The older model of business computing, using individual PCs attached to a central server, has started to give way in recent years to a variety of different models. Cloud computing is one you’ll hear mentioned frequently, but one that’s less talked about but equally important is Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI).
This is similar to the traditional client server model, but it involves using a centralised server to host a desktop environment for a number of attached machines. Increasingly, companies are turning to VDI as it offers more control over what users can see and do on their desktops. It can reduce the cost of providing desktop systems too, as less powerful equipment is required to deliver the service.
For smaller businesses or for applications such as publicly accessible information consoles, VDI can be quite simple. A low cost terminal can be connected to a central VDI resource, making it easy to set up.
In larger organisations VDI is attractive because it offers central control and management. This makes it easy to ensure that all users in the same department, for example, are running the same desktop environment and have access to the same systems. This will usually be done using software like VMware, which manages the connection centrally and ensures resources are optimised to give all users the best service.
VDI solutions can be scaled to run from just a few systems up to thousands. At enterprise level, technologies like fibre networking can deliver the service fast and securely to a large number of users across an organisation.
VDI has at its heart the desktop image. This is a package, made up of operating system and software, delivered from a central server. When the end user is in the VDI environment, it effectively takes the place of the native operating system running on their machine.
The advantages of this are that the configuration, security, access to software and data can all be managed centrally. This reduces the time needed to provision systems for new users or to set up and make changes to take account of alterations in the business.
Of course, it’s necessary to build and deploy an image in the first place, but there are a range of proprietary tools available to make the process easier. The configuration of the initial image is quite similar to setting up a desktop system. Once this is done, however, it can be used as a reference image to roll out to others.
User states can be captured too and saved so that people are always working in a familiar environment. All of the desktop images and user states are stored and managed in a central location, which means they’re easy to recover in the event of problems. There is also the option to give users a degree of control over their own environment.
Security and backup
Many organisations turn to VDI because it enables them to centrally manage their security. If you’re handling sensitive data then you need to make sure it can only be accessed by the right people at appropriate times. VDI streamlines this process by allowing you to manage a security solution centrally and roll it out to all of your users.
Of course, protection against malware is still important but the management of your solution is made simpler by VDI. It also makes backup and disaster recovery simpler because, again, you can have a solution to protect the whole business.
You need to ensure that everything continues to run smoothly too, and there are software tools available for this. They can monitor the performance of your virtual environments and alert you to developing problems.