of success with server virtualization, systems administrators may believe that desktop virtualization is the next logical step in the enterprise IT lifecycle.

Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) hasn't replaced traditional desktops and laptops in the way that server virtualization has replaced physical servers, but most industry observers acknowledge that desktop virtualization use cases will remain complementary to traditional desktop and laptop delivery and management technologies. Rarely does it make sense for an organization to virtualize 100% of its desktops in the data center. Instead, you should view desktop virtualization as just part of a larger IT strategy to provide the highest value to the business.

To help you deploy virtual desktops for the right reasons, here are some examples of common desktop virtualization use cases.

Disaster recovery

As business continuity and disaster recovery plans develop, companies increasingly rely on desktop virtualization to provide on-demand access at a failover site. Traditionally, businesses interested in disaster recovery would warehouse PC inventory at an alternate facility where users could come and work in the event that the primary location was unavailable

With virtualization, IT can provision thousands of desktops in a virtual environment, quickly providing access to applications in the event that worker access to primary endpoints is not possible.

In addition, virtual desktops and modern remote display protocols enable users to gain access to their desktops and applications remotely. Now that mobile devices provide nearly ubiquitous Internet access, workers expect to be able to connect to corporate systems anywhere, anytime via multiple consumer devices. This use case provides redundancy but raises other concerns.

Security

The increasing mobility of users and their devices makes it harder for IT departments to manage company desktops and laptops. Viruses and spyware have become more complex and difficult to detect.

Desktop virtualization can improve the security of data at rest.

Both physical and virtual machines still have the same Windows operating system, applications and network vulnerabilities. However, desktop virtualization can improve the security of data at rest. Company data on laptops or desktops is no longer stored in unsecured environments; it is now stored within the walls of the data center.

In addition, applications can be isolated by using multiple operating system instances or application virtualization isolation technologies. Separate virtual desktop environments can be used to access sensitive data, providing an additional layer of separation and security.

Nonpersistent desktops can revert the desktop operating system and applications back to a known-good state. IT-controlled virtual desktops in the data center can be more reliably updated with antivirus signature files, patches and updates. Data from desktops can be backed up or collected with electronic discovery systems.

Bring your own device

With bring your own device (BYOD), worker-owned devices are being brought into the enterprise, and some users prefer personal devices over corporate-provided ones. Desktop virtualization can provide an alternative path to accessing applications while relieving IT staffers from having to support the endpoints themselves. Subsidizing partial costs for users who choose to bring their own devices could reduce the capital expense of user laptops and desktops.

Management

Reducing the total cost of ownership of desktops and laptops is a key objective for IT departments. Traditional desktop and laptop management systems can add significant complexity and increase the cost of supporting users. Plus, managing those desktops and laptops can require numerous applications, including those for application deployment, inventory, OS management and antivirus protection. Virtualization makes it easier to centrally manage and support users' desktops. Plus, you have more control over app deployment, user access and other management tasks.

This was first published in April 2013

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