Increased use of everything and anything IT to make work life faster and more efficient has conversely made work slower and less efficient for IT service professionals. The solution? Virtualisation.
While end users are relying on IT to make their life easier and their work more streamlined, the opposite is happening for IT services. Software and hardware are far more robust than in the past, however, the increasing reliance on technology to underpin every part of a business means that any IT problem, no matter how small, will swiftly escalate into a full-scale crisis if it’s not fixed immediately.
When you add this factor into the potential problem of the ever-increasing number of tools and devices that need to be supported, such as smartphones, laptops, home PCs, iPhones and so on, it’s no surprise that support costs are rocketing.
If you’re a multi-site business then the problem just multiplies. At the most basic level, maintaining your enterprise’s PC’s optimal operating system patches, up-to-date applications and the right security measures can almost be a full time job, even with the best auto-update software. But you also need to constantly upgrade and replace your PCs as newer and more processor-hungry applications evolve, and finally all of these devices must be backed up wherever they are, whether at home, work or in the field.
Not so dumb terminals
Happily there is a way to get around all of these problems by using desktop virtualisation. We’re all now familiar with server virtualisation where you replace the applications running on several under-performing servers, with one single server running the applications in multiple virtual servers. Desktop virtualisation takes that one step further by virtualising each desktop in your business and effectively turning each PC, laptop and so on into a dumb terminal.
The advantages of desktop virtualisation are many; you will only need to support one version of an operating system, and one version of each application.
This means that updates can be achieved in minutes rather than days or even weeks. Should you do a new tweaked version of an operating system for a particular user then it’s simple to add an additional desktop. It also means that patch updates and security can be easily and quickly implemented and if there’s a problem with an application and a new patch it’s a rapid process to roll back to a previous version.
An added bonus of this is that it’s now possible to implement hot-desking as your desktop effectively follows you to the PC/Laptop or even mobile device you are using.
Off site? No problem
It’s also possible to monitor and maintain the desktops from any desktop in the company. So, if you’re on a site visit it won’t prevent you from being able to fix a problem on a desktop in the MD’s home.
Another benefit is that you should no longer need to have state-of-the art PCs on every desktop, as all of the work is done on the server. Therefore sophisticated applications such as video-editing packages and CAD/CAM which require large amounts of processor power can be run on any desktop, including laptops and on your users’ home PCs
By centralising data you should make backing up much much simpler. Rather than relying on your employees to back up, or backing up hundreds of PCs with the resulting multi-terabyte headache that it creates, you have just one machine to backup and one disk system to backup from. If you use data de-duplication software you will be storing considerably less data. This means that there should be no more problems of users with crashed hard disks losing all their data.
As you’re simply backing up a single server it means backup, so should the worst happen and your business burn to the ground then the business could be back on its feet in a matter of hours.
All of these reasons explain why so many businesses are looking to move to desktop virtualisation, analysts IDC predicts sales of desktop virtualisation software will reach $1.8 billion by 2011, up from $500 million in 2008.
The need for speed
To make desktop virtualisation work, particularly across multiple sites and to remote users, you need a fast and reliable network. While it’s possible to run desktop virtualisation over broadband, it can start to reduce some of the benefits, particularly if you are trying to run a processor-hungry application. By having a fast network you can make your backups in real-time, so that if anything does go wrong you can switch to the backup server and you won’t have lost any significant amount of work.
Desktop virtualisation can solve a lot of problems yet it isn’t a cheap solution. If, however, you look at the long-term reductions in support costs and reduced overheads, the return on investment can pay for the additional costs involved quite swiftly.
For more information on the benefits of Desktop Virtualisation see
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