Server virtualisation has played a vital part in the current trend towards cloud computing, helping businesses through increased efficiency, flexibility and mobility.
No surprise then, that many businesses are now turning to desktop virtualisation. They’ve seen what can be done with virtualisation on servers and they’d like to obtain those benefits again.
So what is desktop virtualisation, what can your business gain, and how can you use it effectively?
Desktop virtualisation explained
The idea behind desktop virtualisation is straightforward: to separate the operating system, application and data (the user’s desktop) from their physical PC.
This type of virtualisation has many benefits:
It enables users to “hot desk”, working from anywhere in your business, taking their preferences and profiles with them.
It enables users to work on multiple devices – from PCs, to tablets, to smartphones.
It allows users to take their applications with them from workstation to workstation.
It centralises administration and maintenance and reduces support costs.
It means your business needs to refresh its PCs much less often.
How it’s achieved depends on what you require. For some businesses, hosted virtual desktops, where virtual machines are served from a central location with desktop machines acting as clients, will suit.
For others, remote virtual desktops, where client machines “check out” images from a central server which are then refreshed periodically, will be preferred.
What your business can gain
The businesses that will benefit most from desktop virtualisation are those of medium to large size, with a workforce that requires flexibility or that is transient.
If you have a workforce that is fairly mobile but does not require a great deal of computing power to complete tasks, then desktop virtualisation is right for you.
Indeed, coupled with cloud-based applications, virtual desktops are currently the best way to build a low-cost, low-maintenance computing environment – one that makes it easy for employees to work how and where they want, with access to whatever they need.
Naturally, the bigger your business, the more you can save.
But that doesn’t mean mid-sized and even small businesses can’t benefit.
Virtualisation providers are now beginning to release desktop virtualisation systems aimed specifically at SMEs.
The more desktops your business runs, the lower the per-machine cost of such solutions. And instead of refreshing your aging desktops, this type of virtualisation solution allows your business to repurpose them at a lower cost, extending their life span by years.
Besides lower cost, the real benefit of desktop virtualisation is to freedom and productivity. With the right systems in place, users can access their desktop from anywhere on any device – including iPad, smartphones, Macs and PCs.
If your business wants a flexible computing environment – one that makes it easy for staff to bring their own devices to work, for example – then desktop virtualisation will certainly have a roll to play.
Some argue that the cost of PC workstations is becoming so low that desktop virtualisation is not worthwhile. But this misses the fact that the benefits go beyond the price tag of the workstation – adding the aforementioned flexibility, mobility and lower costs of support.
As I see it, it’s not a question of whether Australian businesses will go virtual on their desktops, but when.
Dave Stevens is MD, Brennan IT
(This blog post was first published on the SmartCompany website on November 10 2011).