The COVID-19 pandemic forced many organizations to enable remote work for their users, and organizations with desktop-as-a-service agreements had several key advantages that eased the transition to working from home.
Johnson Investment Counsel, an investment advisory firm based in Cincinnati, uses a DaaS offering from Evolve IP, and its transition to remote work faced minimal issues, thanks to the flexible nature of cloud-hosted desktops.
The firm coincidentally held a pandemic test to deal with the possibility of forced remote work.
"That exercise was huge in preparing us for COVID-19," said Ryan Easter, director of operations and information technology at the firm.
This test, required by an Ohio regulatory agency, forced Johnson Investment Counsel to "kill off" team members and force other team members to step up. With the pandemic test under their belt and an established relationship with a DaaS vendor, Johnson Investment Counsel had relatively smooth sailing for its transition to remote work.
The flexibility of DaaS with remote work
Evolve IP has helped Johnson Investment Counsel keep remote access consistent for users, regardless of location or device, according to Easter.
"From a [DaaS] platform perspective, everything operated exactly the same -- whether you're in the office ... or at home, you're still connecting to the same desktop and server resources," Easter said.
Once end users install the VMware Horizon View client, they can establish a connection between an endpoint and Evolve IP's DaaS portal. There, end users have access to their company apps to support line of business and their cloud phone system, according to Easter.
The variety of endpoints that the DaaS can support provides flexibility for the end users, which helped Johnson Investment Counsel during the initial transition to remote work. This was especially important for Johnson Investment Counsel, because the IT team was in the process of ordering new endpoints and providing users with the monitors they needed during this period; some users had to temporarily rely on some atypical devices.
Evolve IP's agreement with Johnson Investment Counsel allowed Easter and his team to focus on more specific aspects enabling remote work such as troubleshooting user issues. Under their agreement, Evolve IP is responsible for provisioning virtual resources and managing VMware patches and updates, while Easter's team uses cloud-based desktop management tools to handle security, OS patches, troubleshooting and other desktop issues.
With Evolve IP handling those aspects of virtual desktop management, Easter's IT team could focus on troubleshooting issues that are specific to its employees that an outside vendor wouldn't know as intimately. For Johnson Investment Counsel, these issues could involve the firm's multifactor authentication system, cloud phone system or portfolio management utilities.
"We can [troubleshoot employee issues] from anywhere; we have a cloud portal that we log in to and the tools necessary to assist people on corporate devices or even their personal equipment," Easter said.
Organizations with existing DaaS agreements like Johnson Investment Counsel had a major leg up on organizations that started to transition to DaaS after the pandemic came to the U.S. April 2020 was Evolve IP's highest install month ever, according to Scott Kinka, the company's CTO.
Many organizations were forced to scramble into finding a suitable technology to support remote work.
"The scramblers were either adding to existing implementations or getting something completely new ... and they got themselves somewhere better than 0% and somewhere less than 100% for their optimal environment with a lot of duct tape, spit and vinegar," Kinka said.
Why DaaS scales easier than VDI for remote work
While VDI has several advantages over DaaS, such as higher customizability and more direct control, DaaS is the preferred virtual desktop hosting and delivery model for quick scale ups.
If an organization needs to quickly and drastically increase its VDI capacity for virtual desktops, this process will involve new hardware, physically reworking infrastructure and potential issues with resource provisioning.
However, DaaS offers organizations the ability to quickly spin up cloud-hosted desktops. This process won't require the organization's IT department to make massive infrastructure changes on the fly. Rather, it outsources the desktop virtualization to a vendor and allows IT departments to focus on other, organization-specific issues.
Moving forward with remote work on DaaS
Organizations should push beyond the temporary fixes for remote work issues and focus on optimizing remote work DaaS setups, Kinka said.
"There used to be an expectation of substandard performance if you were at your house, and now that's not going to be accepted," he added.
Evolve IP offers documentation for their customers that encompasses about a dozen work-from-home-related topics that organizations should address their DaaS setups, including end-user profile security, collaboration tools and policies and file-sharing procedures.
Scott KinkaCTO, Evolve IP
Common remote work pain points are legacy applications over VPNs and virtual desktops, Kinka said. These applications cause far more problems than fully updated software as a service (SaaS) applications.
"Maybe there's one application inside the business that just isn't 'SaaS-ified' like their ERP or [some] accounting application written in C# 10 years ago," Kinka said. "For those we focus on wrapping that application and delivering it."
Virtual application wrapping is just one example of optimizing the DaaS remote work experience, and IT departments should look for opportunities to improve common user workflow issues to prepare for the long haul.
"We're doing a lot of cleaning off those duct tape [fixes] into more permanent guidelines," Kinka said.