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Five things you might not know about cloud desktops

In the classic 1950 film noir 'Sunset Boulevard,' Gloria Swanson opined, 'I'm ready for my close-up.' Now, so is DaaS, and there are some things you might not know -- like that the CIA uses AWS.

DaaS is a popular topic in the virtualization world. But despite all the chatter about the technology, there are some things you might be unaware of.

There are plenty of customer success stories about desktop as a service (DaaS) out there today. Theoretical capacity and performance projections for the technology are now based on real-world metrics and results, and it's no longer a question of whether DaaS is suitable for business.

In fact, the idea of cloud-hosted desktops has been around for more than a decade, and some shops have done it for that long. But facts about the technology can get obscured in the trend reports and excitement around new use cases. Ahead, find out five things you might not know about DaaS.

Use case is everything

Though it's not right for everyone, DaaS is becoming common in both enterprise IT shops and small to medium-sized businesses. The best DaaS use cases include companies trying to cut desktop costs for non-power users, or workers who don't need a large number of custom applications installed on their desktops.

Workers who only need Microsoft Office applications are no-brainer candidates for DaaS, but power users with numerous specialized applications installed are typically still not good candidates.

Vendor competition speaks volumes

You can tell that a technology is maturing when large vendors finally jump into the market. Amazon, Citrix, VMware, Oracle and other big vendors now offer DaaS tools, and these top-tier software and managed services companies enter a market only when there's money to be made. The fact that some of the biggest, most successful companies in the IT arena now have DaaS offerings is proof positive that the era of DaaS is upon us.

These competing offerings will keep DaaS prices low -- or perhaps drive them even lower -- as companies fight for market and mind share. This competition is great for current and potential DaaS customers because they push each other to increase functionality and lower customer costs.

Licensing issues are (mostly) resolved

Most software vendors now offer usage-based or per-subscriber licensing for DaaS. Even Microsoft has Office licensing that allows DaaS providers to pay a monthly subscription based on actual usage. The need to own an Office license for every single desktop in your company -- regardless of how many people actually use it -- is now a thing of the past.

But Microsoft continues to impede the pace of DaaS adoption by stubbornly refusing to allow Windows 7 or 8 desktops to be licensed under its Services Provider License Agreement (SPLA) program. That shortsighted decision isn't stopping DaaS providers, however. They're rolling out Windows Server-based desktops that look and feel almost exactly like Windows 7 desktops. Providers can host client OSes in the cloud, but it's not as cost-effective because subscribers have to bring their own Virtual Desktop Access licenses. DaaS providers could also deploy non-Microsoft desktop operating systems, such as Linux. In any case, the rising popularity of DaaS will hopefully make Microsoft offer an SPLA for client OSes.

The CIA trusts the cloud

One of the biggest hurdles to the widespread adoption of DaaS is the fact that some companies have to follow corporate security guidelines or government-mandated rules that forbid storing confidential company or customer data on a public cloud service. This skeptical attitude is now in need of an adjustment -- even the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is using the cloud!

The CIA's cloud platform of choice is Amazon Web Services. Of course, Amazon will provide the CIA with a secure cloud workspace behind a government firewall, but the fact that the CIA trusts Amazon to build a secure cloud computing environment means that most other companies can make that same leap of faith.

It's great for DR

The bottom line about disaster recovery (DR) plans is that you need one, but DR plans rarely include desktop data; because there is so much of it, it can be difficult to back up. Companies have dealt with desktop data protection in a variety of ways, including requiring that users save important documents to a shared network drive that is backed up regularly. These strategies work well, except that they are based on the presumption that end users always follow corporate dictates. We all know that's not always the case. Instead, you can look to DaaS for DR.

DaaS removes the possibility of lost desktop data because all user data and documents reside in the cloud, so it's backed up on a regular basis. DaaS also makes the stolen laptop or the crashed hard drive catastrophe a thing of the past. DaaS also supports that concept that an end user's data should be accessible from anywhere, anytime. If the data is located in the cloud, it's available anytime a user needs it and from any location in the world.

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