Windows Virtual Desktop

Work in the post-lockdown era

In these times of quarantine, social distancing, and economic stagnation, there are very few certainties for people to hold on, and that extends to business, but if there is one thing that appears clear in the midst of all this is that for large portions of the population, work as a concept is going to change for good.

The phrase “the new normal” has become some kind of motto for the things to come when the pandemic is controlled, and people can finally go out into the world again without fearing for their lives. But in the “the new normal”, for many, going out back into the world may no longer be necessary to do their jobs. For companies, one of the biggest lessons the sanitary emergency has left is that remote work is more than just a convenient strategy to survive the crisis but a profitable working model that can be easily set in tune with business goals in the long run.

Plenty of pre-pandemic studies conducted by renowned, credible organizations, suggested that remote work is beneficial not only for the finances of organizations but also for the workers, improving their motivation thus their productivity, job loyalty, sense of accomplishment, and general health. Now, after several weeks of implementing telecommuting, not by choice, but forced by a virus, the empiric evidence has proved what the studies suggested. As a consequence, more and more enterprises are preparing to adopt it as part of their new reality, whatever that ends up being.

Amongst the list of things COVID-19 came to change, shines a positive one: Work will no longer be confined to the office space, on the contrary, now it is the office that needs to go the workers, regardless of where they fancy being.

The “new normal” will be fully mobile

Preparing for “the new normal” implies much more than just putting together a set of rules for employees to comply, remote work requires to take very good care of who in the organization can access what, when, how, and from where.

Having dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of employees working offsite may sound ideal right now, however, each device they use to remotely access critical company infrastructures and the most sensitive business information opens back doors to potential attacks against the organization.

So, preparing means, or at least it should mean, establishing a set of practices and implementing systems that allow workers to be productive regardless of where they happen to be working from, guaranteeing, in the meantime, absolute protection to the company data; no easy task. That’s where desktop virtualization comes to the rescue -when done right, of course-.

What is desktop virtualization? Probably the best way to define it is by contrasting it with what it came to replace: As we know, since computation took over the world and every bit of information exists in the digital form, each collaborator in every organization under the sun has been assigned a computer loaded with a series of programs and applications to process, compile, create, share the information they need to do their job. These terminals access the data hosted in local servers, and more recently immaterial servers. Protecting the data in these servers and terminals from malign attempts and human error requires powerful, complex, and expensive security systems that need constant updating to be up to the constant influx of new threats, something that’s definitely not easy nor cheap.

With the popularization of the internet, and as technologies such as the cloud and mobile devices reached maturity, the need to access these networks from outside the organizations grew exponentially, and not only that, programs and application became more powerful to be able to handle the ever-growing loads of information, forcing business to invest in more and more sophisticated devices.

As collaborators connected their laptops, cell phones, and tablets to the organizations’ networks, often from substandard connections, new vulnerabilities appeared. Now, ill-intended actors could take advantage of these chinks in the digital security armor of enterprises to steal their secrets, and tamper or kidnap their data for profit or simply to prove they could. Attacks like these have been a death sentence to hundreds of businesses -large and small- around the world and crippled many others.

The popularization of the internet, the advances in connectivity, and the development of mobile and cloud technologies put in evidence the shortcomings of the good-old locally hosted digital infrastructure facing the future: it was not adaptable enough, it was not the most cost-effective solution, and obviously, it was not up to the challenge in terms of security.

Windows Virtual Desktop: Access Everything, Anywhere

A modern, mobile workforce needs secure, fast access to all the apps, digital services, and data required to do their job in an efficient, competitive way, no matter where they are or what operative system, mobile platform, or browser the use. Precisely those are the aspects the desktop virtualization addresses.

It’s utterly surprising to absolutely no one at all that the leading force in mobile productivity solutions is Microsoft, after all, they have been paving the way to this point for decades. That expertise materialized in Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD), an efficient, secure, fully manageable approach to desktop virtualization in the cloud.

WVD allows remote workers to access their desktops: every app, every service, and every piece of data in it, from any device, whether it’s Windows, MacOS, iOS, or Android; and since it supports HTML5, it’s also compatible with virtually any modern browser. Meaning that users no longer need powerful machines loaded with the software and apps they regularly use nor they need to keep company data store in their disks, all they need is a secure internet connection to log into their complete desktops in the cloud, whenever, wherever they want. From a productivity standpoint, it is a no-compromise proposition, and from the user’s point of view, the experience is entirely satisfactory.

With the users’ devices separated from the computing environment of the organization, the risk of having sensitive data stored in personal devices reduces drastically. If a collaborator’s terminal is lost or stolen, for instance, there will be nothing in it that could compromise the integrity of the organization. You lose a piece of hardware, but the data remains intact.

Operation systems, applications, and data, are also kept apart from local hardware, running them instead on remote servers. As a result, WVD centrally managed security requires less overhead from IT, and fewer headaches too since they no longer need to worry for what devices access the network, as long as they do it from a secure connection.

Now, with every virtual desktop running in WVD servers over secure outbound connections, all it’s left is to focus on productivity, and the unlimited capacity of WVD opens endless possibilities.

Organizations can choose any size of virtual machine in Azure and vary the density of users accordingly to the actual workflow. With Windows 10, for example, it is possible to gain efficiency by having multiple users in a single virtual desktop with support from modern apps such as OneNote and Office 365, plus sufficient GPU and Ram to perform any task on hand, significantly reducing the resource requirements.

The “Host Pool” feature of WVD, permits to put together collections of Virtual Desktops to meet the requirements of specific users, like -say- different departments in the organization. Once the demand meets the pre-established threshold, the scaling tool in WVD can automatically provision additional virtual desktops as needed. The load balance tool allows to allocate users across the host pool evenly for performance, or to allocate them on a single virtual desktop before moving them to the next, for savings. As usual with Microsoft solutions, with WVD tenants pay only for what they use.

WVD also reduces the overall running cost of organizations through storage. OneDrive fast, bottomless optimized storage enables to provision smaller virtual machines and storage footprint per user while providing best-in-class file access performance.

In brief, Windows Virtual Desktop is the secure and efficient approach to centrally manage any organization’s devices without compromising productivity.

A final note that will please the users of Windows 7 desktops: WVD allows running them in the cloud for up to three years after the end of support from Microsoft (01/14/2020), without having to pay for extended security updates.

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