What is Desktop Virtualisation? (With Types and Advantages)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 7 September 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A virtual desktop system allows multiple user desktop instances to be created on a single host. These desktop instances usually reside in a data centre or in the cloud. If you're considering implementing a virtual desktop system into a business, it can be helpful to understand how it works and the advantages of using it. In this article, we describe what desktop virtualisation is, explain why it's important, share the three main types of virtual desktop technology and provide its benefits.

What's desktop virtualisation?

Desktop virtualisation is technology that allows employees to access the computer systems they use at work remotely from a connected device. It separates the desktop from a central device and loads it onto a data centre or cloud to allow employees to connect to business resources via a network and through a device of their choice. This type of technology can make it easier for employees to work from any location using any device, including a laptop, desktop computer, tablet or smartphone.

Related: Digital Workplaces: Definition, Characteristics and Benefits

The importance of virtual desktops

Virtual desktops can be a great addition to any business, as they can increase the opportunities for their employees to work remotely. This can have a positive impact on employee productivity, as they can access their work from anywhere and at any time. Giving employees the ability to work remotely can promote a healthier work-life balance and contribute significantly to their job satisfaction and morale.

Implementing virtual desktops can also make IT maintenance easier to manage while reducing costs in this area because of the reduction in physical IT assets. These cost savings usually occur because there may no longer be a requirement for employees to take a computer home with them, as they can access business resources from their own devices if they opt to work remotely. The centralisation that a virtual desktop system provides can also simplify IT maintenance by reducing the number of distinct elements in a network.

Related: How to Become a Network Engineer

Types of virtual desktop technology

There are three main types of virtual desktop technology, which you find information on below:

Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI)

In VDI, the desktop image travels to the end-user device via the business network. The end user then uses the desktop, including the applications and operating systems, the same way as if they were working in the central office with direct network access. This type of virtual desktop system gives each user their own virtual machine that runs its own operating system. A hypervisor that splits a server into multiple desktop images supports the components of each operating system, including the drivers, memory and central processing unit, to allow users to access business data and programs through their endpoint devices.

Some benefits of VDI include:

  • VDI permits users to use their own devices, meaning there's ‌less hardware for a business to maintain.

  • Endpoint maintenance can be easier, as IT officers can complete routine upgrades and installations without user intervention.

  • Using VDI does not tie end users to the use of particular hardware, meaning employees can work anywhere and any time from their own device

  • VDI means you can manage data centrally, so data security can be stronger and businesses can prevent unauthorised downloading and viruses.

  • VDIs can be user-friendly because users see their log-in screen and their preferred settings the same as when they access their computer in the office.

Related: What is Data Visualisation? (Definition, Uses and Types)

Remote desktop services (RDS)

In RDS, users can remotely access Windows applications and desktops through the Microsoft Windows server operating system. They can do this using Microsoft or non-Microsoft devices. Microsoft Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) provides desktop images and applications to users' devices. From a user's perspective, RDS looks identical to VDI, yet it can be more cost-effective for a business to use because one Windows server can support as many users as the server permits.

Some benefits of RDS include:

  • RDS allows devices to run programs they may not have the processing power to run on their own.

  • This technology allows clients using other operating systems to run Windows-based applications.

  • With the use of RDS, IT officers can opt to store data in the cloud, meaning data can remain safe if a device fails.

  • Users can opt to use a new device without the requirement to set it up and load the appropriate applications onto it.

  • When users connect to RDS, it encrypts all connections, which can help ensure data safety and security.

Desktop-as-a-service (DaaS)

DaaS is a cloud-based subscription service that businesses can purchase to allow their users to access their computer network remotely. When using DaaS, a service provider delivers virtual desktops to the end users through the use of an internet connection. The business usually pays a fee per user subscription for this. DaaS can be a great option for smaller businesses that don't have a lot of money to spend on IT server infrastructure. This virtualisation technology also allows users to access a business's network, applications and data from any device they choose.

Some benefits of DaaS include:

  • Because DaaS is cloud-based, there's less of a requirement for a business to spend money on server hardware and the start-up and upkeep of such systems.

  • When using DaaS, users can receive IT support remotely, which can reduce downtime when employees experience IT issues.

  • Security risks can be lowered when using DaaS because IT officers can simply and quickly disconnect a lost or stolen device from the service.

  • This technology allows IT officers to send security and software updates to all devices simultaneously.

  • When connecting a new employee to the network, businesses can save time and money as employees can use their own devices and IT officers can send the desktop virtually via the cloud.

Virtual desktop benefits

There can be many advantages to using a virtual desktop system. You can find some of the most common ones below:

Reduced IT costs

By using a virtual desktop system, businesses can permit employees to use their own devices to access business data. This prevents businesses from spending money on desktop computers, laptops and virtual licences to access business data. IT maintenance can also be easier when using this type of technology, helping businesses save money on employment costs.

Related: What Is Cost Management? (Complete Guide and Tips)

Enhanced data security

When using virtual desktop technology, employees don't store data on their devices. Instead, they store it on the server or in the cloud. Because of this, if an employee loses a device, no one can access the data or compromise it without appropriate passwords. This can reduce data security risks for businesses, especially those businesses that hold a lot of confidential client information.

Related: The Benefits of Working in Cyber Security (Plus Key Skills)

Faster recovery and backup processes

Because of requiring fewer physical resources, virtual desktop technology can take less time to restore services if a disruption occurs. This can reduce the impact of the disruption, minimising operational downtime. Virtual desktop recovery allows IT teams to create a secondary desktop image in real-time and transfer users onto it quickly and with little intervention to allow them to continue working.

Streamlined maintenance

Virtual desktop technology can reduce the time IT team members take to complete upgrades and software rollouts. This is because this technology can allow them to send updates out to all users simultaneously, rather than having to address each physical device separately. Virtual desktop technology also allows IT teams to set up virtualisation environments by using a single golden image, including drivers and applications. IT officers can configure this golden image to reflect the business's security standards, ensuring the deployed applications adhere to those standards, too.

Related: Roles of the IT Department in the Workplace (With Job Types)

Improved onboarding processes

Onboarding new employees can be easier with the use of virtual desktop technology because of being able to connect new devices to the network quickly. This is because there's no requirement to configure new devices, install applications manually or prepare network connectivity for individual devices. Employees can also opt to use their own devices to undertake their work, which saves time for IT officers as there's no requirement for configuring computers and loading them with software to enable employees to complete their work.

Related: What Are Onboarding Tools? (With Benefits and Applications)

Increased flexibility

Virtual desktops can facilitate employees working from home or other locations easily. They can access their work desktops from any device to access business data with ease. This can promote a greater work-life balance and make businesses more appealing when recruiting new employees.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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