Article by Karolina Kurzac

Pros and cons of a remote desktop strategy

Sacha Thomet works as a System Engineer for virtualization specialized in Citrix at an insurance company in Switzerland (visit Sacha’s blog and follow him on Twitter: @sacha81). He has more than 10 years of experience with Citrix technology, especially on the products XenApp, XenDesktop and Citrix Provisioning Services and in combination with PowerShell Scripts. We talked with him about the challenges, the crucial factors, but also the benefits we can gain from a remote desktop implementation.

– Sacha, why is virtualization needed for cloud computing?

In my opinion Cloud computing is a word which has hundred meanings, or on the other side if there is one kind of “the real cloud computing”, the word is misused very often. In my earlier days when I started to work with Terminal Server and Remote Desktops, there was the trend term “Server based computing” and now it’s the cloud.

My personal view of the word Cloud is: “a highly automated, hardware independent service which is not bind to a location and unlimited scalable.” Network and Storage is Software defined and there are no physical bricks to touch when the automated system will provision a new deployment. For this reason, virtualization is the heart of the cloud, or maybe it’s also better to say it’s the soul of the cloud as it’s on its every layer and you can’t touch it.

– What is the difference between virtual desktop and remote desktop?

This is a good question as lots of people see it as equivalent or mix up these two terms. Remote desktop means that you are not in front of your physical desktop, your desktop (virtual or physical) is located remotely. On the other side, a virtual desktop doesn’t really exist on one specific hardware. Certainly, there is a hardware providing this desktop but in between there is a virtualization layer and probably  there are multiple desktops on this hardware. The virtualized desktop is not fix bind on this hardware, you have the full benefits of virtualization and can move it interruption free to other hardware.

– What are the main advantages of the remote desktop? How do companies take advantages of this function?

With this technology, you relocate the desktop to the location where you need it. This can give you a bunch of advantages, most companies who run a remote desktop strategy want to have higher level of security and an easier management. If you compare a company with managed computers, e.g.: laptops or physical desktops and another company with remote desktops, you instantly see that the company with remote desktops avoids many complications that the company with traditional IT model.

Examples:

  • Backup: With remote desktops which are located in your data centre or in the cloud you never have the problem that they are not online and you are not able to run backup tasks, or better you don’t need a backup because all date is saved in an online storage.
  • Security: If a new virus or a security vulnerability is discovered you can patch your remote desktops immediately. In case of traditional, physical laptops and computers you need to wait until they are online to distribute the patch or new antivirus patterns.
  • Data privacy: Sensitive data never leave the data centre. Also, you can record an entire remote desktops session to monitor who what is happening to your data and who has access to it.

The list of advantages is nearly endless: software distribution, data deduplication, and so on all of it is easier with centralized desktops that are accessed by remote desktop.

– Do you see any risk or disadvantage from remote desktops? 

There is only one challenge with remote desktops. You need to have a reliable, low latency connection to the remote desktop to have a good user experience. But with the fast grow of the Internet and global data network, you can have a fast internet connection nearly everywhere in the world, so this challenge is already solved for most of customers.

– From your experience, is it more cost-efficient to run remote desktops? 

The crucial factor for efficient remote desktop strategy is to not repeat the same work twice. If you have remote desktops and you still manage client computers for your users, you don’t have financial win at the end. This is why a centralised management console is essential.

Remote desktop can be used as a supplement for you existing environment. But if you really want to save money, you need to replace the managed clients by the remote desktops and use just thin clients and perhaps BYOD as “terminal”.

– What are the main advantages of thin client strategy?

Like already said, to save money. Also, thin clients are easier to manage, easier to maintain and, not to forget, they have a lower power consumption. But I also say that a pure thin client strategy is not sufficient, you probably still have some employees who want to have the possibility to work offline. In my point of view, a Bring Your Own Device strategy (BYOD) is a good addition to a full thin client strategy.


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